CambridgeSeven is proud to introduce a new series of staff-written articles about architects and designers they find most inspiring and consider to be an important mentor. Each staff member has had either a personal connection with, or has been heavily influenced by, their mentor. These unique individuals are from various periods in history and unique places around the world. Within these articles, we find designers who have had lasting impact on the physical environment and creative professions. Some exist only in memories while others are still working in the field.
The intent of this series is to highlight designers and architects who may not have been mentioned in college textbooks or lectures but are worthy of recognition for all they have accomplished. We hope these stories help to inspire others to appreciate their own mentors or strive to become one themselves.
I have many mentors in my life. I often think back on their efforts, thankful for everything they have taught me. One mentor who stands out amongst them taught me not only how to be an architect, but, perhaps more importantly, how to be a mentor. He did this by example.
When I was in architecture school in New York City, two summers had gone by when there were no positions available in any architecture office for a student without prior experience. The economy was declining and there was not much work out there. Jack Travis, founder of Jack Travis FAIA Architect, had already committed to hiring a friend of mine who kindly asked if he could take on another intern. In the most selfless act, Jack hired us both. That summer, the office consisted of one principal, one administrative assistant and two interns.
We did more hypothetical projects than billable work – learning to design at different scales with various media. But Jack was not just keeping us busy; he was teaching us. He sent us to trade shows and took us on site visits. At the end of the summer, as a reward for all our hard work, Jack rented a car to take us to Connecticut on an architectural tour that included Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Richard Meier’s newly built Bridgeport Center.
Excerpted from his bio on The Black Artists + Designers Guild website, Jack Travis’s “interests include design issues not only concerning cultural content but sustainability in environmental design as well as alternative educational practices that seek to ensure more students of color enter into the profession.”
Authentic to his selflessness all those years ago, Jack has continued to break ground as an architect and mentor. I will never forget the advice he gave me – arguably the best advice for an aspiring architect – “Don’t get comfortable,” because when you get comfortable you stop learning and growing as an architect.
Jack Travis received his fellowship in the AIA in 2004 and was inducted into the Council of Elders of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 2006.