Alumni Spotlight:
William Williams ('89)

February 21, 2024

Name: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­William Williams
Hometown: San Antonio
Major: Bachelor of Architecture
Graduation Year: 1989
Employer: University of Cincinnati
Professor of Architecture and Interior Design

"The Hines College has always been one of the most diverse programs in the country, and I mean that in ways beyond its clear racial diversity."

Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
I originally attended the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) on a track scholarship. I changed majors at least three times. I started in business, vacillated between English and philosophy, but ultimately settled on architecture. I never really considered another career after that other than a brief flirtation with film. Unfortunately, UTSA was a new program, and when we received word that our program would not receive accreditation, I drove to the University of Houston the next day and never looked back. I still consider Houston my home. I initially hoped to continue my track career and get get an invitation to the Olympic trials, but the coaches had a slightly lower assessment of my future in the sport. They recommended I focus on my education.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor who influenced your education?
I practically lived in the architecture building. My favorite memories are the times that my fellow "cell mates" would escape to the Dot Coffee Shop at 2:00 a.m. Many of us are still very close to this day and, at various times, have been roommates and business partners. Professor Bob Timme introduced me to teaching, and professor John Zemanek introduced me to rigor. John was a character.

above: The Oakland Community United Church of Christ, Oakland, CA; Riverside House, Charlottesville, VA

Tell us about a typical day in your job. Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
I feel blessed to not have a typical day. I enjoy being pulled in different directions. I wouldn't call it a philosophy but I have been consistent in my approach to design. There is a saying attributed to Da Vinci: "Art is never finished, only abandoned." In my practice and teaching, I emphasize having the discipline to walk away. There is a point in every project where too much design begins to cloud what is important in the work.

What is one career accomplishment of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel the College prepared you for this?
Almost thirty years ago, I designed a church built with all volunteer labor and donated materials. It took us two and a half years working only on Saturday mornings. We made our own light fixtures and windows. Architecture is about taking disparate elements and packaging them into an aesthetic whole. Working with so many different people with different backgrounds would not have been possible without the Hines College ripping me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to interact with people that did not look like me. The Hines College has always been one of the most diverse programs in the country, and I mean that in ways beyond its clear racial diversity.

above: Flip Flop House Redux, Houston, TX; Williams at the Hines College in January 2023 to install "Signal Songs and Braid Maps" as a part of the Hair Salon Exhibition

What is one valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College?
Focus on learning as much as possible, not grades or your preparation for the real world. When you first leave school, you wish you had learned more about working drawings and details. After a few years, you wish you learned more about running a business. Only later in your career do you lament not focusing more on developing a clear design philosophy. The fact is, you can never afford to stop learning.

What advice would you give to current architecture and design students?
I once said in a graduation speech that you should not listen to people who tell you to follow your heart. You need to take it with you wherever you go!



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