Embark on a captivating exploration with architect Peter McDermott as we unravel the story behind his journey into the world of architecture and his pivotal role at CMBA Architects, based in our vibrant Des Moines office. In this insightful episode, Peter shares the unique experiences and influences that ignited his passion for architecture, shedding light on the distinctive projects and design philosophies that have shaped his career. Join us for a deep dive into the world of architectural creativity, where every structure tells a story.

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Episode Transcript

Skyler: Welcome to another episode of laying the foundation.

Skyler: Welcome to another episode of laying the foundation. I'm Skylar, your host, I suppose. And with me today, I've got Peter McDermott and did I say it right? Yep. Okay, cool. Just want to double check. I've had some tricky names in the past. So, um, one of our architects over here at the Des Moines office and super excited to have you on here.

Skyler: He's going to, we're going to talk a little bit about you, Peter. Yeah, let's talk about you and how you got here and what you do. Um, so first of all, jumping in, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here? Everything from before you, well, okay, to an extent, everything, but before you got to CMBA and how you kind of ended up at CMBA.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. Um, grew up in Des Moines actually. So, uh, that was, went to Urbandale high school. Oh, graduated in 2006 and kind of. Did the route around Iowa, did Iowa state, uh, for graduating 2012 architecture. And then my girlfriend at the time was, is, uh, studying at university of Iowa. So moved there and, um, actually kind of started, I started an OPN, um, just for a brief period cause it was 2012 and that was kind of a tough time in the architecture world.

Peter: So I've heard

Skyler: about that.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. Um, but actually I kind of did some fun projects at OPN before finding a, kind of a more permanent position over at, um, Herey, uh, working at, on the children's hospital. So that was a pretty interesting project that I was on for Four and a half years. So okay. It's a long time.

Skyler: Hey, I've been told that some of these these projects can take quite a while So yeah,

Peter: that's awesome. Um, I loved Iowa City though. So This was kind of our return back to To Des Moines where I still have all my friends and family so yeah, it was an easy transition back back to Des Moines So

Skyler: awesome. Yeah kind of picked up where you left off.

Peter: Yeah,

Skyler: awesome. Very cool So what at like what point in your life? Did you say? Hey, I really want to get into architecture

Peter: I think it was honestly at a very early age. I was yeah, I mean it was I Just like a lot of architects I think They always say like Legos and stuff were probably their first. Oh yeah.

Peter: And I was probably like three or four people mentioned that same thing. It's like, you know, I was like type of person that would build a set and then it would last for maybe two hours before I tear it apart and then build something new. But I think I just, I always, I guess, had a fascination with modeling.

Peter: Um, and then my mom was actually an artist. So she, she was a paint, she's a painter and, uh, she does stained glass. Um, I also have an uncle that does, well, he retired now, but, uh, he did stained glass for like churches and things like that. So kind of that color and, um, I, artistic sense was kind of brought on to me at an early age.

Peter: But, um, I think even all the way from elementary to college, I always was more fascinated with, uh, sculpting. So sculpting in any fashion just was always my, my favorite. So three dimensional art.

Skyler: Yeah. Yeah. Did you ever, well, I guess you kind of just said like at any, Medium, I suppose. Did you have anything specifically like you like to work in?

Skyler: Like, I don't know. Okay. I was just going to say sure. I didn't do a whole lot with it, so it wasn't, I didn't want to step on any toes or anything, but yeah, clay. Okay,

Peter: cool. Yeah, no, it's funny though. I mean like it didn't really matter what medium, I mean even in third grade he had to build a little castle or something in school.

Peter: So I went above and beyond and built this ridiculous thing that they hadn't in the lobby for, you know, The entire year, silly things like that. As anything I had a chance to build in three dimensions. I was always all over it. So

Skyler: did you have people while you were growing up that were like, Oh man, he's going to be an architect someday,

Peter: maybe the teachers, I don't know.

Peter: Um, yeah, I, it's just, I guess I always like painting and drawing too. Um, I'm just, For some reason it was just all around

Skyler: artistic.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. And then, but I didn't really want to grow up and follow my mom's footsteps in art because it was just, It was, it's a struggle and I was more technical anyway. So it was kind of came into play pretty easy for me.

Peter: So

Skyler: people have told me that there's a lot less math involved in architecture than some might assume, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So, yeah, as I've come to understand, at least so awesome. Do you have, so within CMBA, we typically focus a lot of what we do into three areas, so you have your. K 12 education, you have your higher ed education, you have your health care.

Skyler: Do you tend to lean in any of those directions when it comes to the projects that you take on? So I know some people, they kind of seem to like have the, I take these projects a lot more, or I have a lot more context within these kinds of projects or something like that. So do you have something that you are one of those areas that you kind of like lean towards typically?

Peter: Um, yeah, I mean, I, I did obviously on Children's Hospital. That was. I started seven years, nothing but healthcare. Right. So, um, it was actually, that was my chance to get out of healthcare cause like it's really all I had done. Um, and as much as I liked it, it's very technical. Sure. So yeah, actually since then it's, I've kind of been trying to get into other, other aspects.

Peter: So it's like the past couple of years now I've been kind of leaning into like, I guess. Really anything and everything, but now this last year has been, um, Yeah, K through 12. So K 12 right now. Yeah. So it's pretty cool.

Skyler: So because the children's hospital and then yeah, yeah Yeah, actually, I mean this is for kids.

Peter: Yes, and it's kind of funny. Yeah, I Think those have been probably the two most impactful projects

Skyler: so far. Yeah Awesome. So, I mean tell me a little bit about like at the very least the the children's hospital like You The process that you went through and everything like that. What, I mean, what is that, what did you come out of that with

Peter: It's, it was a bit chaotic. Sure. That, that project is, was intense. Um, and I, I jumped on it basically after design. I mean, it was, it was a, it was broken up into bit packages, so it was re being redesigned as it was going up. Oh, wow. So, um, that was. Just wild to be part of that process of an entire firm basically working on one project.

Peter: Right. And then I wasn't even on in the office. I was on site every day just kind of, um, overseeing construction and kind of seeing how a building gets put together versus, you know, in, in a classroom where it just came from, where everything's just kind of made up. And yeah, no, that makes sense. Yeah, but it was, uh, yeah, that's.

Peter: Pretty interesting to see the different sides of architecture, but now it's kind of, I'm putting it all together, I guess, at this point in my career and trying to make it affordable.

Peter: Children's Hospital is a different world. Sure. Sure. From a school, right? So.

AD: Yeah. No, that makes sense. Attention, architecture professionals. Are you looking for an employment opportunity that will provide you with a wonderful work culture and a competitive pay rate? Look no further than CMBA Architects.

AD: Our firm offers flexible scheduling, a casual dress code, And a great work environment that will help you collaborate and create. Plus, who doesn't love having Fridays off?

Skyler: To learn more about our available positions, visit the careers page at cmbaarchitects. com and apply to join the CMBA team. So take me through You come into work, you know, one day and I've been told to stop asking what's a typical day because there is no typical day.

Skyler: Like somebody said, you might be able to narrow it down to what does a typical week look like? Maybe what, I mean, as far as that goes, when you come in, you know, on a Monday and you've got your week planned out to some extent, you know, you open up your outlook calendar and you look at, you know, the different events that you've got scheduled and stuff like that.

Skyler: What, what kind of stuff are we looking at that, that you running out doing or in the office doing?

Peter: Are you saying like kind

Skyler: of typically

Peter: for me

Skyler: or I guess? Yeah, you specifically. Yeah. And I mean, some of it's going to be the same as, as some of the stuff other people are doing, but at the same time, like, I don't know, you're an individual, you've got, you know, specific things that you're working on and you're doing.

Skyler: So.

Peter: Yeah. Um. Basically, I think I've been doing a lot in in design in that SD portion. So, um. I think basically that last school, the Harlan school that I just worked on, um, now it's getting a lot more into just project management. So just kind of, you know, beginning of the week, just trying to get everything kind of organized and, uh, seeing where everybody's at and then trying to get something, putting the pieces together, putting things on paper after, you know, meeting with everybody.

Peter: But, uh, yeah, it's. Just jumping around a lot. I think trying to wear a lot of hats at the moment. So I think that's kind of been my schedule.

Skyler: Yeah, no, that's totally fair. I mean, it sounds like from a lot of people that is kind of like the way things are, you know, one second I'm, you're sitting at a desk and you're drawing up plans and then the next second you're running out to the job site and making sure everything's going the way that it's supposed to be going and putting a hard hat on or whatever the case.

Skyler: So yeah, yeah, definitely a lot of aspects to it for sure. So. You've mentioned the Children's Hospital. You mentioned the Harlan project. Are there any other projects that really stood out to you in some way, shape, or form, um, whether it was like super impactful to you personally, or maybe there was just something about it that was kind of different and an exciting new, you know, challenge that you might've had to take on other than the.

Skyler: I mean, if you have something specific within those that you want to talk about, go for it. Cause I,

Peter: those were two of the projects so far that have. I think it'd been the most interesting in my career, especially with the children's hospital, because I mean, you're put on a big project just to design a hospital or build a possible, but the fact that it's, it's, and then it's also because of its relationship to the university of Iowa and the image of the campus and the football team and everything like that, but it's created so much more than I think than anybody really, like, Thought of what that project was going to be just nationally.

Peter: And, um, like that was just a really cool project that I thought like, um, had an impact that I, I still kind of am proud of that. I think it's pretty neat. And then I think the school too, it's just like, The first project that I feel like I've really been really brought through from start and now I'm going to CA on that.

Peter: So it's like, just to be part of a project from start to finish is, is a big deal. So normally I've been thrown around a lot in different places and, um, it just doesn't have the same feeling, but, um, yeah. And then anytime that there's a project that I feel like, um, The owner is really proud at the end of the project.

Peter: It's just a project that I really tend to kind of mutually feel like I'm

Skyler: proud of too. I would say some of the others have talked about it too, but that feeling of fulfillment and that feeling of like, you know, finally, when a project that took you, like you said, like four years, five years, whatever the case is, And you finally get to like actually walk into that space that you designed and you, you know, it was your brainchild.

Skyler: And then being able to look around and see it all put together and all like came together. Like, I hope that someday I get to kind of like get to some, when you work in like marketing, you know, I might spend a day putting a podcast episode together for the show, or I might spend a day, you know, putting a video together, maybe even a week putting a video together, but like four to five years.

Skyler: For like one project and then finally getting to see it all put together. Just, man, that sounds awesome.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. It sounds

Skyler: awesome. A lot of

Peter: time. A lot of commitment. Oh yeah.

Skyler: A lot of time commitment for sure. Um, what would you say is probably one of the, like, From your learning experience that you've seen so far, what is one of the biggest, like, key to architecture and design when it comes to like designing a space?

Peter: One of the keys, I guess, is just making a building last. I mean, like, to actually. To, to be a, a, a project that can stand the test of time, I think is probably the, I think what makes a project so successful. Yeah. Um, cause, um, you know, a lot of buildings today are just built to, to basically just serve the needs of getting it built.

Peter: And we don't really think about it after a couple of decades, but it's like, you know, That's really what makes a building last is how well, how adaptable it is, how sustainable it is. And yeah, no,

Skyler: that, that makes a lot of sense. So like I was just talking to Kent the other day and he was talking about, you know, buildings, uh, like, I don't know, he was talking about buildings that were built in like certain decades and like they were very just straightforward.

Skyler: Let's get it done. Let's make it. And there it is. It's done. And there's not like a whole lot of forethought into, What about 10 years down the road? Who's going to be using the space? How's it going to be used? Is it versatile enough to be used in different ways maybe, or is it something that we can upgrade in the future?

Skyler: And I'm sure there's a lot of like challenge to that with like limited knowledge about, you know, technology and where it's going to go, you know, from this point forward. But I, I definitely see what you're saying more like you want to have a space that. Has potential.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's the eighties, right?

Peter: Right. And like that, that is what he mentioned. Like we have all these skyscrapers now that, you know, it's not that we didn't have sustainable architecture in the eighties, we just chose to ignore it. Right. So now it's kind of like, now we have to, we have this problem where we don't want to destroy all that embodied energy, but we have to rewrap it because it doesn't meet the needs of today.

Peter: Exactly. And, uh, they just. That's the foresight that we have to constantly look for. Sure. Is our architecture today going to make it 30 years from now? So very cool, even though it's beyond the product warranties. Right. Yeah, yeah, that's true. Yeah. I

Skyler: can't return this anymore, but

Peter: I think that's also how a building is laid out and, and functionally designed as well.

Peter: So,

Skyler: okay. So. Cause like a lot of people that like to listen to the show, uh, they might be architecture students currently in school right now. Do you have any like advice you'd give to them as they're like making their way through school, uh, trying to get their, you know, either their degree or their licensing or whatever the case, like what, what would you say to those people that are out there?

Skyler: Lessening that are in that position like in school. Sure. Like post Um, I guess you could go either way if you got something different depending on the situation Those are I feel like those are probably the two like major key audience that we have with the show So, yeah, I mean if you got something for both Yeah, or if it's something

Peter: that

Skyler: works

Peter: for both I mean so my approach in school that actually still kind of like Is that I, I really focused on the artistic part of college and like, um, I didn't, I tried to not dive into Revit too quickly.

Peter: Um, I thought that was pretty limiting in college just because it's a constraint. That's not a good constraint, right? It's like a constraint that restricts you and creativity. Um, not that. It's extremely valuable though when you graduate. So you still need to capitalize on it. I'm figuring out how it works, but.

Peter: Um, yeah, I mean like, Use your creativity to the max in college. But, um, yeah, then once, Once you graduate, it's really about Getting in the world of practice. I mean, studying for those AREs is really, really important. Because, um, I feel like I delayed it probably a year or two. Like, I just, Wanted to take a break, I think, from the learning thing, but, or from testing, I guess, but, um, I don't really think that's necessary.

Peter: It's, it's, you can jump in right away.

Skyler: Okay.

Peter: And there is, especially the contracts and stuff, teach kind of that element that's missing in college that really helps put the practice of professional practice, um, together. I think. Holistically with the rest of the architecture profession, right? No, you know, and also that, that, that all that other stuff that you learned in school that applies to the test too.

Peter: Might as well just knock it out. Right. Yeah. Um,

Skyler: yeah, absolutely. Awesome. All right. Last question I got for you and it's a little bit of a promo for CBA, but what is, what is your favorite part about working at CBA?

Peter: Uh, culture culture. Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've honestly, um, I feel like I've been fortunate enough to work on pretty cool projects my entire career so far.

Peter: Like I went back and I feel fortunate on, on that aspect. Um, and the difficulty is finding a good practice that has a culture that, you know, fosters the way that you want to do things that is open and flexible. And, and I think that's just something that CMBA has been really good at so far. Awesome.

Skyler: Awesome. Well, that's everything I got for you today, Peter. Really appreciate you coming onto the show, talking about, you know, your experiences. Um, all of the, the architects here have like such a wealth of, of knowledge and experience. So it's awesome to get to, and everybody's different, which is really cool.

Skyler: And each one of you have been able to give me like, you know, something different, something new about this world that I personally am not like technically a part of, but kind of a part of with, uh, what's going on. This podcast and my position within the company. So it's definitely exciting to get to talk to each of you and get to learn a little bit about yourselves and your experience within this.

Skyler: So seriously, thank you so much for being on the show. Yeah, thank you. Awesome. Awesome. And thank you for listening. Of course, you can check out more about CMBA by heading over to our website at cmbaarchitects. com. You can see all the projects that we worked on, including projects that Peter's been a part of as well.

Skyler: You can, of course, find us on social media, whether that be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. And of course you can find more episodes of the show that you're listening to right now by checking out Laying the Foundation on Spotify, uh, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else that podcasts can be found.

Skyler: Once again, this has been another episode of Laying the Foundation. Thank you all so much for listening. See you next time.

Post by CMBA
May 2, 2024