Building blocks: a successful architect shares tips with an aspiring one

When he's not working at his firm, architect Weston Halkyard loves fishing.

Western Mass native Weston Halkyard, age 32, is a successful architect at Hutker Architects in Martha’s Vineyard. He is also an identical twin, and both brothers attended the same university–Syracuse, where they majored in architecture and became successful architects. Because I hope to become an architect when I am older, I wanted to know more about him, and about the life and path of a young aspiring designer/builder. 

JS: Where did you grow up?

WH: I grew up in Montague, MA.

JS: Describe your family.

WH: I grew up in the woods with a twin brother and a younger brother. My family was very close and we love the outdoors and nature.

JS: What did your parent(s) do?

WH: My mom was in special education and my dad was in marketing and sales.

JS: Where did you go to high school?

WH: Northfield Mount Hermon.

JS: What class sparked your interest the most in high school?

WH: There were a few. I took a humanities course in which we traveled to South Africa to visit AIDS orphanages. The other was AP Drawing.

JS: Growing up, was there a competitive nature between you and your twin brother?

WH: Very much so. We have a younger brother as well and the three of us were and still are very competitive.

JS: How would you describe your relationship with your brother as children?

WH: We were all very close and spent most of our time playing sports or outside exploring.

JS: What were your hobbies and interests as a child and young adult?

WH: Tons of sports and drawing, painting, and creating.

JS: What would you say got you into architecture?

WH: I think it was building branch forts in the woods behind our house.

JS: When did you decide to become an architect? When did your brother decide?

WH: We decided on the ride home from a family dinner at a restaurant down in Northampton during our senior year in high school.

JS: Why did you both go to the same university?

WH: We have always been close and as twins, we didn’t want another alternative.

JS:What drew you to Syracuse? 

WH: It was a last minute find and application. We loved the competitive program and at the time it was ranked #1 in the country. Naturally, we wouldn’t settle for less. We also loved the campus and the architecture facilities, along with the school spirit.

JS: What was the biggest challenge at Syracuse?

WH: Balancing the intense workload of the architecture program with sports and social life.

JS: What was the best thing about your education at Syracuse?

WH: I think it was the twice a week four-hour studio courses in which you could just create.

JS: What class sparked your interest the most in college?

WH: That studio course. However, there were others. Our architectural drawing class was quite fantastic as was our structures class. We were drawn to the courses that were hands-on and required physically creating.

JS: How did your relationship with your brother and others develop in college?

WH: We began by living in the same dorm with other people but realized we wanted to live together. We asked two of our best friends to join us in off-campus housing. We found that most of our friends were made outside of our program. It was easier to separate from school when we wanted to.

JS: Did you know at Syracuse where you might end up or what you would do?

WH: No. After Syracuse the job market was tough. We applied to 30 firms between the two of us and eventually got jobs at separate companies.

JS: When did you graduate?

WH: 2013 after a 5-year program.

JS: What was your first job, and how did you get it?

WH: My first job was on Martha’s Vineyard and I essentially walked into the office and asked if they could use an intern for the summer.

JS: What were the challenges you faced at the beginning of your career?

WH: Lack of knowledge of how things were constructed. Our program was focused on design and grooming leaders in design.

JS: What did you learn within the first few months of working as a full architect?

WH: I learned how to digitally build, interact with clients, and sub trades as well as coordinate schedules for teams.

JS: What would you say is your creative style?

WH: Tight “jewel box” high-end contemporary homes.

JS: Do you have a specific skill or talent?

WH: Project management, understanding clients’ needs and wants, and schematic design and digital rendering

JS: What is your favorite thing about architecture as a whole?

WH: I never go a day without learning something new. It is such a hard field to master. I would argue that it is impossible to master due to the constant change in design trends and endless unique design opportunities.  

JS: What is your favorite thing about the work you’re doing right now?

WH: It will help me design and build my own house one day.

JS: Is there anyone you’d like to give special mention to in your path to being an architect?

WH: My mentor James, who was an incredible leader, gave me the space as a young designer to develop quickly and find a niche within the firm that I loved.

JS: Is there anything you would have done differently in your life relating to architecture?

WH: I would have worked for a few firms as an intern prior to college. I would also have liked to work in a few different areas at different firms to understand differences in residential design across the country. 

JS: What advice would you give to young aspiring architects?

WH: Constantly be a sponge, work hard and ask questions. The more questions you ask the more successful you will be.