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Feature: Suman Sorg, FAIA, Makes A Place

Beginnings – what attracted you to architecture (or related field), and how did you begin your career?  Was there an influential experience, or mentor, that helped steer you toward this field?

My father, who knew Louis Kahn and admired him, suggested architecture when I was graduating from high school.  This turned out to be a great choice since I cannot imagine doing anything else.  It didn’t hurt that I turned out to be talented at it.  Another mentor was my mother, who was a biologist but was very interested in fashion.  She designed and had custom tailored all our dresses as I was growing up.  She would take me to shops all over the city (New Delhi) and spend hours selecting fabrics of different colors and textures and explained to me how they went together.  She took risks and came up with new (I thought weird at the time) designs which she instructed the tailor how to make.

The Grand Arch project in the new township in Gurgaon, India. Photo Credit: Sorg Architects

Editor’s Note: The Grand Arch project in the new 300-acre township in Gurgaon, India was begun in 2008-09 and will be completed in 2012-13. The project will offer 900 modern units to India’s growing middle class just outside New Delhi, along with community, cultural, and recreational areas spread out over 300 acres. Sorg opened a second office in her native India in 2010 and is working closely with a local contractor on the Grand Arch project, bringing more jobs to the area.

What does “architecture culture” signify to you, and how do you go about contributing to, and or changing, this culture? What are your hopes and dreams for the future of architecture and the built environment?

Suman Sorg, FAIA, Photo Credit: Sorg Architects

The culture of architecture makes me think of the following words: elite, insular, male dominated, self-congratulatory, hyped, star struck, fast becoming obsolete.

But also: exciting, rewarding, satisfying, and worth it.  I go about changing this by ignoring the hype and sticking to doing good architecture every day in my practice, which I started 25 years ago with that goal in mind.  It’s not easy and I don’t always prevail, but I try to improve on what I do one project at a time and end up learning about the world in the process.

Advice for someone interested in entering an architecture-related field?

Check it out before you plunge in.  If you are ready to dedicate your life to a profession that is all hard work, not much money, very little glamour, but you get satisfaction from seeing ever small improvements in tangible things like buildings, go for it and stick to it ‘till death do you part!

Favorite site, place, building? Why does this particular location speak to you?

Nature – any kind, hills, valleys, sea side, swamps, forest, desert, ice bergs! They all are more beautiful than anything woman can create.

The Solea Condos project, Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Sorg Architects 

Editor’s Note: The Solea Condos is a project in Sorg’s U Street neighborhood in Washington, D.C., completed in 2009. The building was created to LEED Gold standards and targets nearly a quarter of the units to low-income purchasers to create live/work spaces for local and start up businesses.

For more on Sorg Architects, visit http://www.sorgandassociates.com/projects.html

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