We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Palmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela, why did you pursue a creative career?
I always loved making things and I wanted to love what I did for work. I was always fascinated by the idea that I could see a space in my head and then be able to physically stand in it. I remember making collages of roomscapes from home goods magazines with one of my best friends and I can’t deny the influence of HGTV. One of my favorite classes in middle school was shop because I loved the smell of wood, specifically cedar, while it was being cut. I knew I wanted to make art for work but I also didn’t want to be that ‘starving artist’ so I looked for a path that would provide a more secure job. I liked math and geometry and art so architecture seemed to fit.
All throughout school I took art classes, I even took a drafting class to make sure I would like doing architecture (little did I know I’d be using the computer for everything…) but in my senior year I decided not to take art and to take Chemistry AP instead because I liked Chemistry and I would make way more money as a biochemical engineer. I missed making art so much that I decided I had no other choice than to pursue a career in the arts, specifically in architecture.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My career has changed a lot over the years as my passions and focus have evolved. Right out of college I worked for a non-profit designing and building neighborhood improvements in the Fifth Ward neighborhood of Houston. This was a terrific learning experience and I was honored to start my career working for a non-profit. The Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation had partnered with Starbucks on a 22-million-dollar investment into the community. I was brought on to help design, plan and eventually organize and help lead a massive community event where thousands of Starbucks volunteers were flown into Houston over a weekend to build and implement neighborhood improvements that spanned 32 blocks. We painted over 80 homes, cleaned up 100 empty lots around the neighborhood, and built a playground plus two community gardens in a weekend. It is still one of the most impactful and meaningful projects I’ve worked on. Gensler was the architecture and design partner for the initiative, so I spent almost a year working alongside the Gensler employees and volunteers who were in many cases donating their time to help. I loved working with them, and I loved that they had partnered with the community. After the project closed out, I ended up applying for Gensler and getting the job which started me down my path with interior design. I learned so much about scale and texture that had been different from my architectural training. I went from thinking on a city and building scale down to a room and even an object scale. Things became more tactile and there was a greater emphasis on the details and how people would interact and feel using the space that I had created. I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects from workplace to hospitality and at many different scales. One of my favorite projects is still the BHP headquarters in the Galleria Area. The design team was full of talent and the client was trusting and fun. Together we created a space that was recognized throughout the design community and I truly believe it was the passion for the project that enabled its success. As the years went by I started to develop an interest in how technology was changing the industry. I had a knack for computers and enjoyed learning new software and tools that could offer smarter and more artistic ways to deliver design. I wanted to share what I learned with others and create a sort of think tank of creatives so I started hosting trainings and different types of initiatives that would encourage others to experiment and expand their creative potential. A few of us got together and formed the By Design group which still exists today and is a series of design studies intended to foster conversation about the built environment, generally, and the city of Houston, specifically. We took on design competitions and made up theoretical design projects where we could test ideas and explore solutions for our city. I am very proud of the work we did and the relationships we created. The success of By Design lead me to want to pursue a more impactful role where I could research and develop ways to implement more progressive design that was influenced by technology and the potential it offered the industry. Over the next few years, I focused my attention on learning many of the new tech that was out there. I studied virtual reality, programming, and computational design. I explored digital fabrication methods and sensor technology through the creation of art installations and objects. I experimented with various digital mediums for art including animation and cinematics. Through this practice, I was able to move into a new position at Gensler where I focus exclusively on the digital technologies that are transforming the industry. This position enables me to innovate in the industry and have fun while doing it. Even in my free time I love making things. I created my website a few years ago where I share my experiences in becoming a digital designer. I also use this platform to showcase my creative ventures and artist projects which have encouraged me to continue to develop my art which is inspired by geometry, symbolism, and color.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Aside from architecture and arts, I love music and I love eating so it would be a week full of food and good jams. I would start on Monday with a nice and easy trip to the museum district. I love taking people to the contemporary art museum because there is always something interesting to look at and they have a great shop inside. We would probably walk around the district a little checking out the sculptures and then make our way over to Hermann Park to check out the Japanese garden. A trip to the district wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the fabulous Hall of Gems in the Science Museum and a showing in the planetarium. Monday would end with a relaxing drink at Grand Prize Bar. Tuesday would pick up where Monday left off in the Montrose district. Knowing me, we would get started a bit late and grab a coffee and lunch at Blacksmith. They have the BEST BLT I’ve ever had and I make everyone try it when they come to town! After lunch we would do some shopping around the area, specifically making sure to stop by Space, the local art shop on Montrose. While we are there we would probably eat again at Brazil or at least grab another coffee. If I’m honest with myself we would probably eat again later in the evening at Boheme where they have the perfect patio and loaded fries. Wednesdays are usually when I take time to unwind and prepare for the weekend coming up so I imagine it would be a lazy day around the house, listening to music and probably ordering in from one of my favorite Asian restaurants. It’s so hard to choose but it would either be Mala Sichuan or Asia Market. Dan Electros used to do Jazz night on Thursdays so if that’s still going on we would probably stop by Lei Low first to have a tiki drink and then spend the night jamming away to local Jazz. I remember one Thursday there John Legends band came in and swept me off my feet. The rest of the weekend would include at least one concert at White Oak or Warehouse and a mix of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops around town. We would most likely visit some of my favs including, Teo (Teotihuacan), Boomtown Coffee, The Rice Box, Pappa Geno’s, A second Cup, and maybe Coltivare for a nice night out. If my friend was active we would definitely rent some bikes and ride along the bayou or maybe even drive up to Sam Houston National Forest and walk some of the trails. I imagine a nice lazy Sunday, possibly with a trip to Buchanan’s Native Plants to round out the week.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people who have inspired me to become the person I am today but in the context of success, I can’t overlook the opportunities that I have created and been provided at Gensler, the architecture and design firm where I currently work. Pair this with a very tech-savvy partner and a super-creative group of friends who all like making things and exploring new creative hobbies. These relationships have been essential to my growth and development as an artist moving through different mediums related to architecture and design technology. Being creative is hard for some people because I believe there is a lot of fear associated with trying new things but when you surround yourself with other creative people who do not possess that fear and who do not judge when experiments go wrong, it’s the perfect storm for great progressive creative ventures.
Other: My most recent project was a virtual art exhibit which can be found here: https://yulio.com/BmbfxA8qP0
Kat Ambrose Photography, Garrett Rowland/Gensler, Law Stewart Photography, Grant Gay/Gensler, Brookfield Properties/Gensler