Architects Talking to Architects: Ryan Flener, Assoc. AIA

January 2, 2014 – As published by the Texas Society of Architects

Architects Talking to Architects: Ryan Flener, Assoc. AIA

Ryan Flener, Assoc. AIA, received his B.Arch in 2010 from the University of Tennessee College of Architecture & Design, where he was heavily influenced by the historical relationships between body and building. An intern architect at GFF, Flener has been actively involved with the Communications Committee since moving from his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in late 2011. Ryan resides in downtown Dallas, where he often finds himself submerged in musical endeavors with The Town Planners, and in architectural design research under The Planning Agency.

Ryan Flener, Assoc. AIA. – photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Louisville, which sits in north-central Kentucky on the Ohio River. It’s a really cool place, for those who haven’t been. It has unexpected characteristics of the northeast and southeast that resonate from the Civil War. Louisville, truly, is neither. It’s a city of 750,000 but functions like a small town; everybody knows everybody. I’m always impressed with each visit home. Louisville is moving in the right direction to make for a great city. Also, there’s no better place in the country to watch college basketball; fact.

What sort of music do you like to listen to?

I’m a music snob — which is ridiculous since I know very little about the theory of it — but I like all types of music so long as it is thought out, well written, and tastefully crafted. I like to listen to great guitar players like Chet Atkins, John Williams, or Bill Frisell. That being said, I still enjoy the simplicity and clarity of blues, country, and Motown. Some old-school hip-hop is always good under the gun, too.

Pen, pencil or computer?

I prefer pen to pencil. The imperfections in our drawings are the most important characteristics, and the nature of the pen exploits that. Pencils are for math.

A pen sketch of Am-Horn cemetery in Weimar Germany – by Ryan Flener

I also like to make collages and montages by hand as a way of sketching. Especially when thinking conceptually, the montage has freedoms that drawing does not. The image is, at once, physically tangible while maintaining some sense of fantasy.

“On contemporary Global Culture” – by Ryan Flener

“In memoriam: 50 Years after JFK” – by Ryan Flener

Where do you find inspiration?

I am inspired by the people I surround myself with and the energy they give off; the people who sing out loud in the shower even if they can’t sing, the people who question everything, and the ones who always fight for what they believe in and never back down — those are the people I try to be around. The world we live in is not a tidy one, so staying optimistic in our criticism and work is ever more important, for my generation especially.

What is your favorite time of year?

I’ve always liked fall and winter. There’s something to be said for the long cold days of the year. It’s a phenomenon as magical as spring and summer I think. That point when the city gets darker earlier and colder for longer is a fascinating event; it seems more machine-like. Winter is a good time to hibernate from the travelling and exhausting work in the other months as everything seems to slow down for once. Now that I think about it, our parties in college were way better during the longer nights of winter.

What is the next building you plan to travel to in order to see for yourself?

Next year I intend on making a trip to Rhode Island to visit some of the earlier works by McKim Meade and White, such as the Isaac Bell House and the Newport Casino. There’s a rigor and discipline to their work that is rarely practiced or taught today. Historic American architecture is way too often overlooked.

Isaac Bell house (1880), a shingle style masterpiece, by McKim Meade and White. – via Flickr; hughesmikea 

“Architects Talking to Architects” is a column on the Texas Society of Architects blog that spotlights members from across the state at different points of development in their career. All participants are given the same set of questions with instructions to answer any six, giving them the opportunity to highlight the items they feel are most interesting. Have someone you’d like to see featured in “Architects Talking to Architects?” Email communications@texasarchitects.org to let us know!