How did Mandi Clift decide to become an architect working for J Hyatt Hammond Associates? “Funny story,” she says with a smile, “when I was in high school, I was just enjoying being a high schooler.” That was until a guidance counselor asked her what she wanted to go to college for. Her father told her she should tell the guidance counselor “architecture,” which she did. The counselor proceeded to tell her that she couldn’t just go to college from high school without first going to community college for a few years and developing a portfolio. “You can’t get into an architecture school out of high school,” said the counselor, flatly.
Getting Started In Architecture
Challenge accepted. Clift says the only reason she decided to pursue getting into college to be an architect was to prove the guidance counselor wrong. As it turns out, she made the right decision.
The business of architecture has not traditionally been pursued by many women. Clift enjoys seeing other women enter the industry. As she points out, women do well in the business of architectural design because they are typically “better listeners.” In her job, being a good listener is fundamental to understanding a client’s vision and being able to bring that vision to life.
When it comes to turning a client’s dreams into reality, there is always a budget consideration to keep in mind. “That’s the job,” says Clift, noting that working within a budget while keeping the client’s wants and needs in perspective is where her skills come into play.
Joining J Hyatt Hammond Associates
Clift joined J Hyatt Hammond Associates in 2007. As she explains it, her first assignment was anything but glamorous. Clift was hired to organize the Plan Room at J Hyatt Hammond Associates. The Plan Room was a “windowless room with 50 years of paper drawings”. That initial position was only on a trial basis. Three months later, she was in.
At the time, J Hyatt Hammond Associates was a much larger firm with many different departments. Indeed, the firm was more “old school” than it is today. According to the NC Modernist website, its founder J. Hyatt Hammond graduated from the NCSU College of Design in 1953 and started his own Asheboro firm in 1957 adding a Greensboro office in 1962. The distinguished firm has designed many iconic architectural gems in the Triad including the North Carolina Zoo master plan infrastructure and the first five habitats, 105 public school buildings, and 50 Community College Buildings just to name a few.
J Hyatt Hammond Associates Today
The firm is now much smaller and more flexible allowing Clift, Principal Bruce Cantrell, and their co-workers to work on the projects they want. When asked the kind of projects she likes, Clift says, “I enjoy seeing the revitalization of downtowns.” While she has encountered her share of “old, gross smelly, scary buildings,” Clift loves sharing their stories. Many of their recent projects have included renovation projects that bring beautiful old structures back to life.
J Hyatt Hammond Associates does a good bit of renovation of old structures. Working in that kind of environment always brings a bit of the unknown to the job. “You get to be part of the project, as it evolves,” muses Clift. She notes that renovation projects in these old buildings can lead to surprises, both good and bad.
Serving The Triad
The firm has designed many restaurants and breweries in the Triad. The list is ever-growing and includes some breweries that were designed but never were built. Some breweries have moved or closed. Part of Clift’s job involves knowing “a little bit about a lot of things”. Those items include plumbing, mechanical, electrical, space planning, structure, and all of the behind-the-scenes items that the public doesn’t always consider.
That brings us to the part of Clift’s job that really excites her. Getting to be a part of a client’s life-changing moment. Whether it is a client who is opening up their very first restaurant or creating space for the public to use that they have never had before. To Clift, these kinds of profound events are the real reward.