In an effort to recognize our outstanding employees and provide a glimpse into our values-based culture, GuernseyTingle will periodically post about the individuals that make our firm a truly exceptional place to work. This time we sat down with an amazing Architect, Chris Cromer, and asked about his experience at GuernseyTingle.
What do you do at GT? What do you like the most about your job?
Chris: I am a licensed Architect and I design and manage commercial and residential projects as well as being the “unofficial” BIM manager for our firm. My favorite part of my job is hearing and seeing the client’s reaction to a space I’ve been able to design for them. I get really excited while the project is in design because I can almost feel what it’s like to be in some of these spaces and can’t wait for the client and others to experience it themselves.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Chris: A couple years ago, I was able to begin a relationship with the YMCA of the VA Peninsulas by designing the aquatics center addition to the Northern Neck Family YMCA. I was a competitive swimmer in high school and college so designing a pool has always been a dream of mine. That turned out to be an incredible end-product and led into working on Hampton Aquatics, which is a giant aquatics center that is under design right now and I have been working on the design from the beginning, over 3 years ago. I am proud of how my little sketched design 3 years ago has progressed to what it is now and proud of the team that is working with me to bring this to reality over the next couple years!
Who or what inspired you to pursue the career you have today?
Chris: My parents are very math & engineering-minded, so I know I got influence from them, but honestly didn’t know much about the specifics of Architecture until I visited my first college, which was Virginia Tech. I remember standing at the balcony in Burchard Hall, overlooking the expanse of studio desks and thinking “Wow. I really want to do what they’re doing.” Over the last several years, my wife has been extremely encouraging to me about new designs and projects I take on, whether at work or part of one of my hobbies.
What was your dream job as a kid?
Chris: I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a builder of some sort. I always liked fixing (and breaking) things and always had a fascination with the construction industry. I had lots and LOTS of Legos, Knex, and Rokenbok lived in my room growing up!
How would you describe your job to a bunch of five-year-olds?
Chris: I make buildings fun and exciting to be in. Also, I make them look pretty.
What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
Chris: Knowing that, even in the hard work of design that can last for months or years, the end product is going to be something that went from nothing to an idea, to a real space that people can inhabit and use. To me, that’s an extremely special and unique experience that I get to repeat on every project.
What advice would you give to people who hope to follow a career path similar to yours? Or What would be the best advice you could give to someone who just started their career?
Chris: Challenge yourself to be balanced. You need to have good design instincts, but what you design also has to get built, so balance that with construction experience. There’s a term for a type of person I learned from the book “How Google Works” that I love, which is a “smart creative”. I think there’s so much to benefit from having a firm foundational understanding of something while also being abstract and creative. Volunteer with construction-based organizations or intern with a contractor. Then, make sure you balance it back with input from great designers, either from your school or from online. Constantly keep up the back-and-forth and in the long run, you’ll be able to design fantastic things while also having an understanding of how to build them, while obeying the laws of physics.
What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
Chris: One of my best friends convinced me to go on a weekend trip a few years ago to middle-of-nowhere Georgia to shear alpacas & llamas. So, I’m pretty sure that qualifies to go on a resume.
What are your hobbies?
Chris: Lots of things! My garage is a unique setup because I love woodworking but it still fits a car inside because I also work on my 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee a ton. It’s still the only car I’ve owned since I was 16 and I’m trying to keep it going till it does a round trip from the Moon. That’s about 480k and I’m at 396k miles, so almost there! I also love photography, specifically architectural (no surprise there) but also long-exposure and landscapes. I also run sound mixing, video broadcasting, and graphics at my church. One of my favorite things that I’m a part of is being a board member and 13-year staffer for Tri-Cities Workcamps in Petersburg, VA. We host high school youth groups every summer that come from churches across the mid-Atlantic and split them up into crews that do construction projects on homes in Petersburg for the whole week. It’s such a cool place where I’m able to share my experiences in Architecture by teaching kids, who often have never used a power tool, about construction and serve the community at the same time. I also volunteer 10-12 times per year with Project: Homes in Richmond, VA where we build modular wooden handicap ramps for those who need them.
What is your funniest/most memorable/most embarrassing moment at GT?
Chris: On March 31 a few years back, I may have bought a few variety packs of googly eyes and placed them on every single item in the office fridge. The next morning, April 1st, the office was greeted with every bottle of creamer, leftover, canned drink, & everything else in the fridge staring back at us. One good thing that came from it was that almost a year later when we realized some things in there still had googly eyes on them… so those needed to go!
What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
Chris: Hampton Aquatics is definitely the coolest thing I’m working on. When I was a competitive swimmer in high school and college, I got to travel across the east coast and swim in some incredible facilities. I always wanted to be able to design a top-tier aquatics center that I could swim in one day, which was also the main inspiration for my thesis project being an aquatic center. I got to design the Northern Neck YMCA Aquatic Center a couple of years ago which was the first “competition” pool I’ve been able to design that was constructed. After that, I was able to work on the very early design of what would become Hampton Aquatics. I’m working on this project right now and it will have an 8-lane, 50m pool with a diving well and another 8-lane 25m pool with seating for over 1,500 people. There will also be an outdoor splash park with water slides & more. I’m really excited about the huge impact this building will have in the Hampton community in a few years!
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