Carrie Norman, Tulane School of Architecture Assistant Professor of Architecture and co-founder of Norman Kelley, was recently interviewed by Madame Architect. Below is an excerpt from the piece, titled "Opening Credits: Carrie Norman on Getting Her Start and Topics That Need to be Foregrounded," published April 8, 2020.
How did your interest in architecture first develop?
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I remember the dinner table was constantly over-crowded with floor plans, material swatches, and architects’ scales. My mom was and still is an amazing interior designer, and as a single mom supporting three kids, her work would often come home with her and she loved walking me through the projects she was working on. These were my bedtime stories. On occasions I could pick up a slight antagonism towards the architect. “They create problems I have to fix,” she’d say, and then we’d go on a sort of Where’s Waldo tour through the drawings and she’d point them all out. For a long time I thought architects only made problems that other people had to fix [laughs].
I would also frequently join her on work sites. I’d study the floor plan and try to memorize a route through all of the rooms of the project. Then I’d try to reenact the route in the real building. To be honest, I still kind of do this, and it still amazes me that buildings start out as mini versions on paper. Throughout my youth, architecture was both a comforting bedtime subject and a wild adventure.
Where are you in your career today?
In the opening credits [laughs]. Professionally, Norman Kelley is a young architecture practice, and we’re scaling up, patiently. Academically, I am a junior faculty at the beginning of my career as an educator.
Up until recently, my career and teaching was based in New York, where I’d been living and practicing for over a decade. The past ten years has included a number of important milestones for me, professionally, including getting licensed, co-founding my own practice, and beginning a career in teaching. Now, in New Orleans, I hope the next decade is filled with as much personal and professional growth. In particular, I hope to develop as a teacher, and simultaneously expand our office into new contexts.
Looking back at it all, what have been the biggest challenges?
Scaling up is a challenge. Right now the range of our work spans XXS to S. Without experience with larger scale projects, it’s difficult for a client to stomach the risk of hiring us. It’s funny, at SHoP, I never worked on a project less than a million square feet. Now, our largest completed project is 5,000 square feet. We’ve come close to receiving work for larger projects on a few occasions, but each time we’ve come up short.
We’re not in a rush for the big projects but we also don’t want to get pigeon-holed into doing the same kind of work over and over again. To grow as architects, we need that diversity of project types. For now we try to do our very best to translate big ideas into small projects, be it furniture-scaled objects, or rehabilitated interiors.
To read the full interview in Madame Architect, click here.