Designer Crush: Brian Wickersham of AUX Architecture

1. How did you get your start in architecture? 

I got my start in architecture at a very early age. My grandfather was a contractor and carpenter, so I was on construction sites even before I could walk. As I got older, I would spend summers with him helping on his jobsites and each year I would graduate to more complicated tasks. Tangentially, I was becoming interested in the arts (painting and sculpture). After two years as a BFA student I realized that I needed to challenge both sides of my brain, so I transferred into architecture. I feel really lucky that I was exposed to both the practical and conceptual sides of the profession at a really young age.  

2. Tell us about your West Hollywood project that wound up as the client’s first ever endeavor into modern design?

The owner, David, had just moved to Los Angeles from Arizona, and very early in the process we began talking about the opportunity for Architecture to be something very different here, as opposed to what he was used to. We discussed the climate and the idea of indoor-outdoor living, and that led to discussions about the history of Modernism in L.A. and how our city became an amazing laboratory for architects. It takes a lot of trust for a person to do things differently from what they’ve done in the past, especially when they’ve had previous success. I’m thankful that David had so much faith in us.

3. Tell us about the downtown L.A. art gallery you and your team restored from a 1930s warehouse.

Over the Influence Gallery was another amazing opportunity and client. This project was done on a super compressed schedule, and it could not have happened if we hadn’t had a great client with a clear vision. The single biggest challenge for us was striking the appropriate balance between old and new. The existing building had an amazing patina that we knew we wanted to preserve, but we didn’t want that character to overpower the artwork. We decided early on that we needed to keep the trusses exposed throughout. Then we decided we would keep one artifact within each of the galleries, whether it was a brick wall, a steel frame, a unique section of floor, or an old window. Each element was selected for its individual richness and proportion to the rest of the gallery around it. The final piece of the puzzle was to address how old and new meet in the space. Rather than having new surfaces collide directly into old, a subtle shadow gap traces around the intersection of all old and new elements on all sides, keeping old and new adjacent but never in direct contact.

4. What have you learned in the last decade of business and what advice would you give 2008 Brian?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t do it all yourself. You need to surround yourself with great people and trust them to do their jobs, so you can do what you do best.  

5. Who have been your biggest inspirations, personally and professionally?

There are so many people who inspire me and have taught me over the years that it would be impossible for me to list only a few. I am, however, going to single out my wife, Dawn. I watch her effortlessly deal with complicated and stressful situations with a smile on her face and it reminds me that it can always be done with a smile. 

6. What was the most influential musical album in your life and why?

That is a really tough question for me to answer because music is super important in my life. So many albums, artists and concerts have influenced me and it seems unfair to mention just one. But, because I can only pick one, it would have to be Pixies-Surfer Rosa.  It’s been a part of so many life experiences that it stands alone, but there are A LOT of close seconds. 

Lightning round!

8. Coffee or tea?

Coffee.

9. Stripes or solids?

Solids - standard black or very very dark gray.

10. Documentary or sci-fi?

Documentary about science fiction!!!

11. Skydiving: yay or nay?

Once was probably enough, but YAY! 

12. Oreos or Chips Ahoy?

Oreos (Double Stuf).