James P. Clark, FAIA has created programs that empower collaborative connections that harness the collective knowledge and talents of architects, students, and institutions. He is a principal at MTFA Architecture and is past President of AIA NOVA and AIA Virginia. His goal is to work towards a meaningful worldview that shapes culture. James has been the recipient of many design awards and has received the distinguished VSAIA Award of achievement for creating, preserving and enhancing communities.

Where did you go to college?
I attended The Catholic University of America for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I wanted to learn about architecture while being in the Nation’s capital.

Would you recommend studying architecture to a young person?
Absolutely! Architecture is an art that shapes people’s everyday lives, and all young people should study architecture, even if they do not anticipate becoming an architect. Architecture should be part of the grade school and high school curriculum. 

What does it take to be an architect?
An architect has to be passionate about architecture and must have many rich life experiences. An architect needs to be curious and be ready to be a life-long learner and teacher. 

Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?
When I completed college, I joined Cooper-Lecky Architects, and I was fortunate that W. Kent Cooper, FAIA became my life-long mentor. He taught me about the formative influences of architecture and design. He was present at every major turn in my profession, and I even refer to his guidance now that he has passed away. All architects should seek a mentor to inspire them.

What are you currently reading?
I love to read and discover what others are thinking! I just finished three great books: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the quest for a fantastic future by Ashley Vance. “Creativity Inc., Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration by Ed Cutmull (President of Pixar Animation) and How We Got To Now, Six innovations that made the modern world by Steven Johnson.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
My favorite meal is pasta with pecan spinach pesto and pecorino romano. My wife copied the recipe when we were at the National Gallery of Art bookstore when we were first married, and we’ve had it once a week ever since. It’s extra special because it has become a favorite family meal. For many years it was the only way our son would eat a green vegetable. Food is important to me – enjoying a good meal is part of my French background, and eating brings people together.

Why do you volunteer with the AIA?
The AIA has always been a great way to amplify my voice. I founded the Interschool Design Competition that has now been held for over twenty years at the National Building Museum. The AIA gave me credibility that I simply did not have on my own to gather schools of architecture, AIA component chapters, and the National Building Museum to hold this competition. Right now I am using the AIA to work with others to create the AIA Advisory Resource Council for the National Mall. The idea is for our members to serve as a resource to the National Mall stakeholders. As an organization, we have an influential voice, and we need to use it more!