by AIA New York
Nicholas Garrison, FAIA, OAQ, LEED AP, is a partner and design director at FXCollaborative. Garrison’s innovative architecture is a collaboration among the built, the natural, and human experience. Eschewing conventions of style and typology, his work is elegant and timeless, superbly designed and humanistic in its intent. Garrison is an award-winning architect with more than three decades of experience working with museums, colleges, universities, and private secondary schools around the world—from Canada to Kenya, India to the Netherlands, and across the Middle East. Two forces—a search for authenticity, and a building’s relationship to its landscape—have shaped his designs over the course of his career.
The Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Garrison to the College of Fellows in the first category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession,” according to the organization’s definition. Garrison was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture.
Q: How/why did you decide to pursue architecture?
A: I wanted a career that involved drawing. It was my earliest talent and identity, and my greatest joy. I investigated making maps, and graphic design, but did not think I could earn a living doing these things. By the age of 14 I had set my sights on architecture and spent the next 10 years testing that idea, only to have that choice reinforced at every turn.
Q: What has been particularly challenging in your recent work?
A: Costs. No matter how careful and diligent one is, there always seem to be unforeseen forces and events that upset the equation of delivering great work on budget. We seem to spend almost as much time managing costs as we do anything else.
Q: What are some of your favorite recent projects that you’ve worked on?
A: Those that might have the greatest positive impact for the users. The Statue of Liberty Museum will be visited by more than 4.5 million people from around the world; Covenant House will provide inspiration and shelter for homeless women; and Bilkent Erzurum Lower School, in Turkey, provides a world-class education in a high-design building for economically disadvantaged children.
Q: Do you have a favorite building? Why?
A: The Villa Giulia, in Rome, by Vignola (1551-1553). No building so seamlessly merges inside with outside—building with garden, as the Villa Giulia. A recurring theme for me is the basic humanist idea of buildings making spaces as much as being objects. The garden ideal is a recurring theme as I seek to create a small version of paradise on earth.
Q: What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
A: My family, especially my wife for her intuition for authenticity, and my father for his creativity; a beautifully crafted, hand-made bicycle because of its exquisite craftmanship in the service of functionality; children’s books for their honesty; and almost any drawing, as an art form that literally illustrates the creative process.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter who are elevated each year to the AIA College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.