Q&A with Shane Cromwell, Architectural Associate at Seven Generations A&E
Shane is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a BS in Architecture. Shane assists with tasks in all aspects of the design and production process.
Are you from Kalamazoo? What do you think of Kalamazoo?
I am not from Kalamazoo originally. I am from Royal Oak, just north of Detroit. I’ve been in Kalamazoo for about 6 months and I absolutely love it! It’s like a mix of Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, with a sprinkle of up-north vibes. It’s has a great downtown, an awesome library, good food, and friendly people. I do not have enough good things to say about Kalamazoo.
When and how did you decide to get into architecture?
After high school I was planning on attending MSU not knowing what I wanted to do. But about a month before my first semester started, I changed my mind and withdrew my enrollment. I started going to community college, still with no real direction. After my first year there, I was registering for classes and saw that architectural hand drafting was offered. I signed up for the class and fell in love. Ever since then it has been my goal to be an architect.
What has been your favorite project of your career and why?
So far, my favorite project has been the Native Justice Center for the Pokagon Band. I like this project because of how differently justice is viewed in the native setting. Typically going to court is a dreaded experience that has a negative connotation. But for a native justice center, it is all based on healing. There is a more holistic and meaningful approach to the idea of law and justice. Integrating those ideas into a design has been extremely rewarding.
What sets Seven Generations apart from other firms?
I think there are a couple things that set us apart from other firms. Firstly, it is very unique that we are tribally owned. It gives us a unique perspective and design strategy. But on top of that, what sets 7Gen apart is the people. Everyone I work with is truly amazing and they are phenomenal designers. We work well together, and we have a strong sense of community in the office.
Who inspires you? Do you have a favorite architect or designer?
I am most inspired by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, mainly his use of material and the way he merges traditional architecture with modern day design. Works like the GC Prostho Museum Research Center, Sunnyhill, and the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum are awe-inspiring. His use of wood and wood joinery amazes me, as well as his mesmerizing use of pattern and repetition.
Is there anything in your day to day life that inspires you?
The people I work with inspire me every day. Without the people at 7 Gen I would not have progressed as a designer at the rate I have. Working with them every day makes work fun, educational, and meaningful.
Are you more interested in starting something from scratch or building onto something that already exists?
I’m interested in getting experience in both. With my career in architecture just starting out, I am still trying to figure out what interests me the most, what kind of projects I enjoy working on, and what direction I wish to steer my career in the future. So, for now I’m excited to get my hands in both kinds of projects.
What is your creative process?
My creative process begins by looking at images that inspire me that may or may not relate to the project. From there I try to translate the ideas in my head - the constraints of the project, and images that inspire me - into a design. I come up with multiple concepts and slowly narrow it down to one that works best. I iterate on that concept over and over again to improve it, eventually getting close to a final design. From there I try to get other creatives to look at the concept and give advice.
When you are in a creative rut, how do you get out?
I listen to music and browse images. I also find a lot of inspiration in nature. So when I’m feeling uninspired, a nice walk in the woods seems to cure me quickly.