Office Hours

By Laura M. Terry, Associate Professor of Architecture
Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design

Photos by Russell Cothren

Architecture professor and artist Laura Terry.

The model in the foreground is an investigation of the negative space found in Night Zag Wall by Louise Nevelson. The woven model in the background is a carbon fiber study of complex surfaces.

9733_Laura_Terry-Architecture-office.detailsThe office I currently occupy on the third floor of Vol Walker Hall is the sixth office I have inhabited since joining the faculty here in 1998. I arrived on campus with a single box and placed those few books, sketchbooks and notes on an otherwise empty shelf. None of those prior offices exist anymore. They were consumed for other spaces or completely demolished and reconfigured in the recent renovation and addition to the building. As we were preparing to move back into the building in the fall of 2013, we were able to choose our offices, and this one on the north side of the third floor appealed to me. A single, north-facing window creates an even light throughout the day and year. I look out daily at the view of the agriculture building and the maple tree that flanks its entry on the left. In the fall, that tree turns fire orange and stands out against the limestone wall. Even more so against a grey sky of autumn. Outside my office door in the hallway is another window on what was once the exterior of old Vol Walker Hall. This window provides a view down into the gallery space located on the second floor where studio critiques are regularly held. I consider it the heart of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

Office 316 is generous in size with plenty of surfaces and shelves. I have managed in my time here to fill them with books on various topics, from the landscape to critical non-fiction to individual artist/architect monographs, postcards from students during their travels, mementos from their home countries, and paper, lots and lots of paper. It is also a repository of drawings and paintings, some my own, but most from student projects over the years. I keep them as exemplars for future studios or as evidence of a particularly successful project. Some I keep simply because they are beautiful as artifacts. Or because I see something in them that the author did not.

This collective sketch of a tree, a gift from Terry’s students, helped assuage a difficult loss.

This collective sketch of a tree, a gift from Terry’s students, helped assuage a difficult loss.

Other works have profound personal meaning. In March of 2017, my car was broken into while parked at the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. My purse was stolen, and along with its more ordinary contents (wallet, glasses, keys, etc.), it contained one of my most valuable possessions, my sketchbook. Upon hearing the story that my sketchbook was gone (along with about eight months of writing and drawing), the students in my design studio that semester drove to the battlefield to try to find the tree I had been documenting. They made drawings, each student taking a particular piece of the composition, and combined them into complete images. On the last day of the spring semester, they presented me with these framed images of “my tree.” Even now, a year later, I find it impossible to tell that story without experiencing the pain of that loss and the simultaneous joy in the gift of those drawings.

Some would say my office is cluttered, disorganized, even messy. I view it differently. For me, it is a physical reminder of 20 years of teaching, and an accumulation of experiences, successes and failures, profound loss and immense gifts, all as evidence of the pursuit of design and education. And if I had to move out today and could only take one box with me? Well, those drawings of the tree would be the first items in.