Stephen Halsey

K-12 Managing Principal


What attracted you to this profession?

I still remember staying inside during recess one day in 3rd grade to draw a picture of the Biltmore House that was in our geography book. After that I was always drawing some sort of building, making things out of Legos or making models. I remember doing a book report on Frank Lloyd Wright in 5th grade. My parents gave me my first drafting table and a copy of Architectural Graphics Standards in 7th grade. I can’t remember a time not wanting to be an architect.


What three words would you use to describe your job?

Leadership. Collaboration. Design.


What are the most important personality traits to have in your profession?

I think the two most important traits for an architect are being a good listener and the ability to communicate. We are taught in architecture school to think big, design something, and then defend that project in front of your peers and your studio critics. It can be a humbling experience. But as a result of that education, you understand the importance of 1) listening—to your clients, to your team members, and to the end users of the schools we design, and 2) communicating your ideas in front of clients, with your project teams, in front of school boards, and in front of your peers at conferences.


What’s a typical week in your job like?

The key word in my typical week is responsive. During a typical week, I need to be available to consult with or listen to the concerns or needs of clients in a responsive way. I need to be available to listen to team members about their concerns or project issues. The primary focus of each week is to make sure everyone has what they need to complete a task, complete their project, or keep their work moving forward, whether that is internal with project teams or external with clients.


What do you like most about your job?

To this day, the most amazing part about being an architect is walking into a newly completed school for the first time, to experience the space, the materials, and the composition of forms and then reflect on the monumental effort on the part of so many people to get that school designed and constructed. To think that we start with a sketch or idea doodle on a piece of paper—or, yes, even a napkin—and then walk through and experience that idea built in three-dimensions years later is still the most amazing part of the profession.


What’s the most challenging part of your job?

I think the most challenging part of being an architect is the constant juggling of competing ideas and priorities and arriving at a design solution that meets all of these priorities. In the K-12 world, almost every project is confronted with a fixed budget from the funding authority, a fixed schedule for when the school needs to open, the space and instructional needs of teachers, and often space needs for the community. It takes a lot of collaboration, listening, and guidance to arrive at the right balance of all of these needs and priorities in a design solution.


What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Too many to list! We enjoy traveling as a family and also spending time at the beach. I spend time with music; playing drums, noodling a little on the guitar and picking a lot of banjo.


What music are you listening to right now?

I listen to music that is all over the map and I’m always dialing up music based on mood, weather, location, task, etc… It could be bluegrass while working in the yard, Baroque while working in the office, vintage Rush while driving in the car, 80s English alternative on a weeknight, Buffet and Chesney on the beach, shoegaze/dream pop on a rainy day, Miles Davis or John Coltrane working on a rainy Sunday night or old Sinatra/Tommy Dorsey cooking dinner.


What’s your favorite film?

Can I do a top 5? Patton. The Godfather 1 and 2. The Matrix. Mad Max: Fury Road.


What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

It may sound cliché, but it’s the birth of our two kids and watching them grow and evolve into adults and good citizens.