Three generations reminisce about receiving the same degree from Texas Tech.
Garland, Darrick and Landon Wade share something other than a last name. The grandfather, father and grandson are all graduates of Texas Tech University's College of Architecture.
“I want to go on the record and make it clear I never encouraged them to do this,” Garland said of his son and grandson.
“But here we are.”
It wasn't that Garland thought architecture was a bad choice, but he knew what it was like to be pressured toward a career he didn't want.
The first generation
Garland grew up on a West Texas farm in the 1940s. The only child of two farmers, his parents expected him to stay and help work on the farm. That was until the teacher at his one-room schoolhouse sat Garland down on the steps after school one day.
“I was in sixth grade at the time and my teacher asked me to stay after class,” Garland said. “I thought I was in trouble. Turns out, my teacher thought I showed a lot of artistic talent.”
The teacher said there was more to life than farming, and in that moment, Garland felt a weight lift.
“It all made sense because I was so bored farming. And that's nothing against farmers. It's important work and some people have the knack for it, but it never engaged my mind in a way that excited me.”
In high school, Garland saw the film “The Fountainhead” and decided architecture was the perfect choice to utilize his skills.
“Dad is an amazing illustrator,” said Darrick, who is now assistant dean for recruiting, students and career development at the College of Architecture at Texas Tech. “I remember looking at his lettering and drafting when I was younger and being so impressed.”
Darrick's son Landon, who graduated last month from the College of Architecture, barely did any drafting by hand.
“We did almost everything on computers,” Landon said. “I know some people think designing on computers is hard but when you look at the tools my grandfather worked with and how precise everything had to be, I think that was the harder way of doing things.”
His father and grandfather laughed and defended the complexity of the algorithms Landon can create. There is no competition between the Wades, who all see each other as the better designer.
It's a deliberate choice of support made by Garland because of the bumpy road he endured.
“When it came time to attend college, my heart was set on coming to Texas Tech,” Garland said. “I wanted to earn my degree in architectural design, but it created a lot of tension in my family.
“There were even a few times my father showed up at my dormitory and told me to pack up my things and come back to the farm, but I never did.”
Garland would not compromise his dream, even though disappointing his parents caused him heartache. Because it came at a cost emotionally, he was determined to make it worth it.
Shortly after graduating from Texas Tech in 1959, Garland was drafted into the Army and deployed to Germany before he could sit for his licensing exam.
“During that time, I worked illustrating briefing charts for Army generals,” Garland said. “It wasn't what I thought I'd be doing, but it was a job that needed to be done and I had the skills to do it.”
Garland returned home for a short time in 1961 during which he and his wife had their first child, Darrick.
“Shortly after Darrick was born, the Berlin crisis escalated and I was recalled to active duty,” Garland said. “By the time I finished my service, I finally got onto taking my licensing exam – it was 1966.”
Garland worked at an architectural firm for a few years before finding a knack for designing hospitals. This work kept him busy until he and his family moved to Austin where he began work in construction administration.
“That's the work I did for the latter half of my career, so by the time Darrick was old enough to understand what I did, I was mostly juggling contractors and timelines; not really designing anymore.”
The second generation
“And that's why I didn't want to be an architect,” Darrick said. “I thought, ‘If being an architect is following people around making sure they're on budget and deadline, then I'm not interested.'”
But when Darrick took an aptitude test in high school and the result came back “architect,” he experienced an understandable level of shock.
“I didn't want to ignore the test, so I thought I better look into it more,” Darrick said.
After doing his own research, Darrick realized architecture design sounded like a great fit. He just had no interest in the administrative part of the process. So, following in his father's footsteps, he enrolled at Texas Tech.
After graduating and then earning his license in 1990, Darrick and his family moved to Silverthorne, Colorado, where he first worked as the community development director and later, as town manager.
“I decided early on during my time at Texas Tech that I wanted to build, and not always with brick and mortar,” Darrick said. “I wanted to leave things better than I found them. As my career developed, that was the litmus test for how I made decisions. Even as I worked in government positions, I was fulfilled because I was building policies that left communities better than I'd found them.”
After his career in local government, Darrick went on to work as the principal of a small architecture firm in Colorado, winning many awards for his designs, which focus on engaging all the senses.
“It's common for people to assume good architecture is based on visuals,” Darrick said. “But that's only the beginning. There is something we study in architecture called ‘phenomenology' which is where philosophy meets design. It asks questions about the human experience within a specific space.”
This concept fascinated Darrick and drove him to design spaces that engage more than just the eye.
“Later in my career, I wanted to try teaching,” Darrick said. “I enjoyed designing but wanted a new challenge. I ended up teaching architecture part-time at Landon's high school. Later, the opportunity to teach at a university level brought us back to Lubbock. Working in academia still allows me to design, but working with students offers a different kind of energy that I love.
“When I work with people who've been in the industry for a while, compromise is part of the first solution. With students, compromise isn't even on their mind. They don't ask, ‘Why?' They ask, ‘Why not?'”
The third generation
“I loved cars growing up,” Landon said. “So I was perfectly content to grow up and design those. However, around the time I was 15 years old I realized I wanted to do something where I could impact people. I wanted something deeper for my life.”
Helping his father with an open house in the Parade of Homes, a showcase of new and remodeled homes, provided Landon with a moment of inspiration.
“We were living in Colorado and my dad had just designed this really cool modern home,” Landon said. “I was helping for the day, you know, just greeting people.
“I remember folks walking through and saying they never thought they'd feel at home in a modern home, and yet, my dad had managed to create a design that did just that.”
Landon was hooked.
He went on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture from Texas Tech. But he gained more than just his degrees.
“I met my wife, Jessica, in an architecture class at Texas Tech,” Landon said.
The two will be moving to Dallas this month for Landon to begin work at Perkins & Will, a multinational architecture firm.
“I'm excited to work with this firm, because they understand my long-term goals and are letting me work on projects from conception to completion,” Landon said. “Oftentimes, and especially early in an architectural career, you get stuck in a factory approach where you're only designing windows or doors or some other small aspect of a design.
“But I wanted to work at a firm that had a holistic approach, so I'd learn about the whole process. I think it will set me up well for the future.”
Landon and Jessica have some big dreams for their future and hope to one day open their own firm or business. But before any of that can happen, Landon will have to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and take the Architect Registration Exam to earn his license.
“When I sat for the exam, it was six days long with an overnight section you had to stay up for,” Garland said. “They would test you on several different categories and you'd receive your grade from the cumulative scoring of each section.”
When Darrick took the exam, it was four days long.
“Now, we get to take the exam one category at a time,” Landon said. “You have to pass each category before moving to the next one. But what's really nice is we now have five years to pass all the tests.”
“That's not the plan though,” Landon said. “I plan to take one category every few months.”
But at least there aren't any mandatory all-nighters, only self-imposed ones.
67 years of building
Between the three generations, the family has been either studying, teaching or practicing architecture for almost 70 years.
Although each family member got into architecture for their own reasons, the desire to impact people and make the world a better place is something they share.
“In the College of Architecture, the noun ‘building' is used to teach the verb,” Darrick said. “You have to want to build things up and leave them better than how you found them.”
In that way, perhaps Garland did not stray too far from his farming roots after all.
“Farming is about tending the land and leaving it better than you found it,” Garland said. “Maybe I just bettered it in a different way.”
And for the newest member of the family, Landon's 10-month-old son William, well, only time will tell.