By Mary Catherine Frantz, intern, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
PULLMAN, Wash. – One of the biggest moments of Paul Hirzel’s career came not from the numerous awards he has received over a lifetime but from the reaction of construction workers at a building project he designed.
On a snowy afternoon in Moscow, Idaho, the workers building the Colter’s Creek Wine Tasting Room courtyard stopped momentarily and looked skyward in awe.
They had never seen snow falling in the middle of a building before.
Hirzel, a professor in Washington State University’s School of Design and Construction, strives to affect people with his architecture and to bring balance between architecture and landscape — working with the environment instead of against it.
Beginning in May, Hirzel’s work will be featured at the Biennale Architettura 2018, the most prestigious international architecture exhibition in the world. The exhibition has been compared to world-class events such as the Paris Fashion Week or the Cannes Film Festival. One of only 15 American architects invited by the Global Art Affairs Foundation, he was asked to be an exhibitor because of his innovative academic and professional accomplishments which emphasize structure, economy and the physical environment. The exhibition runs May 26-November 25 in Venice.
Hirzel is looking forward to interacting with other attendees, who are some of the world’s most prominent architects.
“The level of professionals that will be coming together is unprecedented,” he said. “It’s a real honor to represent WSU in this context.”
During his career at WSU, Hirzel has emphasized the significance of landscape in the architecture curriculum.
“I challenge myself and my students to be advocates for the landscape in an industry where brick and mortar can so easily dominate,” he says.
His students’ work has been exhibited around the United States, including at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane and at the AIA National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“My dialogue with students is mutually stimulating and motivates me to explore new ways of invigorating architecture,” Hirzel said.
Hirzel has won countless awards for his architectural designs as well as for his teaching, including the profession’s highest award for teaching excellence. But, for Hirzel, the awards remain secondary to his lifetime career goal of affecting people.
“If the places I have designed bring you joy, that is my greatest accomplishment,” he said.