By Melody Harclerode
Oscar Harris, FAIA, is recognized as the architect of Atlanta landmarks such as the City of Atlanta Courthouse, City of Atlanta Public Safety Headquarters and the Atrium and Concourse E at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This fall, he celebrates his 70th birthday and the recent publication of his book, Oscar: The Memoir of a Master Architect!, available at Sugartop Publishing. During an interview at his stunning home in southwest Atlanta, Oscar discusses the book, his career and future plans.
What inspired you to write the book?
I started the path to write the book when I began my career as an architect forty years ago. Few have taken my career path. I want to share my experiences with others, inspire, educate and give historical documentation of the time.
Who is the target audience for your book?
High school students, young adults and parents. I want them to know that my success was not overnight. I recall being bullied, and I was very rebellious during my youth, but I could draw. I worked well under pressure, which helped me later in life.
How were you exposed to the field of architecture?
My grade school visited a construction site for a field trip, and I was fascinated. I saw a person dressed in a suit. I wanted to be him: the architect. Later, at age 10, my mother and I took a prop plane to Europe. We saw great architecture. The Louvre. However, my parents discouraged me from becoming an architect at first because they saw the struggles of an African-American architect at the time. However, after four years at Lincoln University, they supported my decision to become an architect.
Which of your projects do you enjoy the most?
The Atrium at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I love the ever-changing quality of the light, the sculpture in the space and the art design of the floor. It’s a world space as the busiest airport in the world. I also love the light towers at Centennial Park that I designed in 1996. These towers have become an iconic symbol of Atlanta. The book also shares the story of how I won the Concourse E project and other projects.
What are you doing these days?
I am a partner in the International Aviation Consultants. We provide program management at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. I also began a pullback from practicing traditional architecture six years ago. I’m more free to paint and make a transition with my son, Todd, to product design. I like the opportunity to be creative, innovative and passionate for a focused project.
What is your advice for young people?
Find out your passion. Get focused. Set goals and timetables. Promote yourself.
Melody L. Harclerode, AIA, a local architect, promotes the power of architecture and design to benefit the public as the 2014 President-Elect for the Board of the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Associate Principal of Hyer Creative (hyercreative.com). For more information, check out aiaatl.org.