Five Years with Thomas Stark

Tom has worked in architecture since 1979, but this year, we celebrate five years with him on team MWA. Using his years of experience, Tom mentors designers and interns at MWA, which he considers to be a highlight in his career. In this blog, Tom shares his experience with us to commemorate his time so far. Continue reading to hear more about Tom’s journey.

What projects are you working on right now?

We are at the 100% review for the Bull Run Water Treatment Campus. This has been consuming my time for a couple of years now. Willamette Supply Water Treatment Plant is in the construction phase. Plus Sunnyvale Temporary Facility is being constructed and the North City Pure Water Facility is under construction.

“Tom has the ability to distill his decades of knowledge for staff to help them become better architects. He’s my sounding board and ‘fact-checker’ on so many topics. Our projects would definitely not be as good as they are without him.”

– Casey Hagerman

What project phase is your favorite?

I really don’t have a favorite phase. I think that my experience is most valuable in the contract documents phase. I enjoy detailing which is weird because I used to really stress about details. Now detailing is my happy place, I just get to “zone in” and make things constructible.

How have the responsibilities and expectations of your job changed in the last few years?

Simple answer but not a simple task – you go from managing projects to managing people.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

I avoid overtime when and if possible. MWA has a good attitude towards projects in the fact that they do not push the overtime issue like some of the past firms that I have worked at.

“I always feel a sincere passion for craft and beauty when I work with Tom. His approach is fierce but a very comfortable shared vision. And he is open to coloring books in meetings. I love working with Tom!”

– Jean Root

What do you hope to do more of in the next few years? 

This is a tough question because I really don’t have any expectations for the next few years. Doesn’t seem to work out anyway, reality seems to have its own agenda. There is an old saying that applies, “When man makes plans, God laughs”.

What is your next career goal that you would like to tackle?

This will drive Jeff crazy, but I can’t think of further career goals. Having said this, I want to make it clear that I intend to keep my high standards in the completion of our projects and support the overall MWA goals. I got my first job in architecture in 1979 so I have seen a lot and have already achieved a lot of goals. I have worked under civil engineers, structural engineers, and mechanical engineers. I had my own remodeling business for a couple of years while caretaking family property. Designed and built a photovoltaic/wind hybrid energy system so I lived off-the-grid in a remote cabin for 11 years. Like I said, I’ve seen a lot.

When you started your career, why did you want to become an architect? 

I liked to build things and when I was in high school, I took drafting classes as an alternate from college level classes. I thought that my love for drawing and my interest in how things went together would fit architecture well.

“Tom is a very dedicated mentor and professional, and he takes his role seriously, which I find admirable. It is always fun to work with him since you will get to learn something and work with someone that has a great sense of humor and a love for cats.”

– Maria Benavente

Is there a particular architect’s work that inspires you? Why?

I don’t have a particular architect that inspires me. I have architectural styles that I like more than others. The Craftsman style is one of my favorites and Greene and Greene Architects are one of the top practitioners that I like.

What is your favorite thing about working at MWA?

What makes working at MWA enjoyable is the people. From the management to the support staff, we seem to get along and seem to try our hardest. The lack of ego-motivated decisions lets projects run smoothly.

Tom walking with a group of people from MWA, many of whom are smiling or making goofy faces.
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