On Thursday evening, Nov. 19, multi-award-winning architect, professor, author, and artist Frank Harmon will thank friends, colleagues, and clients for a 50-year career that saw him rise to the top of his profession when he officially announces his retirement during an oyster roast and champagne toast.
Harmon’s retirement party will be held at the thoroughly “green” Modern building he designed and where his office has been located for the past three years: the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design, 14 East Peace St., in downtown Raleigh, according to a news release.
Since founding his firm in 1985, Frank Harmon has received dozens of local, regional, and national design awards and other professional honors, including the 2013 F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, the highest honor the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects presents.
An AIA Fellow and Professor in Practice at NC State University’s College of Design, Harmon has built his illustrious reputation on designing modern, innovative, sustainable, and regionally appropriate buildings of all types, especially environmental education facilities. As another AIA Fellow, Jeffrey Lee, once wrote of his friend and colleague:
“Across the architectural profession, Frank Harmon, FAIA, is the face of North Carolina architecture. Through his words, his deeds, and the work of his firm, he has brought to a national audience a glimpse of the unique character and architectural culture of his home state (and his work) is an architectural presence so deeply rooted to the influence of place that one can hardly imagine it existing elsewhere.”
When asked why he’s decided to retire now, Harmon grinned. “I don’t think one ever retires. You simply do other things. But one of our goals in life is to be happy, right? I’ve decided to pay attention to that. I realize now that a visit from my daughter, a trip to London to see my son, a simple dinner with friends, or the shape of a flower in my garden gives me more happiness than designing another building.”
Yet he admits he’ll miss his practice:
“Of course this is bittersweet. I’ll miss coming to the office each day to work with bright young people and to work with craftsmen and builders I respect. But they will continue to do new and better things, which I will enjoy. The future of architecture is good in their hands.”
For the past few years, Harmon has acquired a devoted following for his blog “Native Places,” a collection of thoughts and hand-drawn sketches that illustrate the value of looking closely at buildings and places.
“I think that what I want to say in architecture can be done with a pen and watercolor brush,” he said recently. “I don’t need an office to do that.”