James Petty Leed AP | pettydesign

New York, New York

B.Arch (U. Houston ’08)
M.Arch (Yale ’14)
United States Citizen

In 1994 the movie Richie Rich was released. I was ten years old and infatuated with the main character of the movie, a kid with a city that virtually ran around him. I decided at that point that I was going to be an architect. I began to design a city that would run around me and developed the self-named Morgan City. I researched and picked out a site in Stephens County, Texas and over the course of several years, I drew hundreds of plans of this non-existent metropolis from master-planning to details of sports arenas, downtown high rises, urban developments, and two major airports. My friends thought I was crazy. It was the beginning of my obsession with design.

Prior to 2006, I left Texas four times while consistently living within a three-mile radius of the hospital in which I was born. Since then, I have been a visitor to 24 countries and a resident of four. I have resided in the most sprawling of metropolises [Houston], a remote Tuscan hill town [Castiglion Fiorentino], two global cities with an assemblage of cultures [London and New York City], a self-sustaining, financially vibrant small town [Biberach], and a city widely regarded as one of the most livable cities on earth [Munich]. This has given me opportunities to integrate into other cultures, discover how they construct buildings, and understand how they view and study the professional practice of architecture.

In 2018, I published Architect & Developer: A Guide to Self-Initiating Projects as a critique of the architectural profession and a path towards agency. The traditional role of the architect is far too passive and uncertain. The profession has positioned itself to sit by the phone until we are called upon and commissioned to do work. Architects have long been charged with creating a better-built environment, but it is the developers who dictate what is actually built in our cities. The decisions made by developers before architects are engaged in a project dictate later success. When all of the initial programming, market studies, and cost estimates are based on market averages, it is unsurprising when the final products in our cities are nothing more than average. In the end, architects have devalued their role to the pencil of the developer’s vision. See more information about the book at architectanddeveloper.com.