Licensed architect and LEED Accredited Professional Billy Askey ‘05 began contemplating a career in design as a high school student, when an art teacher pushed him to understand how creativity influences and contributes to our environment.
“My desire to be a designer was sealed when, while touring NC State’s College of Design, Professor Vince Foote exclaimed somewhat maniacally, ‘We want your lives!’” said Askey. “I was seeking a career that continually challenged me, and architecture was and is a great fit.”
Askey went on to earn both a bachelor of environmental design in architecture (BED-A) and a bachelor of architecture (B.Arch.), pursuing numerous opportunities for enrichment along the way. His was one of 25 aspiring architects’ essays selected in a competition to attend a national conference entitled “Designing Tomorrow’s Architect.” Also as an undergraduate, Askey and two classmates designed and installed tensile fabric sails at a local restaurant to address its acoustic problems. Their project was later published in Fabric Architecture.
However, Askey’s college experience was not centered exclusively around design.
“Many Park Scholars are passionate about several things, and college is a perfect opportunity to explore them without feeling the need to have a singular focus,” said Askey, who supplemented his studies by earning EMT-Basic certification, serving for two years as treasurer of NC State’s Dance Marathon, and completing minors in Spanish and international studies. He received Park Enrichment Grant funding (then known as a “GRASP”) to travel to Segovia, Spain with several other Park Scholars and the late Ana Kennedy, a Park Faculty Scholar who was also Askey’s Spanish mentor. While there, Askey studied the impact of Spain’s religious diversity on its architecture.
Following graduation from NC State, Askey sought out the brights lights of big cities.
“I started by working for Shalom Baranes Associates in Washington, D.C.,” he said, “and my first project out of school was a million square feet of mixed-use development about a mile from the U.S. Capitol building. I spent the better part of three and a half years working on all aspects of the project, from design to construction. Given the breadth and duration of the project, and its role in reshaping Southwest DC, I try to see it whenever I’m back in D.C.”
Askey also volunteered with the Washington, D.C. chapter of Architecture for Humanity, providing design services for area homeless shelters and a children’s school in Nigeria.
“These projects reinforce the idea that all people should have access to healthy, sustainable, and lasting spaces through good design,” he said.
From the nation’s capital, Askey moved up the East Coast to work for Kliment Halsband Architects in New York, N.Y. There he focused on academic projects, including the renovation and expansion of a 100-year-old private school adjacent to Central Park. He also earned his professional license and became a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Askey credits his Park Faculty Mentor, Alumni Distinguished Professor Pat Rand, FAIA, for encouraging him throughout these pursuits.
“During my time at NC State, Pat did everything from helping chart summer internships, to showing me the finer points of working with stucco, and asking me to produce drawings for a book on detailing he co-wrote,” said Askey. “Since that time, he guided my path toward professional licensure and connected me with the firm I worked for in New York. While we still regularly talk architecture these days, our friendship also includes everything from discussing the latest issue of National Geographic to attending baseball games.”
Askey and his wife, fellow Park Scholar Sara (Anderson) Askey ‘05, returned to North Carolina’s Research Triangle area in 2012. Askey joined Perkins+Will (formerly The Freelon Group) where, as an associate and project designer, he specializes in cultural projects such as libraries and museums. Among his favorite projects is NC State’s Gregg Museum of Art & Design, which recently celebrated its groundbreaking.
“It was an opportunity to contribute to a place that’s special to me,” Askey said of his role in the Gregg Museum project. “The museum renovates and expands upon the original chancellor’s residence, so there’s a nice link between NC State’s past and future histories.”
Askey has also returned to NC State in another capacity; at the suggestion of his mentor, Rand, he began teaching part-time in the College of Design’s School of Architecture in January 2014.
“I enjoy developing the skills of emerging designers and helping them navigate their careers,” said Askey, who cites activities such as mentoring students through the AIA Young Architects Forum and guiding younger colleagues as his office’s licensing advisor among his most meaningful professional experiences.
“Teaching has been particularly valuable because it’s honed my communication skills and ability to impact design,” he said.
When he’s not designing buildings or paving the career paths of future architects, Askey and his wife – who welcomed a son, Bennett, last year – spend time running, supporting Wolfpack sports, and working on their 90-year-old house in Durham. Both Askeys have also served on the Park Scholarships Selection Committee for several years.
“I am extraordinarily grateful for the myriad ways the Park program helped me chart a successful and rewarding path through college and beyond,” he said. “Serving on the Selection Committee is a terrific chance to share how amazing the program and NC State are with prospective scholars. Moreover, I am inspired by the amazing abilities and contributions of future Park Scholars.”