5 Questions with Yann Weymouth

Yann snapshot 1

Yann Weymouth at work

More: Yann Weymouth on the visitor experience at the new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Today I have the honor to bring to you some lesser known facts about one of HOK’s most world renowned architects.  A senior vice president in HOK’s Tampa office, Yann Weymouth is capable of supernova design – he worked with I.M. Pei on the famous Louvre glass pyramid in Paris, among other high-profile museum projects, including the entirely new, waterfront building for the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Chances are, you have experienced one of the places that he designed and now, once you read this interview, you will be one step closer in your six degrees of separation from one of the generation’s finest designers.

You have led an extraordinary life as an architect with projects at the Louvre and National Gallery under your belt.  What has been the most meaningful project you have completed and why? 
That is like asking me which one of my 3 children I love most. My projects are like my children and I love each for different reasons. While no two of the projects on which I have led the design look the same, each contributes its own innovations, and its own character. I avoid repeating past formulas or symbols or personal expressions of vanity. I hope each completed project is a compelling design of lasting architecture that works well, fulfills its mission, exceeds our client’s expectations and gives back by delighting a wider audience.

Having traveled all over the world, what city inspires you the most?
I have been fortunate to live and work in some of the world’s greatest and most interesting cities: Boston, Washington DC, New York, Miami, LA, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Istanbul and others. I try to make the most of my time wherever I find myself and draw inspiration from hidden gems. Each of these great places is centered on a great river or ocean. I am a Navy brat. I grew up moving around constantly, but always near water. I was taught sailing very young. This close contact with the wind, sea and sky made me very aware of physics, light, energy flows and the actions and reactions of certain materials to these key elements. To this day these influence my design.

Interior shot of "enigma edge" from new Salvador Dali Museum

Interior shot of "enigma edge" from new Salvador Dali Museum

Who is the most interesting person you have had the opportunity to meet?
Buckminster Fuller. I met him in Greece when I was a student. I was chosen to be the scribe for a seminar of fascinating luminaries like Arnold Toynbee, Siegfried Gideon, and Margaret Mead. This was the 1960’s, but Bucky was already talking about biodiversity. The thing that was inspiring about him was his infectious enthusiasm and his conviction that any problem could be solved, and that design was more about discovery than about invention.

I see Bucky’s influence in a lot of my projects. The skylights at the National Gallery of Art East Wing owe much to his three-dimensional triangulating geometries. The Louvre Pyramid is a “tensegrity” structure, and uses a lot of yacht-racing technology.  My design for SOM, Fleet Place House, is an all glass, long-span, column-free office slab. To re-use existing foundations and span over the London Tube station below, I shaped a triangulated, web of tilted tubular columns, visibly expressing gravity vector thrusts. This not only resolved a costly engineering challenge, but became a building hallmark. At the new Salvador Dalí Museum, currently under construction, the glass “Enigma” is a triangulated geodesic shell structure that pushes the envelope of Fuller’s investigations. (See photos above) 

What are your hobbies?
I admit that I am a workaholic, so I do not make time for sailing or playing tennis, both of which I love. I am lucky that my work brings me in close contact with art, museums and galleries. Any free moments, my wife usually has me building something at home, but I am a scientist at heart and love to devour scientific publications and journals to understand the latest research. 

 

I.M. Pei and Yann in 1988 at the Louvre pyramid under construction

I.M. Pei and Yann in 1988 at the Louvre pyramid under construction

What is your best kept secret?
That my mantra comes from Philip Johnson. He often quoted his doctor, saying, “He told me if I ever stopped working, I’ll die, so I’ll never stop working.” Philip was still working when he died at age 99. My great mentor, I.M. Pei, who just turned 93, winning commissions, and giving back to our profession. I very much hope to follow in their footsteps, continuing in some way what I love to do.

7 Comments
  1. May 4th, 2010 - 1:58 pm

    If anyone thinks that Yann is just too good to be true, I assure you that everything said in this article is correct. I had the great honor of working side by side Yann when he and I both assisted Arquitectonica on a $350M airport project in Miami over about 2 years, and Yann was always the consummate professional. He was ever creative, but humble and generous in his accolades for fellow architects and engineers. HOK is fortunate to have him there in Tampa.
    —- Rand Soellner AIA/NCARB

  2. December 23rd, 2010 - 7:39 am

    I’ve been a friend of the Weymouth’s for 10+ years, probably more. He’s an amazing person, intellectual yet human, interesting yet humble. A delightful person to be around.

  3. January 9th, 2011 - 4:32 pm

    [...] two years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing the new museum’s principle architect, Yann Weymouth, who is based in the Tampa office of the global design firm HOK, for a story appearing in Tampa Bay [...]

  4. January 29th, 2011 - 7:18 am

    I had the amazing good fortune to work with Yann on his brilliant design for the Frost Art Museum in Miami. He is a gem as a person and a creative force.

  5. March 11th, 2011 - 4:45 pm

    [...] biggest reward for any of us will be standing here and watching people’s faces,” said architect Yann Weymouth.  “Good spaces, good architecture and especially great art, can make a difference in people’s [...]

  6. June 20th, 2011 - 2:48 pm

    We were amazed and delighted by the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Pete, Florida. Dali’s genius and creativity was closly followed by the museums amazing and intriguing “enigma”. What a treat to be in the prescence of such greatness.

  7. April 17th, 2013 - 8:52 am
    Dave Ringer said:

    I loved the building and purchased a model of the building sold in the Museum store. Later, looking at the pictures that I had taken, I noticed that the model does not match the actual building. The South face on the model is a blank surface instead of the planar projection on the actual building. Shame on the museum director for permitting an inaccurate model, cheaply made in China, to be sold. Architecture is art too. Perhaps the museum shop should sell simplified images of Dali’s work as well. Yann Weymouth of HOK should be appalled.

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