Vickie Alani of CBT Architects Talks to Us About Art + Nature, How Her Perspective Is Challenged and Broadened, and What’s Next For Design

We continue our Design Discussions with designers who attended FWD, a place where we explore cultural trends and design influencers in an inspirational setting. Between design lectures, trend forecasting sessions and art excursions, attendees are immersed in inspiration and creativity. Our Design Discussions keep the conversations going, sharing design aspirations and what personally inspires these visionaries.

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How do you stay current on cultural trends that affect design?

I have two daughters who are creatives — one is involved in music and movies, both are foodies, and both are active in strong social circles. While I follow industry leaders and numerous Instagram and Facebook accounts — especially ones that post beautiful photos — it’s with my daughters and their friends that I get to be part of a cross-generational community. I see what matters to them, see what their friends are posting, and watch trends evolve in real-time. Their friends post such spectacular, provocative images, I get to have my perspectives challenged and broadened every day.

What inspires you personally and professionally?

I’ve always been inspired by art. Before becoming an architect, I received my B.F.A. in painting. I find art takes my mind to new places and recalibrates my eyes to a beauty that is different from the built environment. Nature has a similar power — mountains, beaches, places that have no built objects — these spaces have a type of freeing beauty that inspires me.

Though I am also inspired by beautiful spaces. There are moments when I step into a space, a rare “perfect” space, and my heart skips a beat. Knowing the precision and vision it takes to create something so beautiful leaves me in awe, and I carry that feeling in me all day.

What’s next for the future of the design industry?

I just read an article about how your phone will soon be able to track your personal stock, a running tally of how you are viewed by your peers either positively or negatively. There are so many avenues for criticism and comparison; it hit me that design is going to be more important than ever. Design will need to address humanity — to ground us, to make us feel better. It will need to provide the warmth that may be otherwise eroded by day-to-day life.

What one building or interior space do you wish you designed?

First I have to say, this is an impossible question — I fall in love with buildings and design constantly. Though if I were pressed to give an answer today, there is one new building that’s been stuck in my mind ever since I saw it published. The Spring Street Salt Shed by Dattner and WXY is such a striking reminder that architecture is sculpture and that every project is the opportunity to do something wildly creative and unexpected — it’s spectacular!


Inspired: Spring Street Salt Shed by Dattner and WXY

What are your most favorite things on your desk?

My desk is a fairly eclectic mix — I keep postcards of artwork I like, a swatch of color that made me happy when I saw it, always a few plants (currently succulents), a great cup of tea, and pencils (I love using pencils).

When I made the move to CBT a few months ago, my daughter gave me a card where inside she wrote: “You are an inspiration and a bad-ass role model.” Of course, this card is on my desk as well. The opportunity to be a role model and a mentor is a sacred one to me, both at home and at work. I see it as a unique chance to grow collectively, to invite new perspectives and approaches from architects and designers newer to the field. There’s so much to be gained — heightened creativity, better designs, more confident team members — by being a mentor. Design shouldn’t happen any other way.


Other Thoughts

If I can give a shameless shout-out, I love the work Mohawk Group is doing to spread design awareness. Your FWD seminar was an absolutely fantastic event, and your Trend Union predictions are always a must-follow — keep it up!


Vickie temp headshot-28_reduced_croppedVickie Alani, AIA, CBT Architects

Vickie Alani is a leader in multi-family residential and hospitality design at CBT Architects. A uniquely holistic designer, Vickie has 30 years of professional experience in both architecture and interior design for projects at all scales. Drawing from her training in fine and studio arts, Vickie’s intuition for color, space, and light infuse her design with a nuanced and sensitive approach to both architecture and interior work, creating art in the process.