This week, the Young Architect Podcast spoke with architect, writer, and cyclist, Paul E. Fallon about his incredible bike journey across the USA.
Architect Paul E. Fallon
Now a retired architect, not only did Paul have an incredible career working on a variety of projects and architecture designs from the USA to Haiti, but he also experienced the incredible journey of traveling through all 48 contiguous USA states by bike.
With his skillful writing and love for blogging, Paul asked at least 1,000 people from all over the USA one simple question during his trip, “How will we live tomorrow?” For 397 days between 2015-2016, Paul biked over 20,000 miles to complete his goal and met some amazing people along the way.
Paul began studying architecture at MIT as an undergrad, but he later transferred to the civil engineering department for more of a technical background. Once he completed that, he went on to finish his Master’s degree.
Paul took his architecture skills to Haiti in 2007 to help build health clinics. After the disastrous earthquake of 2010, he knew he had to go back to Haiti to continue to help this country build eve more. His experience working and living in Haiti as an architect inspired him to write, Architecture by Moonlight (2014).
What’s next for Paul? After completing his incredible bike journey, he’s now planning to use his experiences to participate in several events and possible projects including:
- Speaking engagements at conferences
- Writing a play about his bike journey
- TED Talks
- Continuing to write articles, blogs, and more!
What You’ll Hear on This Episode
- From a very young age at 8 years, Paul knew he wanted to become an architect when his father took him and his brothers to his construction work site. It was there that he saw an architect for the first time and knew he wanted to be just like him.
- Paul’s long career in architecture with different experiences working for different firms, on a variety of building designs, and even helping to rebuild Haiti in 2007 and again in 2010 after the disastrous earthquake happened.
- The impact Paul felt from living and working in Haiti while he was helping to build health clinics.
- What Paul learned from the Haitian culture.
- The mission and purpose of Paul’s cycling trip throughout the USA.
- Paul’s plan and experiences cycling around the USA including one accident in Alabama where he injured his back.
- Why Paul wanted to ask at least 1,000 people the question during his cycling trip: “How will we live tomorrow?”
- The huge impact of the responses that Paul received from asking his question.
- Paul’s favorite responses from people who answered his question.
- What it was like to complete the bike trip throughout the USA during the entire 2016 presidential campaign.
- Paul’s advice for anyone considering taking a long bike trip:
- Pack light
- Wear bright clothes
- Don’t travel at night
- Be kind to yourself, take it easy, and enjoy it!
- What’s next for Paul and his plans for the “How Will We Live Tomorrow?” project and connecting with the people that he met during the trip. Some possible ideas include:
- Speaking engagements at conferences
- Writing a play to be performed
- TED Talks
- How the architecture profession differs from other professions and what are the benefits of being an architect.
Key Takeaways From This Episode with Paul E. Fallon
- There are many ways that architects can become involved in helping communities both in their home countries and abroad. You can volunteer or take on projects that will help benefit others in many places.
- We can make an impact and help people think deeply about our place in the world. How the world is now and how it could be different in the future. Our minds can allow us to think of what is possible for us and what we can accomplish together.
- You’ll be amazed by who and what you discover when you travel. You can meet some of the most amazing people or see the incredible scenery in unexpected places.
Paul E. Fallon’s Advice for Young, Aspiring Architects
“Architecture is a fabulous career. I don’t know many other people who do something for 30 years and don’t get burned out. Most architects do work for 30 years and don’t get burned out. You will not likely become wealthy as an architect and depending on what type of architecture you do, it can sometimes be difficult to be in the build and bust cycles. But I think that most of the architects I meet are more satisfied and engaged in their work than other people in different professions.” – Paul E. Fallon
“I had over 450 individuals or companies whom I met with and had in-depth conversations about what they did, how they were contributing to our society, and where they saw us going. In addition, every day I’d just talk to 2-3 or 10-12 and ask them my question as well.” – Paul E. Fallon on talking to over 1,000 people and asking them, “How will we live tomorrow?”
“The question of “How will we live tomorrow?” really came from my experiences in Haiti. It was when I lived in Haiti that I first got exposed to a very, very different culture. Living and being part of that culture really made me want to understand our own (USA culture) more. – Paul E. on why he chose to ask the question, “How will we live tomorrow?”
“We will live tomorrow in the hearts of those who love us.” – One of Paul’s favorite responses that he heard when he asked his question.
“I had the most amazing experience! I met hundreds and thousands of wonderful people during a time when many people were not feeling very good about each other because I was biking during the entire 2016 presidential campaign.” – Paul E. Fallon on the experience of meeting so many different people during his bike trip.
“It’s all about the journey. I’ve learned that when you’re cycling, the destination is nice, but the process of getting there is such an intense experience. You are in the world; you’re not going through the world. You are smelling it, feeling it, and engaging with it. When I think about my trip, it’s the act of moving through our country that I recall more than seeing specific places.” – Paul E. Fallon on his experience biking through the USA.
“If I’m making decisions under the gun, I haven’t done my job right. The point of architecture is to delivery something. We should not be making decisions in an emergency because we’re supposed to project the opportunities and look at the different advantages of different options.” – Paul E. Fallon on the differences between an architect’s job and the pressure of other professions such as doctors or lawyers.
“Throughout my career, I continued to move further and further forward in the process. So early on, I did everything. I did construction drawings, design, administration, and I wrote specifications. Then, as I progressed at moving further forward, I came to the point that by the end of my career, I would be finished with the client well before the schematics were even finished because I got involved with helping clients decide what they wanted to do. That’s where architecture needs to go. We don’t necessarily need to focus on building more. All of our physical built-in environment and facilities are going to need to be evaluated, updated, and thought through.” – Paul E. Fallon on where the focus of architecture will need to go since the USA has so many constructed buildings already and his thoughts on reading Problem Seeking by William M. Pena
“The reason why I chose to ask, ‘How will we live tomorrow?” is because I feel like the essence of what makes this country remarkable is our individual capacity and the society that we have set up that allows the individual to express themselves. That is the nature of the American character and the American spirit.” – Paul E. Fallon on why he chose to ask other Americans the question, “How will we live tomorrow?”
Resources Mentioned in the Show
- Visit Paul E. Fallon’s official website
- Read Paul’s biking trip story on his blog, How Will We Live Tomorrow?
- Check out Paul’s official blog, The Awkward Pose
- Read Paul’s book, Architecture by Moonlight
- Connect with Paul on social media:
- Learn about Malcolm Gladwell’s Theory of 10,000 hours
- Read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Find out more about The Circus Project in Portland
- Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin home in Spring Green, Wisconsin
- See the work of Santiago Calatrava at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin
- Stay at or visit the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona
- Read Problem Seeking by William M. Pena
- Check out the follow-up to Problem Seeking by reading Programming for Design by Edith Cherry
- Buy the American Classic, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
- You can also listen to this podcast on YouTube by clicking here!
This episode of the Young Architect Podcast was sponsored by How To Pass The Architect Registration Exam. Visit YoungArchitect.com/PassTheARE for more information!