The Edge: Derek Pirozzi – Be the Architect of Your Own Future

May 20, 2014 6 min read

Derek Pirozzi - 01_Evolo

Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do

Derek Pirozzi: Over these past several years I have constantly strived to be a leader, designer, fabricator, thinker, author and a student of architecture – driven by my determination and ambition to create a large and diverse body of work. As a young intern, I search for and struggle with my intentions and aim of the architect I will become. Daily I engage in various intellectual exercises, creating and conceptualize my thoughts through written narratives and rendered perspectives. I am consistently searching for new creative outlets both physically and mentally. I believe that in order to become successful in this profession (or any profession) you must create a benevolent union with your craft through sacrifice, diligence and the unyielding love for producing a useful, meaningful outcome.

Today, I work hard on envisioning innovative and thoughtful designs for all of my proposals and endeavors. I continue to dedicate myself to becoming the architect I set out to become, by learning from those talented individuals around me as well as those inspiring practitioners of architecture working around the globe. I am currently working as a contracted Intern for a small office in Sarasota FL with the hopes of starting a studio of my own in the near future.

Derek Pirozzi - portrait

Novedge: I really like the artist statement on your website. Can you talk more about what you think the role of architecture is in contemporary society? 

Derek Pirozzi: As a child, I always knew I wanted to become an architect. Like most of society, I thought I knew what an architect was or meant to be. After years in the profession, I never thought I would love what this role truly means as much as I do today. Being an architect is much like being the composer of an orchestra – the individual who not only writes the music but also coordinates with his players to create a beautiful, memorable and meaningful work of art. 

Today’s architect must bridge the gaps and strive to become a practitioner of all professions form artist to engineer, draftsman to builder, fabricator to theorist, scientist to economist and author to inventor. It is an architect’s obligation to believe in the integrity of his or her craft, driven not by financial prosperity or fortuitous notoriety but instead by the steadfast dedication to the autotelic experience which brings them great joy. Today, it is imperative for the architect to work and collaborate with talented individuals who can help the architect create an innovative and extraordinary piece, just as the composer does so with their musicians.

Derek Pirozzi - IMG_1200

Novedge: From winning the eVolo Skyscraper competition to being on the jury for the same contest this year, what have you learned about architectural competitions?

Derek Pirozzi: Competitions are great start for young architects; they help exercise your design creativity while providing a platform for innovation and the expression of unique talent. However, architecture like art is and always will be subjective. Almost every award, competition and judged event is composed of a jury with varying opinions and viewpoints as to how and why architecture and design should be implemented. It is important that all entrants, whether victorious or defeated, remember that they are given one particular outcome or point of view. Just as in sports, a game between opponents can be played a thousands times, always with a different result. The most important conclusion is that when completed, the architect feels that the work submitted is true to his or her principals, demonstrating their capabilities and creating a compelling addition to their growing portfolio.

Derek Pirozzi - 01_Case Study House

Novedge: What advice do you have for young architects or students thinking about submitting their work to a competition?

Derek Pirozzi: It is exceedingly difficult to be a young intern architect in the United States today. In a field dominated by knowledge and experience, it takes many years for an intern to gain the hours needed to practice architecture on their own. Competitions, scholarships, awards and traveling grants are a phenomenal way for young designers to embark on their future objectives and goals. Most young interns do not have the experience to produce a full construction set, but almost all of them are capable of composing an innovative design, one capable of winning notoriety and recognition, which can lead to future endeavors.

When submitting to a competition, it is important to continually withdraw yourself from your work; to analyze your submission with an impartial perspective – asking the question “Is this an accurate interpretation of what is in my mind’s eye?”

Derek Pirozzi - eVolo 02

Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?

Derek Pirozzi: 2014 has been an exciting year for my endeavors. The Polar Umbrellahas achieved international recognition while granting several wonderful opportunities for the future. This past December, I received the honor to be invited to submit for a closed competition in a progressive and innovative country in the Middle East. After becoming shortlisted and selected, My team and I have had the great fortune now for the past 5 months to be a part of an exciting new architecture proposal that will hopefully one day come to fruition. At this time, I am unfortunately not allowed to comment or give information on this proposal, but hopefully soon this exciting new undertaking will be revealed to the public. I look forward to discussing this proposal further with you in the near future.

Derek Pirozzi - 01_Drift Concept Model 2

Novedge: What software do you use? 

Derek Pirozzi: A good architect must continue to learn and master all of the tools in this profession. Like the carpenter or craftsman, we must use the appropriate tools for the task at hand. Every design for me begins with a sketch or the conceptualization in a physical form – be that a model or construct to a painting or vignette. From there, I am able to use such tools as Revit, Rhino, AutoCAD and even SketchUp to begin the visualization of my product. For many of my technical details, I find great inspiration in the beauty of nature found in all forms of life on earth – a pelican’s beak, the joints in my dog’s leg or the knuckles I am operating to compose this sentence.

Derek Pirozzi - 01_Drift Concept Model

Novedge: You graduated and worked as an intern at Oppenheim Architecture + Design. What did you learn on the job that you wish you had learned in school? 

Derek Pirozzi: Currently, I am continuing my work towards becoming an architect in my home town of Sarasota Florida. Leaving OAD in October of last year, I am able to continue my pursuit towards my goals while being closer to family, which is most important at this time in my life.

It is unfortunate but many young architects enter the field without ever being fully exposed to a construction site or composed construction document. These days, I am a high advocate of Autodesk Revit. I have been using this for a couple years now and have seen the benefits of this program many times over. I encourage architecture students to learn this software, not as a design tool, but as an efficient production engine.

Derek Pirozzi - 01_Poster Design

Novedge: What is the best advice you have ever received? 

Derek Pirozzi: Some of the most important values I have learned in my life have come from playing sports in high school. Through these lessons I have learned to always strive to do your best at every aspect in your life, both professional and personal. It is important to stay balanced and be goal oriented while keeping an open mind. It is important in our profession to be versatile while consistently revising our perspective so that we stay intellectually sharp.

One of my father and my favorite quotes is by John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."


Derek Pirozzi received a Master's of Architecture in 2012  from the University of South Florida School of Architecture and won first place in the 2013 eVolo International Skyscraper Competition. He is also a contributor to Evolution.

To see more of Derek's work, visit his website and blog.

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