Name: Andre Pierre DeJean
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Graduation Year: 2005
Employer: Self Employed – Reagan & Andre Architecture Studio
Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, and what drew you to design?
I always knew I was going to be an architect, and that was that. The gravitational pull of creativity and design grew in me from the time I could snap together LEGOs. I was also extremely fortunate that my father had a workshop where I could harness my creativity and simply learn how things were created. It was essentially a master's class in my garage.
As a native Houstonian, the University of Houston was right there at my doorstep; however, it was not a decision based solely on the geographical consequence. My father was a construction manager and spoke highly of the graduates coming from the Hines College. I can clearly remember him driving me to the campus so I could personally drop off my resume with only a few available spots left in the architecture program. I was overwhelmed and excited at the same time. I am profoundly grateful and owe so much to my dad.
What was one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor that influenced your education?
As cliché as it might sound, memories of campus life are some of my favorites. For the first time in my life, I made friends who shared the same passion for design, and I am still friends with many of them to this day. Naturally, we pulled all-nighters that still bring a smile to my face as I think about watching the sun go down and right back up again. We all learned hard work pays off. If I were to think of only one moment in time that changed everything in school, it would be the day I met Charles Tapley. He changed me to my core, and it had nothing to do with architecture. He taught me how to be a gentle steward for our planet, which I carry into everything I do.
What has been your career path since graduation? Where are you currently working, and in what capacity?
Immediately out of school, I was hired by a man who would eventually become my mentor, best friend, partner, and confidant – possibly the greatest man to walk the earth – Mr. Reagan Miller. After working side-by-side with him for seven years, I can remember the day he took me to lunch and said, "Let's do this," and we were partners within a year. It was the honor of my life. Sadly, seven years later, in 2019, he tragically passed away in a plane crash on the way to one of our client's properties. This earth-shattering event put me at the helm of a business that was moving forward like a freight train. For the past two years, I have dedicated myself to carrying out his incredible legacy with one word in mind – care.
What does a typical day look like in your job? Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
One might think architects simply draw for a living, and maybe we all wish this were true. As an owner of a small firm, I dedicate half my time to managing projects both in design and construction while simultaneously developing relationships and meeting with potential new clients. I consider myself a sociable person, so I do enjoy this part of the process. I am also fortunate to be surrounded by a fantastic team whom I love. Our work consists of mostly high-end residential architecture, which is eclectic, but we prefer to focus on the character of the home over style and trend. Above all else, we strive to design homes that endure – "ascend the trends," as I like to say.
What is one accomplishment of your career for which you are most proud? How do you feel the College prepared you for this?
Becoming partners with Reagan Miller was the proudest day of my life, hands down. I will never feel worthy of that honor. However, today I could not be prouder of the team we created together. We are a diverse group of young architects with a genuine ambition to create beautiful homes for beautiful people. How did College prepare me for this? Honestly, it was the first time I recognized architecture as not just a career for men. Twenty years ago, when I first attended UH, architecture was sadly still a career heavily dominated by men. The world did not know what it was missing!
What is a valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College of Architecture and Design?
Problem-solving! The College does not merely teach design but instead teaches you how to think about parameters, limitations, rules, and regulations. Architecture is not created in a void, and learning how to work around these problems is critical to design. Remembering this lesson turns restrictions into the freedom of design. I genuinely believe some of my best projects were only possible due to the challenges of the site.
What is a piece of advice you would give to current Architecture and Design students?
If I could have done one thing differently, I would have studied more historical precedent. For thousands of years, scale and proportion were harnessed and mastered by those who came before us. To know the rules gives you a leg up in design, and it is up to you to follow or break them. I firmly believe the best modern architecture out there still honors these classical proportions, even when splitting with tradition. Take as many architectural history courses as you can!