Not exactly twenty questions.




I don't know what to say here. So, let's just start the interview...

Why don't you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Michael Ellars. I am 30 years old. I am a licensed architect in the State of California. (The path to becoming a licensed architect was long and difficult, but I finally made it!) I am also an Accredited Professional in the USGBC's LEED program.

I graduated magna cum laude (and at the top of the architecture class) from the USC School of Architecture with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in May 2000. Before that, I graduated as a North Scholar from North Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. I live in Los Angeles (just north of Culver City) and work at an architecture firm in Santa Monica.

Why did you become an architect?

Well, it certainly wasn't for the money. Heh, no, I have always liked to build things and I love to draw — even today, Legos remain a favorite toy, and I am seldom without my sketchbook (or a camera). I have found architecture to be a perfect blend of the creativity inherent to art and the structured nature of technical skills like engineering. The profession mirrors the competing desires and abilities within me.

How did you end up in Los Angeles?

I am originally from Eugene, Oregon. I moved to Los Angeles to attend college at the USC School of Architecture. I chose this school over many others (including the University of Oregon) for several reasons, not the least of which were a)it wasn't in Eugene and b)they gave me a full-tuition scholarship. To be fair, while these were important, the real reason I came here was because I liked the environment. No, not the smoggy air and lack of precipitation kind of environment. I mean the architectural environment: for almost a century, Los Angeles has been a kind of laboratory for architecture. I liked the prospect of learning in a place where I could not only read about great works of architecture but actually go and visit them, too. And my family liked the fact that I stayed on the West Coast.

I also must point out the reason for staying in Los Angeles after graduation: job prospects. While the building extravaganza encouraged by the dot-com craze of the mid-to-late nineties was still in effect when I graduated, the writing was already on the wall and I knew it probably wouldn't last. When I started college, the architecture industry had just emerged from the recession; many experienced professionals were pointing out the signs of another one quickly approaching. I figured the smart thing to do was to stay in Los Angeles. It turns out to have been an extremely intelligent decision.

Who is your favorite architect?

Wow, this one is so difficult to give a simple answer. Truth be told, I don't have a single favorite architect, but I do have a few architects that I admire greatly.

First is the stereotypical response: Frank Lloyd Wright. Even though this is one of the most frequent architects named in answer to such a question, I honestly do admire his work. My admiration was solidified after visiting two of his homes in Pennsylvania, the quintessential Fallingwater and the lesser-known, but still impressive, Kentuck Knob. FLLW's ability to integrate an artificial structure with the natural landscape, blurring the distinction between the two, must be experienced to be fully appreciated. And his understanding and application of light and dark, both within a building and without, is amazing.

Second is Santiago Calatrava. To me, his projects represent the exuberance of the human spirit translated into steel and concrete.

This is not an exhaustive list, though. I'll add others as I think of them.

What are your favorite foods and drinks?

My all-time favorite food is a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. This tends to ellicit groans from my more "cultured" acquaintances, but let me tell you: it is dang-near impossible to mess up a cheeseburger. Like, you actually have to try to make it wrong. I mean, there's really only three parts to it: slice of cheese over a cooked slab of ground cow on a bun. Not a lot to mess up there, and if you somehow manage to come close, it's probably still edible.

Lately, however, I've been leaning towards filet mignon as my meal of choice. That and a nice baked potato, with butter, chives, bacon bits and cheese (but hold the sour cream, thank you).

As for drinks: I grew up as a Pepsi kid. However, once I got to college, everything seemed to be Coca-Cola. Over the course of five years, I lost my taste for Pepsi (though Wild Cherry Pepsi still rules my carbonated beverage world), so now I tend to drink Coke. Though I have developed an affinity for root beer, especially really good brands. Lately my drink-of-choice has been DCVDP.

I also drink alcohol. But I have come to conclusion that, while I certainly enjoy the effects of alcohol, I do not like the actual taste of it. What this means is that I can't stand most of the "hard" liquors like whiskey and gin. Tequila ("ta kill ya") is right out; I get nauseous just from smelling the stuff. (Interestingly enough, I used to have no problem with vodka, but after one particularly hard night I don't seem to be able to drink it anymore.) My favorite alcoholic beverages are Bailey's Irish Cream and Malibu Rum, though never mixed together (blech).

I really dislike beer, though I seem to be building an "immunity" to the stuff. Which is to say, I can drink it in a social setting, but I'd rather drink something else. That is, unless I can get some Lindemans Framboise, which is so good it’s hard to believe it’s really beer. I also seem to have developed an affinity for New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, but it has to be cold.

Wine, however, totally rocks. I think my favorite is a good, mellow Merlot, though recently I’ve really been into Pinot Noir. For a dessert wine (or even part of a light meal), I highly recommend Moscato Bianco (also known as Moscato d'Asti or Muscat).

Do you have any hobbies?

You mean, other than this web site? Of course! I like to sketch, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult to find the time to do so any more. I like to play games and solve logic puzzles. I used to be heavily into pen-and-paper role-playing games, though it's been years since I could gather enough folks to get a game going. Computer games don't suffer that problem, so I play a lot of those. I tend to stay indoors a lot, though when I finally get up the resolve to go out into Nature, I absolutely love it. I'd like to get out a bit more, but I'm kind of shy and it takes a while to get over the social stigma of doing things on your own — plus it's not exactly safe to go hiking through the mountains on your own.

Don't you have friends?

Actually, I have lots of friends. But they tend to be either several years younger or several years older than me, and therefore tend to have different tastes for adventure. I always seem to be hopelessly out of step with the people I'm around.

Plus, most of my closest friends have moved away from Los Angeles.

Maybe they were trying to tell you something.

Yeah, maybe.

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