News of the sudden death of Lance Hosey, FAIA, in August of last year was met with both grief and shock. In a career dedicated to improving the built environment’s impact on the environmental climate, Hosey mentored younger colleagues and improved the working climate for those around him. The story of his remarkable life can be told by the many people he touched during his 56 years on the planet he worked tirelessly to save.
Lance Hosey, FAIA, was born in 1964. He played saxophone at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) before studying architecture at Columbia and Yale.
DR. ROBERT “DOC” MORGAN was the director of jazz studies at HSPVA. I feel blessed to have landed at HSPVA for 23 years, with the accompanying opportunity for close associations with countless marvelous young people, many of whom morphed into lifelong friends. I certainly count Lance among the latter. Of my students who displayed strong music career potential in high school but chose other professional paths, Lance would be at or near the top in terms of probable success if he had headed in the music direction.
CHRISTA MILLER SIMPSON was a student in HSPVA’s class of 1983. Until I met Lance, I had always considered myself one of the “smart kids,” but Lance was on a different playing field. He was brilliant, talented, funny, and interested in absolutely everything. He was also diligent about keeping in contact after we left school. When he went off to Columbia, he regularly sent letters that were always uplifting and ridiculous. He traveled often and was great about calling to coordinate a visit whenever he was in town.
MARC L’ITALIEN, FAIA, is a principal at HGA Architects and Engineers in San Francisco. I met Lance at Yale in 1988. He already had such a solid grasp on the English language and used it so effectively in his communications that he intimidated the shit out of me. He could argue a point like no one else. Everything I questioned about design became crystal clear when conversing with Lance. Contemplating or even repeating something he said left me feeling like Tim Taylor, the main character in “Home Improvement,” clumsily attempting to recap the wisdom of his over-the-fence neighbor, Wilson. It never had quite the same impact as Lance, with his intonations, high-pitched emphasis, and hand gesturing.
After working for several prominent East Coast architects, Hosey became the first chief sustainability officer at RTKL. In 2020, he joined HMC Architects as the firm’s chief impact officer.
TANYA EAGLE is the leader of sustainability standards at Perkins Eastman in Washington, D.C. I became part of the team that Lance built when he moved to RTKL in 2014. He was such a great champion for us and for everyone in his large circle. He had the intellect, fearlessness, and drive to have a big impact on our industry, and his passion was infectious. Lance’s laughter, love of puns, musical talent, and sense of humor were central to so many good times, fun events, and happy hours.
HEATHER JAUREGUI is the director of sustainability at Perkins Eastman in Washington, D.C. I had the privilege of working directly with Lance early in my career, and I’m not sure I will ever have a better mentor or boss. Every day I worked with him, I was excited to get out of bed in the morning. The obstacles were big, but Lance inspired me every day to do my best, while allowing me the complete freedom to figure out what that “best” was. In a large organization, he gave our team the freedom and the time to be creative and to have fun with our work. That freedom allowed me to grow into who I am today and gave me the energy to continue the sometimes-challenging job we have as sustainability leaders.
KELLY MORRISON is the director of marketing at HMC Architects in Los Angeles. For a year I started my workday with Lance. 7:30 may have been too early to “go full Hosey” — I needed more coffee for that — but I secretly encouraged it. The last IM exchange I had with Lance involved sharing pictures of squirrels and ZZ Top’s Frank Beard. That was what talking to Lance was like: a verbal rollercoaster. His love for life was reflected in all he did, but especially the way he communicated.
NADAV MALIN, HON. AIA, is the president of BuildingGreen. It’s no secret that Lance had some trouble settling down professionally after leaving McDonough + Partners, so I find it especially poignant that he’s suddenly gone after he shared a message with me about his latest position in San Diego: “Generally I’m loving HMC. Feel like I finally found my home.”
KIRA GOULD, HON. AIA, is a strategist, podcast host, and co-author, with Hosey, of “Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design.” We talked often in various forms, and he was always, always lifting me, encouraging me, and urging me to grow and stretch. He ignored conventional wisdom about moving on from jobs if the fit was not right, and I really respected his conviction. I think he helped every firm he worked with in meaningful ways, even those where the parting was less amiable. And I was so happy to hear him say, repeatedly, that he was feeling that he’d found, in HMC, a place where he could be, do, and impact things as he’d always hoped. I had the sense that he’d found his unicorn position.
Hosey contributed to both architectural journals and popular publications. He and Gould published “Women in Green” in 2007. Five years later he would publish “The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design.”
MARC L’ITALIEN: At Yale, he was the editor of “Rap Sheets,” a School of Architecture publication, and once asked if I’d be interested in contributing. Me? My writings could have brought down the whole affair, but I overcame my fear because of Lance. He eventually became one of the most influential, poignant writers and speakers of our time.
DEBORAH SNOONIAN GLENN was a senior editor at Architectural Record from 2001 to 2006. I met Lance covering technology and green building at Architectural Record. Maybe I interviewed him for a story; maybe he sent us an essay he hoped we’d publish; maybe he and I met as co-panelists at an AIA convention? All of these? I can’t remember. He struck me as a brilliant, serious, buttoned-up type when I first met him but in short order revealed himself to be the visionary, shoot-from-the-hip, and funny man that we all miss so much already.
KIMBERLY DOWDELL, AIA, is a principal at HOK in Chicago. An article that he wrote in 2005 changed the trajectory of my career. “The Ethics of Brick” in Metropolis sparked the idea for the Social Economic Environmental Design Network when I worked for GSA with R. Steven Lewis, who encouraged me to read the article. That experience was monumental, and I am forever grateful to Lance for being such a visionary and an inspiration.
HEATHER JAUREGUI: He was not afraid to put himself out there — and I think his 2013 essay “Stop Building. Now.” that appeared in the Huffington Post speaks to that. You’ll notice they took the comments section down because there was A LOT of backlash from architects who were not okay with Lance’s “modest proposal” to stop building altogether. One of my favorite things to do was scour through the negative comments with Lance. I remember one that called him a “psychopathic midget.” Nothing else — no other arguments — just a “psychopathic midget.”
NELLIE REID is the managing director of Meehan Green. Lance conducted a phone interview with me for the book he was working on with Kira Gould called “Women in Green.” The name says it all. This was my story. This was so many other women’s stories. This would be the story for so many other women to follow. This was the story to enlighten men as to why women in green is such a good idea. Lance and Kira were delivering that message, and Lance was an ambassador for women in green. He understood the impact we were having and the opportunity for us to bring about widespread change.
KIRA GOULD: The research and writing for “Women in Green” turned into a rich exploration of the green building movement, feminine leadership, and the nature and power of diversity. It was clear even while we were researching the book that we were onto something significant: There was a need for new kinds of leadership and collaboration, and women were charting those paths. As soon as the book came out, it sparked a conversation, which in many ways continues today.
NADAV MALIN: Lance’s work on “Women in Green” illustrates an even rarer quality to his leadership: a willingness to put himself on the line and do the unexpected. “Who does this guy think he is?” was my first reaction when I saw Lance co-authoring and then promoting this work. But Lance was unapologetic about stepping up as a man to celebrate the special role of women in sustainability and open to publicly exploring the questions that arose from his role in that initiative. More than almost anyone I know, he was unafraid to look foolish or face rejection, which allowed him a special freedom and power to act and make things happen.
SUSAN KING, FAIA, is a principal at HED in Chicago. I met Lance when he first attended the Architect + Design Sustainability Leadership Summit in either 2012 or 2013. He was a dangerous combination of witty and wise and an incredibly welcome new voice in the group. Afterwards, I started reading Lance’s book “The Shape of Green.” I could not put it down. It swept me off my feet. I recently looked in the book to see if I had ever managed to get Lance to sign it. I never did, but I found that I had written inside it, “It’s rare that I have read a book in which I find myself wanting to quote the whole thing.”
GWEN FUERTES is an associate at Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects in Oakland and a lecturer at UC Berkeley. I assign a chapter of “The Shape of Green” in a class I teach, and I always get comments at the end of the semester that it is one of the students’ favorite readings.
Beyond his work and writing, Hosey was an advocate for the environment and the role architecture could play in its preservation. His legacy also includes the legions of individuals he inspired or mentored.
BETSY DEL MONTE, FAIA, is a principal at R&B Architecture, which recently relocated from Dallas to Asheville, North Carolina. I met Lance when he lectured for our newly founded USGBC chapter in Dallas about 20 years ago. He first came off as very knowledgeable, scholarly, and serious. But at dinner afterwards he revealed his outrageous humor and exceedingly sly wit as well as his rich taste for absurdity. We became friends and would connect at life milestones in random cities. One or the other of us would be facing a job reckoning and need a sounding board — or at least a well-crafted cocktail. His sound advice always made me see things in a different light — and question assumptions about what I thought were limitations. And he always, always made me laugh.
SANDRA MONTALBO, ASSOC. AIA, is a design performance consultant at Overland Partners and a Ph.D. student at Texas Tech. I met Lance at the 40th anniversary of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin in 2015. I was one of three graduate students in a room full of sustainability titans. I knew no one there, but Pliny Fisk was gracious enough to introduce me to Lance. I told him I was a change-of-career student and was saddened that so few architects seem to care about sustainability. He said, “F- ’em,” which made me laugh! I told him: “Yeah, you can say that cause you’re a big, tall white guy. No one’s gonna listen to a five-foot-tall brown girl like me.” To which he replied: “Yes. You can and should.” He made me feel seen in a way I’d never felt before. A year later, AIA National put out a call for a COTE scholar to research high performance firms, and Lance was the committee chair at the time. He put my name forward on a long list of talented people. I visited 10 firms across the U.S. and worked alongside Lance on this most amazing report. It was the experience of a lifetime. Lance made that possible for me.
ANGIE BROOKS, FAIA, and LAWRENCE SCARPA, FAIA, of Brooks + Scarpa were recently awarded the 2022 AIA Gold Medal. Lance “did some epic shit” and kicked butt in his lifetime. He did not care if what he said was politically correct; he believed in doing the right thing, standing up for it, and saying it loud. We can continue to honor him by doing just that. We do not intend to sit on the sidelines quietly, and Lance’s lifetime example is a large part of our advocacy. Lance was also always happy to talk design, talk policy, talk to students, have a drink, or just keep in touch, and we will always remember his generous spirit and relentless force to make change within the architectural community and for our greater society.
JULIE HIROMOTO, FAIA, is a principal and director of integration at HKS in Dallas. Lance lit up a room when he walked into it. You couldn’t mistake his signature booming laugh, his wry humor, or when he called you out to let you know he saw you. When he shined his light on you, it was intense like the sun. He would ask deep, provocative questions to really understand and learn, even if it was uncomfortable. He was fearless in this way. His enthusiasm and energy built up a fire in all of us to demand more, do more, be more. What I will remember most about Lance was the nurturing encouragement and growth that exuded from him. His ability to see through your imposter syndrome. Lance was a tireless champion of women and of people he didn’t think had a big enough box to stand on so that the world could hear them.
KELLY MORRISON: I hope to act as he did. Lead as he did. Inspire and aspire as he did. I want to make someone else feel as capable, confident, and creative as he made me feel. His legacy of positive impact will live on because we will ensure that it does. But making someone full-on belly laugh with a bad pun will be the true mark of success.
MARC L’ITALIEN: For someone of his stature, Lance lacked the arrogance so prevalent in our industry. He spoke clearly with conviction, peppering his points with pop culture tangents, and he made vital information so much more accessible to his audience. Lance was seriously funny. He made us laugh to the point of soreness, and I’m convinced he could have had an equally successful career in stand-up comedy. And he was unequivocal: Great design is sustainable in the broadest sense, and the best design comes from rallying around an overarching vision and set of goals.
KIRA GOULD: I suspect that I will continue to hear his voice in my head often, as I have regularly since our time working on “Women in Green.” So much of it was goofy or downright hilarious. The impact he had — on people, projects, organizations, the design community, the sustainability movement, and more — was enormous. I’m glad he was in a hurry to do so much, but I deeply wish he’d had more time — especially, of course, for his loving wife and his family who are at the core of this loss. I wish for all of them a grief journey that is filled with memories of Lance-isms of all types, and all the joy and hilarity. That won’t ease the pain, but it strikes me that Lance and his Lance-ness make all things — even grief — more fun.
Compiled by Michelle Amt, AIA, an associate principal and the director of sustainability and inclusion at VMDO. Edited by Brantley Hightower, AIA, an architect at HiWorks in San Antonio.