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Mississippi State grad leads as an architect and in professional organizations

Somers loves the process

Ann Somers, AIA, knew early on that she wanted to be an architect. At about the seventh grade, she realized that architecture combined art and science, and since she liked building models, it would be the right career course for her.

“In talking to other architects, I find that’s pretty typical,” she said. “Everybody knows at a young age that they want to be an architect.”

A 1981 graduate of Mississippi State University’s School of Architecture, she has never looked back. “I love doing it,” she said. “I like getting up and doing it every day.”

As a young graduate, she worked in New York City a few years and in Savannah, Ga., for a year and a half. “I’m pleased that I made myself get out and do something different,” she recalls. “Those are two very different places and I learned a lot. It’s good background experience.”

After returning to Jackson, she worked with Ken Tate on high-end residential design before joining the Cooke Douglass Farr Lemmons (CDFL) firm.

“Becoming a partner at CDFL was definitely a career highlight,” Somers said. “Other highlights have been the buildings I’ve learned on, including the math and science building at Alcorn State University, my first project here. It was fairly complicated and I loved going to the site and the whole process.”

Serving as project architect for the renovation and addition of the Woolfolk State Office Building was another learning experience and career highlight. It was challenging, big and fun to do. Other outstanding projects have included several buildings at the University of Mississippi, the Mississippi College School of Law renovations, the Air National Guard Medical/Security Building, Murrah High School and the William F. Winter Archives and History Building.

“My focus is to enhance the design and development of projects by providing quality, flexible and creative environments,” she said. “As architects we get to dream with clients and help them find their vision.”

Just keeping up with all that’s going on in her world is also a challenge, but she thrives on it. “Right now, I have work on my desk for a law office, research lab, elementary school and a hospital,” she lists. “I’m touching on all that and learning about these projects and how the spaces will be used. That’s a nice challenge.”

She has a philosophy of recognizing that everyone involved in a project has a lot to offer. “I think it’s so important to work as a team,” she says. “The product is infinitely better with that approach.”

Should she ever retire, she can see herself as a developer, which she finds closely akin to architecture. There are, however, no plans along those lines at this time. Somers, 50, encourages young people to enter the profession and often gives tours around the CDFL office. In 2003, she was chosen the Alumna of the Year for the MSU School of Architecture.

If she must choose a favorite design style, it is a fairly modern one as she observes some nice things happening in that style in the state.

“But, we should always look at where a building will go and make sure it fits the surroundings and works with the landscape,” she said.

Somers has been a leader in the American Institute of Architects, Mississippi Chapter, and was president when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Coast. Taking a leading role in organizing the governor’s design charrettes, she helped bring all the various groups to the table. She gave her time to this effort and worked with the National AIA’s Disaster Assistance Committee to help homeowners assess their damages.

A current interest is the state chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, of which she is a board member. Now a provisional chapter, the group hopes to organize branches in other parts of the state.

An environmentalist, Somers is active in the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. She is also a true animal lover as she and husband, Jim, a landscape architect, share their home with three dogs and a cat.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at lynn@lynnsdesk.com.


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