While growing up in Byram, Ann Somers loved putting thing together, such as puzzles, model cars and ships and fantasy Barbie kingdoms. That interest in building things led to a career in architecture, something she learned about as an eighth-grader.
“I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Somers recalls. “Up to that point I did not like school and was an average student. Once I understood I needed to have a good grade point average to get into architecture school, I stepped it up and became a good student. The other thought with architecture was that I could branch into interior design or site design with an architecture degree.”
All of her first 12 years of school were spent in Byram where she graduated with around 30 class members; some were together all 12 years. She grew up in a rural home with plenty of pets and animals. Her grandparents lived next door, and Somers played outside all the time. “There were very few kids my age around so I entertained myself,” she said.
She remembers her father, who died when she was 10 years of age, as fun to be with and involving her in whatever he was doing, which was mainly farming and selling vegetables to local stores and restaurants. “My mother was a registered nurse who taught nursing most of her career and ended her career teaching hospital staff how to teach patients about their medical issues so they could stay well,” Somers said. “She was very early in the wellness movement, a great role model for me and extremely supportive.”
After graduation from the Mississippi State University School of Architecture, Somers, 56, spent time working in New York City and Savannah, Ga.; experiences she feels gave her a good background for returning to her home state to work in her profession. In 2003 she was chosen the Alumna of the Year for the MSU School of Architecture.
Now a partner in the Jackson firm of Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Somers enjoys the continual learning of being an architect. “It is never boring. Every project type has a learning curve, and building materials and systems are ever changing,” she says. “Plus there are new people you get to know with each new project.”
Although Somers has worked on many high-profile projects, she has difficulty choosing one single project of which she’s the most proud. “That’s a hard question because I love all our buildings. They’re a little like children I birthed into the world. But to pick just one building, it would be the Mississippi Department of Archives and History building.”
As a dream project, Somers is currently thinking a lot about what makes the perfect retirement living situation. “I would love to design a retirement village where you can age gracefully and happily in place,” she said.
As a long time member of the Sierra Club, Somers is vitally interested in architecture that’s environmentally friendly and sees some changes coming to Mississippi in that regard. “Mississippi is getting better and it’s partially due to a national movement started through USGBC (United States Green Building Council) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to work toward sustainability and create healthier environments,” she said. “The USGBC website is a great resource for project owners to see what is possible. As owners are educated and excited by what is possible in building, greater changes will be made. In the meantime, architects, engineers and contractors are making a difference through smart design, efficient systems design and construction waste reduction.”
When not working, Somers volunteers with Community Animal Rescue and Adoption, which she also serves as a board member, and Rankin County Animal Adoption foundation. “Metro Jackson has a terrible problem with unwanted pets,” she said. “The local government is euthanizing about 15,000 pets annually, which is 288 per week. We do not have a culture of spaying and neutering our pets, so along with adoption promotion, I am involved with spay and neuter public education.”
She and husband Jim Somers, a landscape architect who recently retired, live in Jackson and have four dogs and a cat — “all of which are beautiful, sweet and perfect.” The couple is committed to making Jackson a great place to live. “We help by promoting and participating in music, art, and community events,” she said.
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