Imran Khan, AIA, LEED AP, is Associate Principal with Margulies Perruzzi in Boston. Lab Manager recently spoke with Imran about his career, experience, and personal interests.
Q: How did you get into your field?
A: Building anywhere is a huge task that demands time, commitment, and strong nerves. As a seven-year-old, I witnessed the construction of my family home in Pakistan. It was a feat of strength—dozens of concrete pourers, water carriers, masons, cooks (yes, to feed the workers!), their families, and community came together to build the house that shaped my childhood. It was a communal experience, similar to a barn raising. The building experience left an indelible mark on me. I knew then that I wanted to design buildings for people.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your career?
A: I heard the CEO of my previous firm say that if he had to do it all over again, he would spend more time with his family. Architectural design process can be so consuming, and fulfilling, that it is easy to lose sight of the need for a quality work-life integration. I make a point of encouraging people to participate in other things outside of the office. In addition to spending time with my family, I teach—it provides a connection to the next generation. Students challenge me all the time and I know this makes me a better architect.
Q: What’s a common mistake made by those working on designing/constructing a laboratory?
A: At a fundamental level, a laboratory is a place for a scientist to perform work in a safe environment. The notion that minimum code compliance will result in a safe laboratory workplace is a misconception. Designers are not always experts in safety, nor are lab directors (often) trained in architecture. Involving Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), lab directors, engineers, specialists, and scientists early in the discussion is key to a successful lab project. Not getting the right stakeholders to the table from the very beginning of the process can be detrimental.
Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to others in your field, what would it be?
A: Be patient! The design process takes a long time and a building is constructed over years. You don’t see immediate results, so you need to think about the goals of the project and keep them in mind as you navigate the design process.
Q: What advice do you have for people just starting their career, or for students who are thinking of majoring in architecture/engineering/etc.?
A: Learn your tools well. Don’t let the software shape your design or get in the way of your thinking. It’s often too easy to get bogged down in the use of the software or process. Instead unleash your creativity by drawing on a markerboard, sketching by hand, building a model—whatever it takes to convey your ideas.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I love to cook. Recently, I have been making food my mother used to make. The techniques she used are a lost art, so I have been exploring and experimenting with how she used to cook without recipes. I feel that the art and science of cooking balances the work I do as an architect.