Dominic A. Willard Jr., AIA
A native New Orleanian, Dominic earned his MArch from Tulane University in 2003. Upon graduation, he began practice at Manning Architects. During his career at the firm, Dominic has had the privilege of working on projects spanning numerous market sectors including Transportation, Education, Corporate, Civic, Hospitality and Healthcare and ranging in size from $500 million dollar hotel & casino resorts to small renovation projects with shoestring budgets. Dominic is LEED accredited and has been a registered Architect in the state of Louisiana since 2010. Dominic became a Principal of Manning Architects in 2016.
Why did you choose architecture as a profession?
As the son of a general contractor, my introduction to the building industry occurred at a very young age. I can remember the sound of my dad’s truck as he pulled into our driveway after a long day at work. I would run out to greet him and he would be just covered in paint or dirt or both. I appreciated how hard he worked to provide for us. As I got older, I had the opportunity to work with him during the summer and winter breaks from school. While working with him one summer, the Architect for the project walked the site and began pointing out imperfections and asking tough questions. I asked my dad “who is that?” and he told me that he was the Architect and explained his role on the project. I also had a talent for hand sketching and building all sorts of contraptions with Legos. So, for me to be able to utilize my artistic talent and creativity in an industry that I sort of grew up in was too good to be true. I knew at that very moment, that I wanted to be an Architect.
What type of projects do you like to take on?
I like projects that present unique challenges because I really enjoy the process of figuring out the best solution to a problem. Large scale renovations and additions are always a challenge because they’re usually a can of worms waiting to be opened. On those types of projects, you have to be able to think and react relatively quickly and decisively in order to keep the project moving forward.
Best project, most unique/favorite project?
My favorite project was a renovation and addition to St. Peter Claver School located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. It’s my favorite for a number of reasons. Objectively speaking, I really enjoy working on K-12 projects because I truly believe that thoughtful design can help create an environment conducive to learning that can positively impact the lives of young students. On a more personal level, I am a long-time parishioner of St Peter Claver Church. I attend mass there, was married there and my daughters were baptized there, so to be able to have the opportunity to give back to the community that gave so much to me was very rewarding both professionally and personally.
What is the strangest thing that ever happened on a job?
On one particular job, the contractor was in the process of pouring concrete for a large elevated slab when the scaffolding supporting the formwork partially collapsed. The contractor had to wait for it to cure, remove the formwork and chip out a lot of concrete. It was a mess.
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
My most satisfying professional accomplishment thus far has been achieving licensure. After completing my IDP requirements, I set a goal to pass every exam in one year’s time. I achieved that goal, passing each exam on my first attempt. The positive affirmation associated with opening each of those seven NCARB letters and seeing “PASS” is indescribable.
What do you do after a hard day at work to unwind?
I usually head to the gym to work out, go for a long walk with my dog Vader or just relax on the couch with my family.
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would have dinner with my grandmother who is deceased. She passed away prior to my wife and I getting married, so she never got to meet her great-granddaughters. Although I know she’s looking down on us, I would love to be able to tell her all about them and show her pictures. She would have absolutely spoiled them rotten!
What is a great piece of advice you have personally received? Did you have occasion to put it to use?
To not let the fear of failure hold you back. Success cannot be achieved without failure. I put it to use each and every day.
What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?
I’m an elected member of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee which promotes party activities and ideals including assisting in the election of local and statewide Democratic candidates. I’m also on the Facilities Committee for Lycee Francais De La Nouvelle-Orleans Charter School which is a French immersion charter school that my daughters currently attend. I’m a former member of both the Louisiana Main Street Façade Grant Committee and OC Haley Blvd Design Advisory Council. My firm continues to support Habitat For Humanity and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans Rebuilding Together programs.
What is your favorite way to spend your time?
I most enjoy spending time with my family, whether it’s going to the zoo, playing at the park or just simply relaxing at home. I also like tackling DIY home projects such as interior & exterior renovations as well as designing & building custom furniture pieces.