Alex Shows, AIA, NCARB

VSG Architects

Bold and energetic in both his demeanor and designs, Alex Shows is a licensed Architect at VSG Architects in Southwest Louisiana, and the current President of AIA Southwest Louisiana Chapter.

He completed his B.S. in Architectural Studies in 2015 at Louisiana Tech, and earned his Master of Architecture, Summa Cum Laude, at Louisiana Tech in 2016.

His academic experience includes the AIA National award-winning Design-Build project, “Larkin Gibbs Pavilion,” located at MedCamps of Louisiana; Alex also earned numerous awards such as the Henry Adams AIA Gold Medal for Architectural Excellence, Honorable Mention for “Senta” in the 2016 National ACSA Steel Competition, 2016 School of Design Academic Excellence Honoree, and the Milton Picket Award for Outstanding Graduate Studio Project, “Crooker Center”. He has since returned to Louisiana Tech annually as a guest critic for Graduate studio.

Alex started at VSG Architects in 2011 as an Intern, and became a Project Architect in 2021. He takes care of conceptual design, design development, architectural detailing, rendering services, and project management at the firm.

Why did you choose architecture as a profession?

Whenever this question is posed, I constantly resort to a cop-out answer that “Architecture chose me, not the other way around.”

Three factors contributed: growing up with LEGO bricks, having a father that is a licensed Architect, and being fascinated by both real-life and visionary skyscrapers, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Illinois.

Do you have a special routine/habit you may do to get creative juices flowing?

In the office, you’ll find me with tracing paper and the thickest black Sharpie I can find. Instinctual gestures, geometric squiggles, and pseudo-random rectangles provide an avenue on decoding an Architectural problem, whether it’s a construction detail or a programmatic puzzle.

Mentally, if a problem lingers on after a long day or week, napping/sleeping generally solves the issue; I constantly remind myself to have a sketchbook handy for when an idea manifests in a dream at 3:15 AM!

What type of projects do you like to take on?

As part of a smaller firm focused on Southwest Louisiana, it is crucial to take on a diverse selection of projects.

Nonetheless, I enjoy projects that are constrained by some limiting factor, such as site logistics or economics, as it allows for clever solutions. These scenarios typically sway Owners toward a greater appreciation for Architects, and the Architectural profession wholly.

Also, a dream project of mine would be a record-breaking skyscraper.

Best project, most unique/favorite project?

Another cop-out answer: the best project will always be the next one!

What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?

Passing all of the AREs on the first try, in quick succession, was quite satisfying, and, in a way, provided validation that I was in the “correct” profession.

What is the greatest personal obstacle you’ve overcome?

Diagnosed with hearing impairment from birth, the medical implication of being deaf was not directly a challenge; instead, the primary obstacle was to continuously confront other people’s perceptions of deaf people, and the intellectual and social stereotypes that follow.

What do you do after a hard day at work to unwind?

Play video games and board games.

I love to jump into an RPG or online survival game. For many evenings, however, I would host a board game night, usually centering on a heavy Euro-style strategy game. I never “unwind”!

If you could have any other job, what would it be?

Being easily engaged with various fields and topics, I found it challenging growing up to strictly focus on Architecture.

Notably, astrophysics nearly rivals Architecture for me; I can envision myself as an astrophysicist either doing macro-scale experimentation, or mission-critical applications at NASA.

On some days, I do wonder if I ever will have enough free time to write books on other subject matters such as economics and politics.

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Since it is difficult to select one individual, I’ll cheat on this one and invite a dinner party consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Carl Sagan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Steve Jobs.

I hold in great esteem historical figures and industry leaders that promoted critical thinking, creative solutions, and general polymathic rigor.  Then, there is the extra trait they all share: being a do-er, not just a thinker.

+1 Guests can include Enlightenment writers, such as John Locke.

What is a great piece of advice you have personally received? Have you occasionally put it to use?

“Listen. Don’t think about the next thing you want to say.”

Originally, I approached most conversations as if they were simple ideological boxing matches, but once I understood that many people just want to be heard, I opened up to the notion that it’s not always about sharing ideas, it’s about sharing experiences.

This process becomes critical in Architecture, as the profession requires a great listener to digest and interpret what Owners desire for their projects.

Bonus: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

I tend to get stuck in the process of seeking perfection, when in reality, there is a humbling satisfaction in producing pragmatic outcomes.

Do you have a creative role model? If so, who is it and why?

Within Architecture, I gravitate towards Bjarke Ingels.

BIG’s eccentric, playful, and optimistic view of the world, along with how Architecture can solve real social and economic issues, is addicting and inspirational.

Architects, myself included, tend to be biased towards a specific design/formal language. The Nordic understanding of “trust the process”, such as Ingel’s diagrammatic approach, helps break the formal monotony, spurring inventive and incredible Architectural results.

What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?

As the current President of AIA Southwest Louisiana Section, I have spearheaded our Section’s PAC donations, leading statewide, for multiple years in a row, aided in the organization of the successful 2022 AIA Louisiana State Convention, and established a book drive to provide much-needed architecture books for a local library damaged by Hurricane Laura.

Outside of Architecture, I was selected to join the Leadership Southwest Louisiana Class of 2024, a group of approximately 30 men and women who are selected from applicants to represent a cross-section of Southwest Louisiana.

I am also a vocal member of FusionFive, an organization created by and for young professionals to change the social and economic landscape of the region. FusionFive’s mission is to cultivate a positive impact on Southwest Louisiana by connecting and engaging young professionals in regional opportunities for civic engagement, professional development, and personal growth.

What is your favorite way to spend your time?

Studying, engaging in dialectical exchange, and tactical laser tag.

If I am not playing laser tag, I enjoy the art of “diving headfirst into a rabbit hole”, such as: exploring a new chess opening, disassembling an iPad to see how it works, or if with friends, debating whether or not the Pyramids of Giza were really built by the  Egyptians…