Meet Omar Bailey, AIA

Throughout his career, Omar Bailey, AIA has always been driven by the opportunity to inspire others. After being encouraged by his uncle to explore architecture, Omar went on to receive his Bachelor of Architecture at Virginia Tech University. In 23 years of practice, he has designed housing, adaptive reuse, education, and healthcare community projects in urban landscapes across the country, including Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2019, Omar joined Shepley Bulfinch’s Phoenix studio to focus on the firm’s urban development practice and further his commitment to enhancing urban communities through design.  

Keep reading to learn about what motivates Omar on his quest to create vibrant communities.

 

Why architecture?

I grew up in New York City and had an uncle who was a photographer. In the summertime, I’d go around the city with him to hold his bags and equipment, and while he was setting up, I would sit to the side and sketch the skyline. He was the one who suggested I look into architecture, telling me to follow my joy. If not for him, I wouldn’t have thought about it. 

New York also had a huge influence. I’d look up at all of those buildings while walking around the city, and I’d see how the city was constantly growing and changing. Working in an urban environment brings a unique opportunity to create landmarks for people. Friends will say, “let’s meet at this building,” or I live near this place.” Buildings are more than what happen in them, but what happen around them. I wanted to be a part of creating that.  

What are you most passionate about?

Right now, I’m driven by my kids. I want to give them a world that is better than what I have. One day, I was talking to my daughter and said to her, “Your generation will be the ones to get things right,” and she responded, “Why mine? Your generation is still here.” We can’t keep putting it off. Part of my work is about making a space where people can make a difference. I love working on schools and community centers, places that give back to the community.  

What do you envision for the future of architecture?

I think architecture is like the automobile. At first, it was limited to a certain number of people, whereas now cars are much more accessible. Great architecture is the same. We’re starting to see that you don’t have to have millions of dollars to have a well-designed house. You can create something outside the box without a huge budget. I’d like to see the industry blur that line between affordable and market rate. People are starting to put an emphasis on public spaces and how they can give a sense of ownership and community to create a vibrant, active area. Everyone wants something they can be proud of, and I see our industry having an opportunity to plan out those spaces to bring people back together.  

What do you do in your spare time? 

I enjoy being outdoors and competing in triathlons. Early mornings are my quiet time. I believe we own our mornings because as the day goes on, you never know if you’ll have the opportunity to do something in the afternoon or evening. In the morning, I can wake up as early as I want to swim, run, or ride my bike.  

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