John Reed grew up in rural Carlisle, PA the son of an architect. Interestingly, John Reed’s father also grew up in rural Carlisle, PA the son of an architect. Collectively, the three generation of Reed architects — Paul, Richard, John — have designed a good number of the banks, courts, churches, schools and supermarkets that make up the fabric of Carlisle. Their lives’ work echoes and reverberates across their hometown.
Growing up the son of an architect is a powerfully unique experience. While other families vacation to beaches, yours heads to cities to visit buildings. Family homes are full of antiques and modern furniture. Parents care more about art classes than multiplication tables. Family friends are the local artists. John knows all of this very well. But, growing up an architect’s son doesn’t necessarily mean you dream of being one yourself.
“I always wanted to be Jacques Cousteau when I was a kid. I loved marine biology. I was on three swim teams. I was all about the water until one summer when I broke both my wrists and had to engage other interests,” says John. “Still, it wasn’t until my third year at Cornell until the light really went on. I spent time in Vienna and traveling across Europe. I saw amazing buildings and places. I fell in love with drawing. I fell in love with architecture.”
After school, John began following his family’s footsteps and spent time working with Fred Koetter, Thomas Phifer and Richard Meier. He completed work spanning the US and also in places like Seoul, South Korea. He taught at Syracuse University and lived in different areas of the world.
“I don’t think you can make good, valuable buildings until you’ve lived a certain amount of time,” added John. “I learned so much from the people I worked with, the students I’ve taught — it all adds up.”
Ultimately, it all led John to CannonDesign, where the familiar echoes of Carlisle, PA finally caught up with him. Learning that others in the firm were pursuing work at Dickinson College — a small, private college in Carlisle — John joined the team that ultimately won and designed the school’s new Kline Athletic Center.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. It was such a personal experience,” John reflects. “My father had passed, but I stayed with my mother the night before the interview. My mother assumed she was going to the interview with us. That’s how embedded our family is with Dickinson and Carlisle.”
A few years later, the rejuvenated Kline Center is standing and has earned design awards from the AIA and SCUP to name a few. Having left his mark in Carlisle, John has moved on to new work with colleagues like Phil Dordai and Demos Simatos at places like Syracuse University, Coppin State and Carnegie Mellon — the university where his grandfather attended architecture school.
Forever a third-generation architect, John will always spend his days working amidst the echoes. Now, however, he’s also able to spend his evenings inspiring footsteps.
“I have two sons, Mills (16) and Sawyer (13). Mills loves theater arts and sings all the time. Sawyer, he loves to draw. I give him notebooks and he’ll watch me and then he sketches his own buildings,“ John smiles. “We own this little house and the idea was always for me to design a new one for the property. I think Sawyer is going to help, I think he might be a fourth generation architect.”
Asked what he hopes he’s able to impart on his son, John’s answer—like so much in his life and work—spans generations.
“I think architecture is personal. You see the architect’s vision. I so wish my father would have been alive to seen my building at Dickinson,” John says, then pauses to settle his emotions. “If my son truly does grow up to be an architect, I hope I’m there to see it. I hope I’m able to walk through one of his buildings and see his vision of it all.”