Faces of Gresham Smith: William Childress

William Childress, Senior Designer

William Childress, Senior Designer

Well-traveled, humorous and talented in his trade, meet William Childress, a senior designer in our Corporate + Urban Design market! As a firm, we prioritize embracing every aspect of our employees– both in the office and out. Keep reading to learn about William’s diverse professional experiences as an architect and personal experiences as a touring stand-up comedian.

What city did you grow up in?

I grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina.

Where did you go to school?

I went to Clemson University for undergraduate and graduate school, with semesters in St. Petersburg, Russia, Genoa, Italy and Charleston, thrown in between.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a dishwasher at Angelo’s Steakhouse in Greenwood. I enjoyed the work and the I like that you didn’t take your work home with you. I never sat up at night wondering if I could’ve washed the soup bowls a bit better, and I never had to get up early to get a head start on the charger plates.

What drew you to Gresham Smith?

Adrienne Ciuba and I worked in Shanghai together years ago, where I became good friends with her and her husband Ted (any stories they may tell you about me back then are patently untrue, by the way.) Every year since I moved back to the U.S., I’d get an email Adrienne asking if I was still happy where I was at, and she’d share some great Gresham Smith projects. Well, last year was the year I finally wised up and decided to interview with Gresham Smith and see all it had to offer for myself. Everyone I met during the recruitment process proved a credit to the organization and were the kind of people I want to work with. The decision was easy, it just took a while for me to arrive upon it. Employee referrals do work!

William at the Shanghai Film Museum site visit.

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on while at Gresham Smith and why?

My favorite project is the only project I’ve worked on so far at Gresham Smith, and that’s Modera Parkside for our client Mill Creek Residential Trust, one of the top residential multifamily developers in the country. We are working on a fantastic, 32-story residential tower in midtown Atlanta that will have spectacular views to Piedmont Park and is located in a lively district of town. I’m excited for the firm to do more work in Atlanta and grow our presence here.

What made you choose your profession?

Growing up, I loved to draw, build LEGO, solve puzzles (I was the king of Highlights Magazine) and do other creative and problem-solving activities that eventually galvanized into a skillset for architecture. At first, I wanted to be a comic book artist, but eventually realized I’d love to actually make money one day. Travel interested me, and I always saw architecture as a global-minded profession that could offer opportunities outside one’s own borders. I’ve been fortunate to work and live around the world because of this. A high school visit to Richard Meier’s Getty Center in Los Angeles also cemented my desire to become an architect.

Passionate about travel, William previously lived and worked in Myanmar and China.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Grow through what you go through.

What achievement are you most proud of and why?

I do volunteer work for an Atlanta-area nonprofit called New American Pathways (NAP), they provide services for newly-arrived refugees in America. NAP cares for the refugees from arrival in our country, outfits them with apartments and basic amenities, provides vocational training and placement and a path to citizenship. My work with NAP is a drop in the bucket compared to others’ contributions, but it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done, and I am very grateful for Gresham Smith’s charitable contribution to that organization.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I have been doing stand-up comedy for about 10 years, first starting in Shanghai with a group of expats, then starting my own show when I was working in Myanmar (Burma) for two I’ve done stand-up in 13 countries, including a month of solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. I’ve performed with acts such as Ron White, Tiffany Haddish, Theo Von, Hannibal Buress, Ari Shaffir, Kyle Kinane, and Nashville’s own Nate Bargatze. You can catch me at the Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta or on Zanie’s New Material Mondays next time I’m working in the Nashville office. And, it bears to say that I take my architecture career very seriously, which is only aided by having such a fulfilling outlet in my personal life.

William performing at the Laughing Skull Comedy Lounge in Atlanta.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m a history and geopolitics buff (Global Politics was my minor at Clemson), so I’m always trying to deepen my understanding of global affairs through some background reading. Right now I’m reading The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I appear in an Italian music video for the group Contesti Scomodi and have a small speaking role in the indie mockumentary film “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot (#1 Will Blow Your Mind)” where I get my neck snapped. And, of course, all the comedy stuff, too.