Face To Face With Architect Catherine Purple Cherry

Photo by Nicole Martyn

Photo by Nicole Martyn

Catherine “Cathy” Purple Cherry of Purple Cherry Architects in Annapolis, Maryland works 65 hours a week, raises her 10, 13, and 18-year-old children, and has been married for 29 years to Michael Cherry.

She has many talents including designing special buildings for individuals with special needs.

Through her lifelong observations of her brother with Down syndrome and her eldest child who was diagnosed with autism and multiple other disabilities—as well as her support team of doctors, teachers, and in-home technicians—Cathy has an acute awareness of the needs of both individuals with special needs and their caregivers. And just as she advocates for her own family, Cathy is a forceful advocate for her clients, whether assisting with the development of heartfelt and insightful marketing materials, planning functional and nurturing spaces, or advising on effective designs.

At Purple Cherry Architects, Cathy and her devoted team of professionals strongly believe in serving their clients by listening to their needs and designing creative, functional, and nurturing spaces where people can live, learn, work, and socialize.

How did you get started as an architect? I knew that I wanted to be an architect around the age of 12. I had been exposed to fine art classes since the first grade and by the time I was a teenager I felt I was headed towards the mathematical challenges of architecture. I think architects perceive the environment as a three dimensional world and it leads to a desire to create those spaces.

What do you love most about your job? I really love building the relationships with clients and having the opportunities to build creative spaces. It is very rewarding to help my clients embrace a solution that gives their thoughts about a project much deeper meaning.

If you could change one thing about your industry what would it be? I’d like to change some perceptions of what an architect does and the value that the architect brings to a project. Because our industry is mandated by codes and local jurisdictions, we become a mandatory component of the building process. The value of that service is sometimes not clearly understood.

What was the biggest challenge you had to face to get to where you are today? How have you managed to overcome them? My childhood was riddled with challenging events including the death of two of my siblings, my struggle with bulimia, the divorce of my parents when I was a teenager, and being raised with a brother who had Down syndrome. I think in many ways my childhood experiences made me a caretaker and someone who embraces individuals with differences. Those challenges created the person that I am today. I think if you can heal and rise above you learn so many great lessons.

What accomplishment of yours makes you the most proud? I am most proud of my marriage and the parallel success of raising our son, Matthew, with special needs. I am proud of my advocacy and Michael’s ongoing support raising our three children. I can already predict with great pride the future of our other two children, Jason, 13, and Samantha, 10. I am also very proud of taking the tribulations of my younger years and my personal struggles and turning them into a person who is not afraid of anything and is very determined.

My faith tells me that my life is always backed by God. And, after 16 years, I am very proud of our work here and all the people who have helped in our success.

Who in your life was most instrumental in helping you get started with your career? My husband Michael and my mother, Mary Stimmel. My husband and I have always been risk takers and entrepreneurs, we complement one another and he never constrains me from doing anything. My mother always gave me the sense that I was capable of doing anything.

If you could do anything other than what you are doing, what would it be? If I didn’t have a family, I would be an emergency room surgeon. I would thrive on the intensity that is needed in that profession as well as the satisfaction of helping people at that level. I am the kind of person who can work a 22-hour day and not stop to go to the bathroom.

What advice can you offer someone wanting to get started in your field? It is important for students to understand that the profession of archi-tecture is not necessarily a financially rewarding career, so you shouldn’t go into it for the money because there are many other professions that can be more profitable. You go into it because you have a passion for what we do and you work very hard to do it.

Jennifer K. Dansicker is Special Projects Editor for ChespeakeHome.

Purple Cherry Architects: purplecherry.com or 410-990-1700