Current home: Costa Rica
Hometown: Manhattan Beach, California
Degree/School: Bachelor of Architecture
Maggie Kleinman: Why did you move to Costa Rica?
David Konwiser: After school, I started working at Gensler in 1994 in Santa Monica. I left in 1996 to start a website (Akropolis.net) which was actually inspired by the fraternity, designed to showcase architects and designers in a Facebook type manner (long before Facebook!). But instead of Mark Zuckerberg’s luck, the whole thing crumbled like a Greek ruin right around 9/11 when the market crashed, and I moved to my mother’s birthplace of Costa Rica in 2002. I was ready to move somewhere new and to reinvent myself.
MK: So when you moved, your mom sponsored your first solo project?
DK: My mother wanted me to design a small beach house for her and her new husband. My step father at the time got wealthy, and the budget increased significantly. He had envisioned the design of the house to be a stone castle by the sea, and I completed a design all the way through building permits, earth movement and a foundation. At that point he left the picture, and fortunately, we still had the budget for the project. I redesigned the whole house with an entirely new architectural concept and with events in mind. That became Villa Punto de Vista.
MK: How did I. M. Pei get involved?
DK: This amazing and utterly improbable story was actually covered at length and very graphically in Architectural Digest this last June, but here’s the gist: I was well into construction on the project, yet far from complete, when my brother called me. He worked for a luxury travel agency and had received a call from a client who wanted to come to the villa for that upcoming New Years. I told him there was no way I would be ready in time, but he mentioned that the client was some famous architect.
“A famous architect…” I said. “Who could that be?” I thought to myself. “What’s his name?” I asked.
“I. M. Pei,” he said. With that, I knew it was time to rise to the occasion and work as hard as I could to make the impossible happen and sleep APX Master Architect I. M. Pei as my first overnight guest!
MK: You’re clearly very busy and having great success; what is your motivation to stay in contact with Alpha Rho Chi?
DK: I believe alumni mentorship is the most important aspect of APX. I got my job at Gensler when I graduated from college from a Daedalus brother (and Foundation member) Dennis Potts. He invited me to an internship where he was working at the time, and when he moved to Gensler, he got me a job there as well. We kept in touch over the years, and when I was struggling to pass my last A.R.E., I went to Dennis and asked for advice. He cleared a whole conference room for me on a Sunday, filled it with everything that could possibly relate to the exam, and sat with me for a whole day to explain everything he possibly could. I passed the exam the next day, and I am now a California licensed Architect. I give credit to Brother Dennis Potts for playing a role in that significant professional achievement!
MK: Why do you think it’s so important to stay connected to Alpha Rho Chi as an alum?
DK: I really believe in the pay-it-forward mentality. If every brother had a “Brother Dennis” experience, they would be so appreciative. I wish that every brother could be a Dennis for another brother, and I want to embrace that myself. Everyone, all of us, has something to offer: we can all mentor!
MK: What do you intend to do with the villa?
DK: I would love to get a group of brothers together to stay at the villa. I have a perfect “round table” location in an extraordinary place to offer the fraternity and dream of some kind of annual event to occur to bring actives or alumni—or both—together!
MK: Any other advice or stories you’d like to share?
DK: Getting married is the greatest thing in the world. I have two daughters and a wife, and they are awesome. They are my new fraternity. But I still love APX brothers, and I hope to see you all at Villa Punto de Vista sometime.