Your Neighbor: Meet Lauren Frye

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

Lauren Frye and her family moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania when she was in the second grade. 

The oldest of two siblings, Frye found plenty to do in the town where her parents were high school sweethearts. 

“They encouraged us to try different things to cultivate our interests,” Frye said. “I started dancing when I was five years old, swam, played soccer and ran cross country and track. What I loved most about running and swimming was that they were team sports that also encouraged you to beat your individual times.” 

Frye was part of a cross country team at Mt. Tabor High School that won the state title her senior year. 

“I had Coach Esposito and a group of very inclusive teammates that made it so much fun,” Frye said. “Our swim team was very similar in that way too. Our medley relay finished second in states and it was always special celebrating it together.” 

During her summers, Frye turned her love of swimming into a job that she enjoyed. 

“I lifeguarded at New Sherwood pool,” Frye said. “I helped the head coach, Ryan Michel, too, with the swim team. I had a great time working with him and from that opportunity, I was really inspired to one day teach myself. Having a really good coach and teacher makes such an impact on you. Those were some great summers just riding my bike to swim practice and work and then, again, going to practice a second time in the evening.” 

After Frye graduated from Mt. Tabor in 2002, she went on to Princeton University for her undergraduate degree. 

“I had only researched schools that had an architecture program,” Frye said. “As a lifelong Carolina fan, thanks to my mom, I couldn’t go to N.C. State University. I am so glad I went to Princeton because it allowed me to make some lifelong friends from participating on the crew team and Christian fellowship groups while being challenged academically.” 

Frye had chosen her degree focus from realizing early on that she loved art as a child. 

“When I took a test to see what type of career I would be interested in, it helped lead me to architecture,” Frye said. “It is such a marriage of logic and artistry. The art classes reminded me how much I enjoyed the creative process. I also love learning new things. The idea of doing something different every time you design a building or work with a new client was intriguing to me. When I was in high school, there weren’t any classes that were offered in architecture. When I got to Princeton, it was nice that I confirmed early on that was still what I wanted to do.”

Frye made sure to continue her education both in and outside the classroom. 

“I went to many places and was fascinated with learning more about sustainability,” Frye said. “We went to Panama which was absolutely beautiful. We had to demonstrate our ability to solve actual problems through architecture for delivering water. It was theoretical but it really challenged us to think in terms of not just looking pretty but also serving the community with a functional approach.”

The impact Frye gained from her travel continued to affirm her love for her career choice. 

“One summer we went to Nicaragua,” Frye said. “We helped farm workers who were indentured servants to begin the process to acquire land of their own. It was such a great learning experience. It made me grateful for everyday things that I took for granted like clean water. It always reinforced what I have built into my practice which is a focus on renovations and adaptive reuse products. When I saw different cultures in other countries and how they value what they have, it challenges you to push back on your own value system and what people have. Newer isn’t always better and more isn’t either. I think it brings more peace and connection to reuse buildings that exist.” 

As Frye continued to gain these valuable experiences, she began working during her summers as an intern for a firm back home. With her future husband, Danny, being from her hometown, and her family it was nice to be able to. 

Frye knew she wanted to continue with her education after she graduated from Princeton. She completed a 3-year master of architecture program at the University of Virginia. 

“Although I had contemplated doing Teach for America briefly, I knew that at that time I needed to continue down this path,” Frye said. 

Once she completed her program, she and Danny were married in 2009. 

“Danny is the smartest guy I know,” Frye said. “Our house is basically a maker space because of his creativity too. He has a woodshop, keeps bees, makes watches and wallets. He is incredibly talented. Although we can be very different, we both are also very similar.” 

With ties to the Winston-Salem area, the newlyweds came back home to establish roots. Frye worked at Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects PA for 11 years. 

“I felt very strongly that I liked designing spaces for the public and not in residential,” Frye said. “I think there can be a misconception of what design is — it’s not just picking out colors and furniture. There is such a need to problem solve to crate spaces that’s build community. That is ultimately what led me to starting my own firm, Latent Designs. I had learned so much from my mentor, Rence Callahan and was excited to go off on my own.”

Frye also stayed true to her passion to teach and continue to give back to the community. 

“I have been the campus architect at Forsyth Country Day School and teach a class there too for several years,” Frye said. “I have been wanting to bring design into the high school environment, so students have an opportunity to learn more. I really wanted to encourage young people to think outside of the box regardless of the field they choose to go into. Architecture and design really do that.”

While inspiring the next generation, Frye also believes that helping the community goes hand and hand. An original founding member of the Community Design Studio, Frye is gearing up for a camp, Leadership by Design, on July 24-28, which encourages high school students to solve problems through design. Our camps partner with local non-profits to problem solve community issues. This year, they will be working on improving a park space for homeless individuals and families to congregate without feeling judged or shameful.

“We believe the design thinking process helps people learn skills that create great leaders regardless of what field they go into which starts with empathy,” Frye said. “The camp has a $400 value per high school student, but we only require a $25 cost to them. We want to encourage participation, so we rely heavily on donations from businesses and members of our community.” 

As Frye is helping prepare for the Leadership by Design Camp, she is grateful for the opportunities to still spend time with her own young children, Christopher, 8, and Matthew, 9. 

“They are only 19 months apart and best friends,” Frye said. “I think I have been able to find a balance with having my own business and ability to set my own hours. I also like that the boys get to see me working on projects and ask questions. With my professional and philanthropic work, I think encouraging dialogue is so important. I love that my kids are getting to the age where they can appreciate it more and more.”