The Quick Six with Sean Harry

By Sean Harry
June 15, 2023

Downtown Cleveland skyline from the lakefront

Sean Harry is a collaborative leader and highly motivated architect with over 20 years of professional experience, including hospitality, commercial and residential developments, resorts, urban and mixed-use, retail and entertainment, offices, and museums. Responding to the spirit of destinations, Sean is committed to exploring design solutions that balance economic, cultural, and environmental factors. Sean is also an accredited LEED professional with Building Design and Construction credentials.

Sean’s passion for architecture is cultivated through the process of weaving design narratives, sustainability, technical solutions, and the client’s vision to become a built reality. He seeks to produce results through research, exploration, and precise production throughout all phases of a project.

As he moves into his new position of Managing Principal of Design Technology, in which he will lead WATG’s ongoing strategic investment in the firm’s technology ecosystem, we chat to Sean about where he gets his inspiration, his passion for Environmental Design, and his aspirations for computational systems, visualization and software development.

How long have you been in this field, and how did you get to where you are now?

I’ve been working in Architecture as a professional since 1999. I started at a small firm in Cleveland, Ohio as an intern while I was still at undergrad university. I learned a lot at university, but the vast majority of what I learned came from seasoned leaders that took me under their wings and taught me.

I’m a passionate person, I love architecture, design, culture, travel, technology, and experimentation. WATG blends this perfectly for me. Prior to starting with WATG in 2006, I worked at four firms over seven years! At NCG Architects in Atlanta, I learned golf clubhouse, luxury residence, and villa design. I also worked for Metaphor; a small museum exhibit design firm based in the UK. I worked on the King Tut exhibition at the Grand Egyptian Museum, which taught me how to work small scale and how to tell experiential stories through design. Both experiences contribute to my work at WATG – luxury hospitality and experiential design.

Recently I have been elected to our Board of Directors, and in my new role, I focus on Design Technology for WATG. Technology is transforming the way we work as Architects and Designers. My next goal is to study, experiment and facilitate WATG’s digital transformation to lead in all facets of technology, environmental design, and data for the Hospitality Design industry.

I strongly believe in the value of Environmental Design for all projects. I want to leave a better tomorrow for my children and their children.

Hilton Shenzhen Shekou Nanhai – Lead Designer, Sean Harry

What is the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?

Probably right now! Moving into a firmwide leadership role for Design Technologies and Environmental Design. However, I see this as a calculated risk given that it’s a key focus for WATG and with our clients. I’m looking forward to being at the forefront of this in the second half of my career.

I love the unknown and I love experimentation. Taking risks has allowed me to push myself into areas I never knew existed and meet people I may never have met without. Some risks work, and some don’t, but we learn from both.

I prefer calculated risks these days. My biggest personal risk was asking my wife to go wedding ring shopping with me six months into our relationship! I’m thankful every day that I took that risk.

Seoul downtown skyline, South Korea

A large part of your role in design is to shape urban and leisure destinations. What is your favourite place to visit?

I love Korea, there is such an amazing combination of vibrant urban spaces and picturesque natural landscapes. My experiences travelling, and living, outside of America have changed my whole perspective on the world. This has provided me with the opportunity to see the world through other people’s lenses. I learnt to be as open-minded as possible, always question, and ask ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’. Nothing is linear, trajectories are always changing, and adaptability is key.

The Ritz Carlton Xi’An – Lead Designer, Sean Harry

What three things do you always take on a business trip?

My Bluetooth speaker for my hotel room and charettes, to keep me focused. My gym shoes and clothes, I’m always looking for some exercise when I can. And a card with a quote from a childhood best friend who passed from Leukemia in 2007. Part of the quote reads “Every life must breech the boundaries of sheer ease… that’s not irregular. That’s normal. Do what you can. And always believe.” I read this all the time and have kept it in my wallet since his funeral in 2007. So very inspirational to me, and so mature when we were so young.


If you had to pick one design trend to make a comeback or could predict a future trend, what would it be?

Teleportation! I would love to be able to teleport myself from my desk to the top of a mountain or deep in a forest, just for a few hours or a weekend. Before I became an Architect I was seriously considering a move to become a National Park Ranger! I love hiking and camping.

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorad

One piece of advice to aspiring designers?

Be adventurous! We learn from our mistakes; it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.

Never stop seeking knowledge and learning from those around you. I love discourse and the power of imagination.

Be adaptable and ready for change and transformation. Future forward thinking!

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn here.

About The Author

Portrait of Sean Harry in black and white

Sean Harry is a collaborative leader and highly motivated architect with over 20 years’ professional experience across over 100 global projects.

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