Why is an architect spending time away from a busy architectural practice to help give students a boost in their study skills? “Education, I feel, is the biggest and most important challenge facing America today,” says Richard Morrison, AIA. “And in my somewhat ‘unusual’ career, I’ve come across information that helped me tremendously as a student that I’m excited about sharing.”
Unusual, to say the least. Prior to becoming an architect, Morrison was a professional magician and stage hypnotist. In all of these professions, Morrison found a common thread that related to his early success as a student: visual thinking. He’s now putting his visual thinking skills into an academic skills seminar called the SuperStudent® Seminar.
During his high school years, while studying magic, he came across books that showed him some memory “tricks” of stage performers that allowed them to demonstrate seemingly phenomenal memories. “What was interesting about these tricks,” says Morrison, “is that they really weren’t tricks at all. They were simply the use of the visual thinking skills that all of us have, but seldom use. A six-year old could have done them.”
These “tricks” worked well for Morrison. He ended up graduating from high school as a National Merit Finalist and Illinois State Scholar. His test scores placed him in the 99th percentile.
Looking for ways to improve his creative abilities as an architectural student at the University of Illinois, he stumbled onto numerous techniques for increasing the mental abilities available to all of us.
During his freshman year at college, Morrison found himself taking well beyond the normal course load, playing clarinet in a symphonic band, studying classical guitar and karate, cartooning for a campus newspaper, performing frequently as a professional magician, and making straight-A’s! He continued to support himself through school as a magician and a stage hypnotist.
Temporarily setting aside architecture after graduation, Morrison came to San Francisco from the Midwest and started life as a street magician, performing on Fisherman’s Wharf. When cold weather and a slow tourist season arrived, he became the featured entertainer at the Sheraton Hotel on Fisherman’s Wharf, entertaining guests in the restaurant with incredible close-up illusions.
After a couple of years, though, Morrison got back to architecture, working with a number of the top architectural firms in San Francisco, designing health care facilities. He started his own practice in 1987, now based in Redwood City, California.
Working with students, however, is what Morrison now finds to be most thrilling. “I want to get students as excited by learning as I am. That’s more important than any building I’ve designed.”
Morrison is also a member of Mensa (the international high-IQ society), a member of the American Institute of Architects, and an avid renaissance and baroque recorder player.