Their work surrounds us all of the time. Architects design the experience of living in a city, but their process is a mystery to the average person. S hreveport Magazine sat down for drinks with four of Shreveport’s leading architects— Kevin Bryan, Mischa Farrell, Bryan McNew and Jeff Spikes — to pull back the curtain and have a look into their working lives.
T ell us about a local building that you’re proud to have designed.
T he Louisiana Association for the Blind Complex on Claiborne Avenue. Our design takes into account the fact that the people who work there have very limited vision. We made special provisions, using color and materials, to aid them in moving about freely within the building. They don’t even need their canes to walk around. We’re really proud of those buildings.
I n our region, it’s hard for an architect to specialize too much. You’ve got to know how to do a little bit of everything, which includes big, industrial buildings. Our design for the Port of Caddo-Bossier, in particular their new regional commerce center, is a beautiful building that most of Shreveport has never seen.
What one thing do you wish the average person understood about what you do?
S o many people don’t value the service of architects. When you give them a fee proposal, they’re like ‘What?! I can hire a draftsman and save money.’ Well, good luck with that. Architects are more than a source for technical drawings.
That’s right; we’re not draftsmen. We’re more than that. We are there for you from the time that we sign a contract until we turn over the keys to the building to you. We help you through the entire process.
W e’re kind of the quarterback of the team. There’s a big team of people on the technical side, and a big team of people on the artistic design side. We’ve got to bring them together to deliver a completed building on time and on budget.
If you just want to buy a set of drawings, an architect is not the way to go. If you want someone who is invested in the process from beginning to end, then an architect is what you want.
V alencia Park Community Center, which is starting to come together now, was one of my first big projects, and my first project with the city. It represents, to me, a true community center. The citizens truly led that process and told us what they wanted to see in the building.
S hreve Memorial Library Hollywood Union Branch. The design of the building reflects a community that is strong and has been there for a long, long time. It was an opportunity for us to express our design style and really engage with that community.
A favorite project of architect Mischa Farrell, the Shreve Memorial Hollywood Union Branch Library reflects a community that is rich and strong.
A re there any national trends or movements that are impacting architecture in Shreveport?
We’re seeing trends in the client. Today’s client is taking advantage of the internet. They’re coming into meetings with iPads, usually with Pinterest boards, and they’re showing you examples of buildings that are not from around our area, and they’re saying: ‘I like this.’ To me, that’s encouraging. I’m excited about that, but it’s also kind of a monster.
How do you identify clients that
are the right fit for your firm?
T o me, the ideal client is the anti-micromanager. Micromanagers can be hard to work for. That’s why so many architects don’t do residential work, because the ultimate micromanager is the client whose home you are building.
O n the other end of the spectrum, look at what the city is doing with the Unified Development Code ( editor’s note: the Shreveport/ Caddo Unified Development Code*, or UDC, is being implemented in 2016). They’re trying to revamp the building code, and they’re looking at a lot of really cool cities for examples of how to revamp our master plan. They’re taking into account smart growth and all of the things that we need to be doing as a community to move forward.
Believe me, you’re interviewing the client when they’re interviewing you. Architect and client have to be a good match, because it’s just too tough otherwise. You’d fight the entire time. It has to be a very interesting project for me to take on a residential project, because you do end up playing psychologist a lot.
To me, the ideal client is someone who appreciates what the architect has to offer and listens to our recommendations. And a client with good taste in design is always welcome.
*For more information on the Shreveport/Caddo Unified Development Code, visit shreveportcaddoudc.com
J ust reading through it, the Unified Development Code is going to help minimize visual clutter. Signage has tighter requirements, with consistent sign heights and street sign design. It makes everything come together. The city is going to be much more visually appealing.
A nd the parking situation will be different. Right now, you have to have one parking space per 100 square feet of a restaurant. Under the new code, it’ll be one parking spot per 300 square feet. So you’re reducing the required number of parking spaces by two-thirds. They’re trying to combat urban sprawl.
T hat’s a v ery g ood piece of advice.
Make sure that they are licensed, bonded and insured, and be sure to get clean lien releases after each pay application. You may spend a little extra money on the front end, but it’ll be worth it in the event that something goes wrong.
I’m always thinking about the context of my work: am I being a good neighbor to the surrounding community?
That’ll be helpful to the environment, too. With less concrete, there’s more natural drainage and you’ll have less flooding issues.
I’d say do not let a contractor bid on a set of documents if you’re not prepared to award that bid to them. To some degree, it’s a matter of respect for the contractor and all of the work that they’re putting into preparing a competitive bid. I advise my clients: ‘If you’re gonna let these three or four contractors bid on the project, be prepared to accept the low bid.’
What advice do you give to clients once it’s time to select a contractor?
D on’t hire a friend or family member.
Do you think about your legacy, or the mark that you’re making on the city?
Absolutely. I’ve had the good fortune to have three projects on two blocks of Martin Luther King Drive, so, I’m really getting to affect that neighborhood. And it’s going to be more walkable, and a healthier and more modern place to live as a result. I’m always thinking about the context of my work: am I being a good neighbor to the surrounding community?
Sometimes the client just wants a warehouse, so that’s what you build. But then there are also really great jobs, and you just really want to make those count. You want to build something that people will really enjoy.
As long as you build a quality building, it will stand the test of time. If it’s durable and it meets its intent, and is well-designed, people will continue to use it for years to come. And that is the perfect outcome.
As long as you build a quality building, it will stand the test of time.
For more information on Kevin Bryan, visit kevinbryanarchitects.com
For more information on Mischa Farrell, visit mischafarrell.com
For more information on Bryan McNew, visit mcnewarchitecture.com
For more information on Jeff Spikes, visit iarchitecture.net
The Port of Caddo-Bossier’s new
regional commerce center, designed
by Kevin Bryan, is a hidden gem
in the Shreveport/Bossier landscape.