Classification: 4th year
Kevin R. Cantley, AIA, NCARB
President and CEO of Cooper Carry
KH: What is Cooper Carry’s design philosophy?
KC: Cooper Carry was founded in 1960 to have a distinguishing quality in our design - a focus on people, the end-user. One of the earliest statements coined by Jerry Cooper, one of the founders, proclaims that “The space between the buildings are as important as the building itself”. It is important because it is the way people move from point A to point B which is an essential part of the public realm. Buildings are both objects in space and definers of space. Not only do we look at the building, but we also look at the landscape in between the buildings. This duality is a strong part of Cooper Carry’s design philosophy. We have a tagline “The Center for Connective Architecture”. We use the word “connective architecture” much in the same way a doctor would use the word “connective tissue”. You have a skeleton and muscle, but nothing works unless you have the tendon to connect it all said Mr. Cantley.
Mr. Cantley also stated that Cooper Carry was founded in 1960 with a focus on designing for people. Our co-founder Jerry Cooper has always proclaimed that “The space between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves.” These spaces are an essential part of the public realm, where people move from point A to point B. Buildings are both objects in space and definers of space. This duality is a strong part of Cooper Carry’s design philosophy. Our tagline is “the Center for Connective Architecture.” We use the word “connective” much in the same way a doctor would use the word “connective tissue.” You have a skeleton and muscle, but nothing works unless you have the tendon to connect it all.
KH: How is Cooper Carry different from other firms?
KC: We have a strong focus on the design of mixed-use, walk able urban, developments that began around 30 years ago. We have developed expertise in each of the building types that would support living, working, and playing. We were one of the first firms to design main street, walk able urban, mixed-use projects. These mixed-use developments often include a retail street with apartments or offices above. Sometimes they have hotels and other civic functions. Over the years we have developed a detailed knowledge base resulting in our mixed-use ecosystem.
KH: Does Cooper Carry have a signature style?
KC: Not necessarily said Mr. Cantley. A design solution that we propose comes Our design solutions come from the program, the context, and the client’s preferences. I like to say that many people think architect’s architects draw buildings, but we use the word draw differently. It is more like drawing water from a well. We want to pull from the program, context, and client to create a special design for a specific use and location. We don’t have a set of stylistic solutions. We want everything to be organic and grow from the site.
KH: What are the biggest challenges and attractions of your job?
KC: People (he chuckles). The biggest attraction of my job are people. Of course with the design practice, we have a strong focus on people, but most of how I spend my day is dealing with human interactions, making sure people are getting along and working well together. I spend most of my time channeling different talents and personalities to function on the same team. To keep teams running smoothly it is important to define the common purpose; I remind all that we design for people, so let’s start with the person on the other side of the table first. The hardest part of my job is making sure everyone is culturally connected. Sometimes you realize a person in your organization doesn’t fit. Unfortunately, I learned a long time ago that you can’t change people, you just have to change people (replace them with someone else). However, it is important to me to not burn bridges. We do our best to help place people in an environment where they fit better.
KH: Does Cooper Carry have any experience with “green building” or “sustainable design”?
KC: Absolutely, because green design is required for good design, and we are dedicated to good design. We have a committee that focuses on sustainability called CORE. When I was in college there was an energy crisis occurring, so in design school, we studied sustainable design extensively, it’s and it became second nature! Within our design it is important to site the buildings in a way that disrupts the landscape as little as possible and that the landscape is considered; this is a sustainable approach within itself. Since the inception of LEED, we have designed right at 70 LEED-certified projects. We also have a certain level of sustainability built into all of our designs that exceed code requirements. An example of a high-performance building that we designed is the Krone Engineered Biosystems Bio-Science building at Georgia Tech.
KH: What is your philosophy on diversity?
KC: Mr. Cantley passionately stated, “We believe good design can only be created by diverse teams.” Our diverse offices are located in, Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., and New York City, NY. We have offices located in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York City, with around 300 different voices, quite a few from around the world, who contribute to what we do. At one time we had 38 different languages spoken in our Atlanta office alone. Diverse voices are very important to us.
KH: In your own words, what makes a Tuskegee University graduate stand out from other students?
KC: Tuskegee University produces well-rounded and versatile students, which are key contributors to our team. At Cooper Carry, we look for graduates with a high degree of enthusiasm and a strong passion for the profession. We find that students from Tuskegee display these qualities.
Cooper Carry currently has three Tuskegee graduates on the staff, Corey Riley, ALA, NOMA, ‘93 grad, Jordan Crawford, ‘18 grad, and Marcel Walker, ‘17 grad.