Tipton Associates has had several different locations and names in its time, since Benjamin H. Goodman founded the original architecture firm in 1879.
Tucked into spiffy headquarters on Westmoreland Drive just off Government Street in Mid City, Kenneth Tipton Jr., a graduate of LSU’s architecture school who started as an associate in 1983 at what was then Smith & Champagne, is in charge these days.
With about 20 employees, Tipton isn’t a huge firm, though its portfolio is—with collaborations on projects at more than 100 colleges and universities in 24 states, including Louisiana. Among its many high-profile credits is the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.
1. Is it odd for an architecture firm to be around so long?
I think it’s pretty unusual, because most of it tends to live and die with an individual. To see that evolve and be passed from person to person, and the company to evolve, is pretty unique.
2.?Architecture is sometimes described as an old person’s profession. Why is that?
It’s historically known as an old person’s profession because there’s so much to learn. The theory was a long time ago, until you reached 40, you probably didn’t know enough to be good at this.
3. How has the firm evolved over the decades?
In the early days, it was very much a residential- and small commercial-based practice. Larger and more civic-oriented projects came with maturation of the company over time.
4. How are architects faring in light of the economic crisis?
I guess that depends on which architect you’re talking to and where their workload is structured. So far we’ve not felt a lot of it. That probably has more to do with what our workload looks like and where we’re working.
5. Other architects aren’t so lucky?
A number of my colleagues are feeling the pinch aggressively, especially those around the country. Louisiana’s in a better place than most. Right now, our work seems to be in a fairly stable position, but that doesn’t mean that couldn’t change, too. Maybe the only nervous person here is me. Everybody else seems busy.
6. What can you say about your architectural philosophy?
We’ve worked very hard not to become stylized, where everything has to look a certain way and people even seek you out because they want theirs to look like somebody else’s. That’s never been our approach.
7. Describe your typical client.
We tend to do our best work with clients who are trying to do something important, something significant. The architecture becomes a means for them to execute that in some way. We tend to hitch a ride with their ambitions and their aspirations.
8. What’s a major project the firm is working on these days?
We’re part of the team doing the new main library for East Baton Rouge.
9. Are architects a tight-knit bunch?
It is very much a family. When we hire people, we talk about that here. It’s not a blood family, but it’s a philosophical family.
10. Aside from the current economic scene, is being an architect a tough way to make a living?
This is not an easy business. It can be a very cruel business. But to hang on and to keep it going and to keep believing, that’s probably something that’s united all these people all these years.