T. Ashby Gressette, AIA, is principal and director of architecture at Stevens & Wilkinson, an architecture firm in Columbia, S.C. He specializes in the design of cultural, educational, office and commercial facilities at Stevens & Wilkinson, and also largely involved with the design review of all projects the firm undertakes.
His career began at Clemson University’s School of Architecture, graduating in 1974 with a B.A. in Pre-Architecture. He then went on to receive a Master of Architecture degree two years later in 1976. He believes a successful project sees a balance of art and function and finds inspiration built within the largest American cities—Chicago, New York, Boston—for their unique building concepts and attention to detail.
Recently, BE sat down to talk to him about his career.
Building Envelope: How many years do you have in the profession?
Gressette: As of 2014, I have 38 years in this industry.
Building Envelope: What is your work history in this field?
Gressette: To date, I have been extremely fortunate to have worked on a variety of building types of varying scope and complexity. As the director of architecture for Stevens & Wilkinson, Columbia, I currently specialize in the design of cultural, educational, office and commercial facilities. I also am largely involved with the design review of all projects the firm undertakes.
Building Envelope: Where did you go to school?
Gressette: I am a proud alum of Clemson University’s School of Architecture. I graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in Pre-Architecture. I then went on to receive my Master of Architecture degree two years later in 1976.
Building Envelope: Did you have a specialization?
Gressette: No, I did not.
Building Envelope: Do you approach architecture from an artistic or functional starting point? Are the two concepts exclusive?
Gressette: I honestly believe that the most successful projects come from a careful balance of both art and function. For almost all of our projects, our clients are more concerned about our meeting the programmed requirements and staying within budget. How creative we are in meeting these needs is truly the added bonus.
Building Envelope: If any, who are your role models?
Gressette: I can’t name anyone specifically, simply because I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a number of admirable people, both inside and outside of architecture.
Building Envelope: What projects, other than your own work, do you find inspiring?
Gressette: Many are admirable. I do find it professionally exciting and inspirational to visit the larger cities (New York, Chicago, Boston, etc.) and see the attention to design from unique building concepts to well-defined details.
Building Envelope: How many buildings have you designed?
Gressette: I have no idea; I would guess more than 400.
Building Envelope: If you had to choose one to represent your work, what project would you choose?
Gressette: This would probably be like asking someone, “Who is your favorite child?” I have several buildings that I am very proud of. But, if I had to force my own hand, I would have to say that I am very proud of the work we completed at the Meridian, in downtown Columbia, S.C. This was a high-rise office building that was shoehorned into a very tight site. The base of the building was respectful to the existing scale of the Main Street buildings, while the top of the tower offered a few design elements to distinguish it among other building’s on Columbia’s skyline. The lobby finishes and other appointments far exceeded the normal developer standards, making the building one of the region’s most impressive developments.
Building Envelope: What are your guiding principles when designing a structure?
Gressette: I always make sure to solve the programmatic issues of the project or development. As a firm we always make sure to respect the client’s construction budget, while also offering a design aesthetic that is appropriate to the context of the area.
Building Envelope: If you could have any building to redesign—anywhere in the world—which would you like to address?
Gressette: In all honesty, I should probably take another look at some of my previous work before I start criticizing others.
Building Envelope: What types of products interest you?
Gressette: There are so many to choose from. Off the top of my head, I tend to lean more toward those products or systems that have a better sense of precision and “fit,” especially since I don’t really spend a lot of my time writing building specs these days.
Building Envelope: What types of products in the wall and ceiling industry really interest you?
Gressette: Again there are so many products to choose from and I don’t want to overlook any vendors we have worked with or will work with moving forward, but, what I will say is this—I am easily impressed with nicely detailed wood products. There’s a certain feeling to their craftsmanship and warmth.