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Jeffre y Bro w n, AIA is a principal of Houston-based Powers Brown Architecture. He also teaches as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. K imbe r ly Hick s on, AIA   is a principal of Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects and manages its Houston office. The Kansas City-based firm specializes in projects ranging from research laboratories to educational institutions. Roy Lowe y-Ba l l , AIA   is a vice president and director of busi-

ness development at Ford, Powell & Carson Architects and Planners in San Antonio, where he has been since 1972. Mich a e l M a l one , AIA is principal of the Michael Malone

Studio with WKMC Architects in Dallas, working primarily in retail, single-family, and multifamily residential design. Mich a el Re y, AIA is a lead architect in the San Antonio office of Jacobs, a publicly traded company. He also is an adjunct faculty member at UTSA’s College of Architecture. S t e p he n S h a r p e  is the editor of Texas Architect. M a r k W e l l e n, AIA   began architectural work in Midland in

1977 and co-founded Rhotenberry Wellen Architects in 1988. With a staff of 13, the firm maintains a general practice.

S h a r p e We’re at the crux of a historic moment here, having for the last several months seen indications that the recession has hit Texas. So why don’t we start with this question: Did you see it coming? Did you see the recession and effects of the credit crisis coming to your community? Hick s on   In Houston, the talk initially was that the recession wasn’t going to hit us as badly as in other places. But now the big oil companies are starting layoffs, and there are probably close to 200 architects looking for jobs in Houston. Lowe y-Ba l l  You know, I felt a little bit like the deer caught in the headlights

or the guy standing on the railroad tracks watching the train approaching. I really do think a lot of people saw this coming but they didn’t know what to do about it, especially if you are already not in the private market but mostly in the institutional market, you thought you might escape it. But I don’t think anybody’s going to escape it. W e l l e n I think in the global sense, even someone that’s not an economist had to say it would end at some point because of the way the economy was going. And it can’t go on that way forever. It’s just a matter of how the crash occurs and how bad it is and when it is. On a local level, I live in a community that’s virtually completely driven by the oil business and the economy related to that. We tend to often be out of synch with the other economic cycles that occur and there have been times in the last 20 years since the last big oil bust in the ’80s that the economy hasn’t been so good in the country – or even other parts in the state – but it’s been fairly good where we are because either oil prices were sustained or gas prices were sustained. With all that said, everybody who lives where I live knows it will happen from time to time and our local economy has always been very cyclical so we have a different set of circumstances that we typically worry about. But in our case now, it’s kind of like the perfect storm—everything is bad. I can elaborate on it more later, and it hasn’t hit us like it’s hit everybody else, but I think the cloud’s coming and we all know it. It’s more directly related to drilling and, as drilling backs up and stops or cuts way back, then so goes the economy with us and to a large extent with the state. The state is still impacted by the oil business pretty heavily—maybe not as directly as we are, but it’s still a big impact. M a l o n e   One thing I’ll say about Dallas, we believed that we’d largely

dodge the worst of this recession because the two things that a year or so ago were pointing to difficulties in the national economy: first, really high real estate prices – forget about the bad mortgages – but the really high real estate prices that were creating a real estate pricing bubble we never had in Dallas. Our housing market was one of the most affordable in the country. Secondly, we are still highly dependant on oil and gas; we kind of grow that in Dallas, so we expected that to cushion us through this. The next biggest industry where we are is financial services or IT companies that service the financial services industry, and we weren’t prepared for that fallout. Finally, we weren’t prepared for the drop in gas prices that has really exacerbated it recently. I think we all saw this coming but we didn’t expect that we would have any direct consequences because of it, so I’ll say we at our firm weren’t that prepared for it. Bro w n We had our first recession-proofing meeting for the firm eight

months ago, not to portray a sense of overconfidence. But we did so

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Texas Architect March/April 2009: Adaptive Reuse  

Texas Architect, March/April 2009; Official magazine of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA

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