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VOL. 129 | NO. 154 | Friday, August 08, 2014

Blueprint for the Future

Architecture Inc. celebrates 20 years, looks toward what’s next

By Amos Maki

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It was 1992, and architect Joey Hagan was searching high and low for space for his own office.

Architecture Inc. principals Joey Hagan, Valentina Cochran, and David Schuermann stand on the stairwell in the offices of Distributors Holding Corp., a project completed in March of this year. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

He turned to his friend David Schuermann – the two had previously worked together at Bologna and Associates – whose firm at the time, DMS Architects, had an office at 88 Union Center Downtown.

“I got my architecture license in 1992 and went out on my own,” said Hagan. “I was rather desperately looking for some office space, and (Schuermann) was kind enough to rent me space in his office.”

Although they shared similar ideas and philosophies on design and architecture, Schuermann and Hagan worked independently for two more years.

“After two years it became obvious we had the same goals and shared similar ideas, so we came together and that's when Architecture Inc. was formed,” said Hagan.

Today, Hagan and Schuermann are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Architecture Inc. and preparing the Memphis-based firm, which specializes in architectural design, planning, preservation and neighborhood rebuilding, for the future by recently making Valentina Puppione Cochran a partner.

After joining forces in 1994, one of the first problems Hagan and Schuermann had to solve was what to call the newly created company.

“We thought about Schuermann Hagan, but with Schuermann Hagan people wonder what it is that you do,” said Schuermann. “But with Architecture Inc. it's perfectly clear. The name also indicates we don’t carry our egos on our shoulders, and it solved the dilemma of what we do if we added partners in the future. So it was Architecture Inc. – and here we are 20 years later.”

Over the course of two decades in business together, Schuermann and Hagan have worked on a wide variety of projects, everything from adaptive reuse to changing the face of public housing in Memphis.

One of Schuermann's favorite projects was the original restoration of the historic Hunt-Phelan home, a 10,000-square-foot mansion that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant used as his headquarters during the Civil War.

“That was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Schuermann. “We've done a lot of adaptive reuse, but you don’t have the opportunity very often to do a historically accurate restoration of a building, which Hunt-Phelan was.”

When the opportunity arose to transform two of the city's public housing developments through Hope VI grants – Dixie Homes on Poplar Avenue and Lamar Terrace on Lamar Avenue near Interstate 240 – into mixed-use, mixed-income communities, Hagan and Schuermann jumped at the chance.

Dixie Homes was demolished, and Legends Park – which includes apartments, housing units and a senior living center – took its place. Lamar Terrace was transformed into University Place.

“That changed the face of two entire neighborhoods,” said Hagan.

The company has taken the skills they honed on the Hope VI projects in Memphis to Durham, N.C., where they are designing the Southside East community.

The variety of projects Architecture Inc. has taken on keeps Hagan and Schuermann happy and engaged.

“Every day is different and every project is different,” said Hagan. “That’s what makes it fun to go to work every day.”

As Hagan and Schuermann began thinking about the future of the company, they decided to make Cochran, a member of the firm for 10 years, a partner.

“She's earned it, and if you have someone who is worthwhile and you don’t allow them into the fold, why would they stay?” Hagan said.

“You want the firm to outlive you and the best way to do that is to bring in people who share your vision and the direction of the firm,” Hagan said. “When (Schuermann) and I retire, what do we do? Throw it in the garbage? Certainly not. We want it to survive.”

Cochran said she looks forward to helping the firm reach new, diverse heights.

“The breadth and diversity of what I do during the day just keeps me going,” Cochran said.

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