VOL. 113 | NO. 30 | Friday, February 12, 1999
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Laying the foundation
Architect Granville Taylor used
mortar to begin building a career
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
As a child growing up in Russellville, Ky., Granville Taylor never imagined hed end up becoming an architect.
Taylor, who was recently awarded the Francis P. Gassner Award by the Memphis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said he started off laying bricks.
A third-generation bricklayer, Taylor began to follow in his fathers footsteps when he was 15.
He worked laying bricks during the summer while he was in high school. When he started college at Louisiana State Universitys School of Environmental Design, his goal was to become a general contractor.
But, the creative and challenging problem-solving aspects of architecture lured Taylor to follow a different path.
After graduating from college in 1965, Taylor moved to Memphis to work for the architecture firm of Gassner, Nathan & Browne.
The Memphis Chapter of the AIA established the Gassner Award in 1977 to commemorate Gassner for his contributions advancing design.
Past recipients of the award include Thomas Nathan, Henry Turley Jr. and Gregory Hnedak.
Taylor left the Gassner firm after 18 months and went to work for Mel OBrien & Associates.
Before leaving the OBrien firm, Taylor worked as a project architect for Pickwick Landing Inn.
At a Christmas party in 1966, Taylor received a special gift when he met Teresa Cummings. The two were married the following June.
In September 1970, Taylor founded his own firm, Granville Taylor Architect, Metcalf Crump, Associate.
On Sept. 27, the birth of Taylors first child, John Michael, followed the birth of his business by 15 days.
The first project his firm worked on was the design of a courthouse for his hometown in Kentucky.
The design was never used, because officials decided to remodel the existing courthouse rather than build a new one, Taylor said.
On Sept. 27, 1973, Taylors wife gave birth to a daughter, Heather Kathleen.
Meanwhile, his business continued to grow and although it was remodeling jobs and designing church additions, Taylor said he began getting contracts for projects with city, county and state governments.
"They always try you out on smaller projects. Its good business," he said.
Through the years, Taylors firm has designed the Memphis, Light, Gas & Water training facility, the academy building used by the Memphis Police Department and the McWherter Center in Jackson.
As his architecture firm flourished, his family grew.
On his 45th birthday, he received an extraordinary gift, when the couple had their third child, Daniel Brendon.
Taylors work through the years has been instrumental in shaping the citys history.
He lead a lobbying effort in the early '70s to keep an interstate from cutting across Riverside Drive through what is now the South Bluffs.
Having attended school in Baton Rouge, La., where the Downtown view of the Mississippi is obstructed by a levee spurred him to fight to preserve Memphis riverside landscape, he said.
The firm is now in the final stages of designing the new Pickwick Landing State Park Inn and Conference Center, revisiting a project he worked on when he was just starting out as an architect.
He said the facility features a 500-seat conference center and 124 guest rooms on which the bidding process will soon begin.
A member of the Leadership Memphis Class of 1981 and Rotary Club, Taylor said he believes civic work is a responsibility, like family and business.
"I think we all have a certain obligation to serve church, community and our profession," Taylor said.
It is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
Taylor, who lost his father to cancer in 1975, said it was surviving his own bout with the disease that drew him into working with the American Cancer Society, although he said was initially reticent about sharing his own experience.
"I had some trepidation about going public with it," he said.
But, at a Rotary Club meeting, he told a representative from the American Cancer Society privately about his experience.
"She called me later and said, Boy do I have just the right job for you," he said.
That job was chairing the charitys signature fund-raising event, Relay for Life.
Last year, Taylor, Gardner Architects Inc. won an award from the American Cancer Society for raising the most funds a total of about $17,000.
"Its the easiest sales job Ive ever had. So many are touched by cancer," he said.
Taylor said it was early detection and treatment that saved his life.
"Dont ignore the symptoms, seek medical advice and live a healthy life," he said.
name: Granville Taylor
date of birth: Feb. 16, 1937
education: Louisiana State University
School of Environmental Design
Bachelor of Architecture
marital status: married, 31 years, wife, Teresa
children: John Michael Taylor, 28; Heather Kathleen
Taylor, 25; Daniel Brendon Taylor, 16
hobbies: SEC football, sports fan