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VOL. 118 | NO. 30 | Wednesday, February 18, 2004

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Imagination is a function that, at times, is most abundant when its most needed

Local Architect Pursues New Creative Challenge


The Daily News

Growing up in a rural Mississippi town, Jeff Blackledge learned the necessity of tapping into his imagination.

There wasnt much around to do, so you had to create your own fun, he said.

New firm. Co-founder of local architecture firm Archimania, the Memphian broke away to start his own firm, Blackledge Architecture, about five weeks ago. One of his goals for the new firm is to latch more firmly onto the creative aspects of design work.

My passion is on the artistic side and not just the pragmatic side of architecture, he said.

The office is located at 266 S. Front St., not far from some of the first clients of Blackledges new firm. One of his initial projects is the conversion of the old D. Canale building on Front Street into 20 loft-style condominiums. A second project has Blackledge designing 20 new townhomes, also in the South Main District.

Blackledge said many clients fail to understand how a unique, well-designed building can set their businesses apart from competition, adding that many architecture firms stick to conventional, common design styles to appease clients.

Creative advantage. Thus, theres less competition for smaller firms eager to offer new or alternative designs.

There are not a lot of small design firms in Memphis, but there are a lot of medium- to large-size firms, he said. Theres only so much creative work here.

When afforded the opportunity, Blackledge likes to promote the advantages of creative design and will take the time to educate anyone willing to listen.

I like to talk to a client who is new to this process about what creative thinking can do to help promote that business, he said. Its about creating a space that people are eager to visit and that helps motivate employees.

Maintaining the challenge. Blackledge, a graduate of Mississippi State University, has worked as a project manager at J. Wise Smith Associates. Hes received about 20 local, state and national design awards.

He said many of his peers in the architecture field have found it difficult to hold on to the idea of creating something unique as the pressures to take on lucrative cookie-cutter projects to pay the bills took charge.

Many architects are reined in after school and lose that energy they once had, he said. I didnt ever want to fall into that state because I feel that its your spirit that comes out in what you do.

Blackledge said projects dont have to be large in size or budget to be challenging. His work has included medical facilities, homes and other projects.

Theres nothing I wont try to do with the opportunity to do quality work, he said.

Customer satisfaction. After Blackledge served as lead architect on a design project for Memphis-based Joyce Signs, owner Joyce Lower hired Blackledge to design her familys lakeview home in Heber Springs, Ark.

We felt like the creative work that Jeff does and the views could make a really interesting statement and a lovely home, Lower said.

She said Blackledge is mild-mannered, but underneath that composure is a pool of creativity.

Jeffs ideas are out of the ordinary hes very thoughtful and comes up with ideas that are well thought out, she said. He can take your ideas with the budget that you have and create something thats so well thought out it takes your breath away.

In control. For an architect working as a partner in a firm, pressure is shared among the employees. Now, Blackledge welcomes the fact that all the work rests on his shoulders.

Right now theres a lot of pressure, but over time Im hoping that pressure may dissipate some, he said. I dont have all the answers right now. Theres still a great deal of work to establish, but its fun pressure, and I like the fact that Im in control of it.

  Blackledge Architecture

Owner: Jeff Blackledge

Founded: January 2004

Basics: The former Archimania architects new firm emphasizes a creative approach to design.


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