DKLEVY is a full-service, client focused architectural firm looking to design the best experience for each client. Team members discuss their favorite design trends, memorable projects and inspiration for architectural design.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
Daniel Levy, Architect: A love for drawing came with my first sketchbook that I can remember, a Mickey Mouse sketchbook from Disney World. It was there, seeing worlds come to life on paper, watching the animators at Disney, that a passion for drawing and creating was born.
Chris Morris, Architectural Project Manager: My father and I built and remodeled houses starting when I was 11 years old. In middle and high school, I also took many woodworking and drafting classes which kept my interest until college. I graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a Bachelor of Architecture.
Rodney Calvin, Architectural Project Manager: My interest in design and architecture started in high school with a site visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. After that visit, I found I had an affinity for perspective drawing and building design. The rest is history. I received a B.S. of Architecture at the University of Maryland and Master of Architecture at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Keith Percic, Architect: My grandfather was a carpenter, a visionary, and one of my heroes. When he returned from World War II, he cleared some land and built his own home on a piece of property close to the Chesapeake Bay. He designed it so that, as his family grew, so could his home. He did most of the work without electricity. My parents saw how my grandfather’s craftsmanship and creativity inspired me when I was young and helped guide me into the fulfilling practice of architecture that I enjoy today. I received a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
WHAT INTRIGUED YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE DKLEVY ARCHITECTURE FIRM?
KP: I think the most obvious is that it’s a much smaller, closer knit group. The firm I came from had 30 people so it’s just nice (here). It seems like everybody kind of knows everything about the projects that are going on.
I had a friend I sat down with for lunch this summer and he asked, ‘if you could do anything in the world and money wasn’t a concern, what would you do?’ And he said, ‘why aren’t you doing that? What are you scared of?’ I told him what my answer was and that answer was I want to be full-time ministry; he asked, ‘what’s holding you back?’
I started looking into it and as soon as I shared that with my family, the next day Daniel contacted me and asked if I wanted to sit down for breakfast. So we did and I was like, ‘Daniel, you’re probably going to regret inviting me for breakfast because this is the path we’re going down.’ Rather than turning up at it, he really embraced it and smiled and said, ‘my firm exists for people like you to come up as a launch point for what God has for you next.’
DL: I tried to convince Keith that there is a real ministry opportunity working here with us!
CM: Having the freedom to be here and to have control of your own projects for the most part. The culture is a lot different. We have a lot more fun while still getting everything done which is I think God’s plan. We goof around quite a bit for the amount of work we get done anyways. God’s vision here is a lot clearer. That’s probably the biggest thing.
WHAT IS A “GOOD DESIGN” TO YOU?
RC: I think what makes a good project is one that everyone is satisfied with. So, working toward the same goal of aesthetically pleasing, functional and for everyone who is using the building to be what it is they need.
WHAT IS A DAY IN THE DKLEVY OFFICE WHEN CRAFTING DESIGN PLANS?
DK: Basically, it’s a lot of coffee! Come in and get coffee. Check emails. Get more coffee.
CM: Three hours of email. It’s probably not as glorified as some other things.
RC: We brainstorm constantly throughout the day. Discussing from one side of the office to the other, and asking Daniel what he thinks of ideas.
CM: We had meetings here yesterday where we were designing the side lighting for a senior living community. We had everyone around the table and everyone had their unique skill set and then we worked through every little area; everyone had their inputs and we basically live-designed it right there.
DK: I think everyone has their sweet spot or their skillset but at any part of the design, even if you’re not lead designer, everything comes together as a team. Everyone has a good idea and it is a real collaborative kind of environment. When we are this tight of a team, you can’t really do just one thing. You’ve got to be involved in all aspects. So it really is cool seeing it come all together.
WHAT WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE PROJECT YOU HAVE COMPLETED?
DK: Knoxville High School. We love to see new life breathed into old building and seeing them being used creatively. Repurposing old buildings and using the existing inventory is not just sustainable design but it is also similar to the work God does in our own life and I see a lot cool connections there. Also, Knoxville High won a national award so we are all proud of that!
DESCRIBE YOUR MOST FAVORITE DESIGN TRENDS.
CM: Farmhouse and historic renovation. I live in a 220-year-old cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere. No, it does not have to do with Chip Gaines, although I do like some of their designs, and yes, I have referenced their designs. For example, we design several farmhouse projects that we are working on right now so they’ll be really awesome.
DK: Creative use of materials. We are working on a theme park project currently and just looking object in a new way, how you can take a drain culvert and making it into a dwelling unit, this outside of the box thinking has been really challenging. So, just using things differently and creatively is inspiring.
KP: Mine would be off-the-grid housing where you’re not using any energy from the grid. It’s totally separated. I’ve done sketches for my own personal house. I know I want to do it, but I haven’t been able to work on it. Usually you have clients but they’re not quite there yet. But, I think we’re moving that way.
RC: I think I like the adapted use type projects and instilling a modern character to those as well. I’m working on the pharmacy project doing that now.
WHO MAKES THE BEST ESPRESSO IN THE OFFICE?
RC: I’ve never tried anyone else’s espresso.
CM: Well, he drinks it black, and Daniel puts ice cream in his so definitely Daniel.
RC: I disagree. I haven’t had it but I guess it could be really good though.
WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR DESIGN?
DK: We strive to “design and experience” a (good) memorable one. We are inspired by our experiences and how they impact our design choices. I’ve been blessed to travel a lot; over in Europe and throughout the country. Just seeing some of the beautiful places that have been created and getting inspired by those experiences is a knowledge base to draw from.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE PART OF THE ARCHITECTURE DESIGN PROCESS?
RC: I enjoy most schematic design and conceptual. A lot of my skill sets also fall in the graphics and photoshop renderings and enjoy those things. That’s the beginning of each project.
CM: I would say probably my favorite or what I do the best is taking the idea and making it reality and making it work. After the basic idea of the building is formed, then I take it and turn it into something that is functional for the client and then work to get it built.
KP: I think I’m very similar to Chris, but it’s also the people. It’s the client. It’s the contractor. It’s all of the engineers. I call it the quarterbacking role where you’re pulling all of those people together and then at the very end of the job you’ve got hopefully an outstanding product that the owner is happy with, and they can appreciate all of those extra hours that you spend to make sure that every detail was executed according to plan. It’s the people.
DK: I think just the challenge of this business keeps me going. You have to be able to problem solve and be motivated by this while creating beautiful solutions. Every day is different; there’s always something new going on and no project or site is the same. It’s a very fascinating field with all the moving parts and people impacted by the built environment, as and architect you are always learning, and always growing.
Learn more about DKLEVY, the full service, client focused architectural firm at DKLEVY.com.