The future is bright for architecture firm McMillan Pazdan Smith

April 24, 2019

Since McMillan Pazdan Smith opened its doors in Asheville in 2009, the community-based architecture firm has gained incredible momentum, nearly tripling in size the last two years alone. In our Asheville Spotlight Q+A, Office Director Lindsey Rhoden answers a few questions about what has driven this unique company’s growth.

Tell us about your business and the role you play in it. 

McMillan Pazdan Smith is a community-based architecture firm with six offices across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Our Asheville office has had the opportunity to work on multiple impactful projects in Western North Carolina, including the new Lee Walker Heights affordable housing complex, renovations to the Asheville Community Theater, improvements to Memorial Stadium, and the expansion and renovation of Community High School in Swannannoa.

As the Asheville Office Director, I oversee the day-to-day operations for our team. We’re a close-knit group, and each of us brings a unique talent and perspective to the process – ultimately, our collaboration as a team is a big part of how we excel at delivering Good Design for our clients.

How has your company grown over the years?

Across all of our offices, the firm has enjoyed consistent, sustainable growth over the past decade. I’m most excited, of course, about how the Asheville office is growing! Since we opened our doors in 2009, we have been gaining momentum, and in the past two years alone, we’ve nearly tripled in size. Not only do we have a strong team supporting our work in Western North Carolina – we’ve got the right team for the long term, a big part of what makes our culture so exciting to clients and team members alike.

What makes your business unique in its field?

One of the most unique things about how we operate as an architecture firm is our studio structure. Because each of our offices is intensely focused on the local community it serves, we’re able to be dedicated to our clients, invested in the local community, and well-informed about our design context – but, with the added benefit of the larger firm structure supporting our projects. We enjoy the benefits of both a large firm and a small firm at the same time.

Organizing around studios also gives us the opportunity to cultivate deeper expertise in a particular market segment, like healthcare or education or hospitality. Even when that particular expertise is located in one of our other offices, we can combine the local knowledge and client service of our Asheville team seamlessly with the particular industry knowledge of team members in a nearby location.

In Asheville, this is a particularly unique setup – we have the luxury of feeling like a small firm and knowing our clients well (many of whom are friends and neighbors), but we still have resources on our team that make us competitive with national leaders in the field. When the project is done, we’re still here, which means we’re invested in getting the details right, making the relationships last, and designing enduring buildings that truly meet the client’s needs.

For example, on our current Memorial Stadium improvement project with the City of Asheville, several of our team members actually play soccer on that field regularly and have worked with the city on numerous other projects. They’re personally invested in the outcome and know the local processes to guide the project smoothly. But, our team also includes a Sports Design expert from one of our South Carolina offices who provides the research, trends, insights, and sport-specific knowledge that would be hard to otherwise find in Asheville.

What is your favorite part about doing business in the Asheville area?

I love that our citizens are so passionate about where they live and work. As architects, we want to design spaces that serve the users best. We put a lot of effort into thinking about how a specific building will fit in the greater context of the city, the neighborhood, or campus.  Working in Asheville means there is no shortage of client’s customers, or even or own neighbors, that will let you know what they think is best for where they live and work.  That makes our job even more important to ensure we provide Good Design – buildings that are functional, beautiful, cost-effective, and well-designed. As much as our fellow Ashevillians care about the city, we have to also care about creating buildings that are long-lasting and contribute well to the quality of life for all of us. This is all part of what makes my job so challenging and fulfilling every single day.

What does the word “Community” mean to you?

For MPS, the word community matters. From the beginning, our Managing Principals have been very intentional about ensuring that each office is doing business where our team members live, work, and play. Managing Principal Ron Smith is particularly invested in the Western North Carolina community, having grown up in Sylva and led countless projects in the region over the decades since.

Whether we’re renovating an Operating Room for Mission/HCA, designing a new classroom building for Buncombe County Schools, or working to develop acres of workforce multi-family housing, we know that our work will impact the Asheville community. And that’s really why we do it. Many of you probably know Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” That frame of mind is an important part of how we approach each project, meaning that the communities we serve matter with every single project, regardless of the size, the scale of complexity, or even the amount of spotlight it gets.