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Guild Hardy believes in designing buildings for human spirit

Gulfport — The award-winning architectural firm Guild Hardy is 52 years old, but not content to rest on its laurels. Growth and innovation continue. Of 30 personnel, eight are licensed architects, and the firm just added a second interior designer and a professional engineer. The firm is actively recruiting more professional help, and recently went to Mississippi State University to schedule upcoming interviews.

In June, Guild Hardy will double its present office space when it moves into a 12,000-square-foot facility in the Biloxi Commerce Park, combining the Gulfport and Biloxi offices. This location will be more centralized and will have direct access to Interstate 10 via the Cedar Lake interchange.

“It will be more efficient to have everyone under one roof,” said David Hardy, vice president. “It will be a true studio environment with a big, open area that will allow our teams to have flexibility. There will also be a model prototype shop with scale models and full-size details. That will help young interns who often don’t understand how buildings work.”

But the more important reasons for this growth are to provide better coordination and a single point of service for clients who primarily are from the state’s six southernmost counties. Positive feedback in the form of repeat clients is the key, say Hardy and the firm’s president, W. Taylor Guild III.

Guild’s father, Willis T. Guild Jr., and Lloyd K. Grace founded the firm in 1953. It has always been focused on repeat clients. One of those, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), has been a client since the 1950s. Among the numerous buildings designed for MGCCC, the Fine Arts Theatre on the Jefferson Davis Campus won a state AIA Honor Award.

David Hardy joined the firm in 1992 and became a partner in 1995. “Diversification is what we want,” he says. “We’re a large firm in a growing market and we want to provide all services to include graphic and interior design and architectural and engineering services. We believe that is an advantage to clients and reduces the potential for miscommunication.”

Guild and Hardy credit director of design Stephen A. Stojcich with preventing them from designing ugly buildings.

“He’s the most creative person in the firm and keeps us from having the same design over and over,” Hardy said. “We must respond to clients’ needs and desires.”

One example is the Stephen R. Covey Conference Center designed for Mississippi Power Company. The large waterfront building has an inviting, lodge feel and blends with nature. Yet, miraculously, the programming and design phases, awarding of the contract and total completion of the project occurred within 10 months.

“They came to us in March of 2003 with an idea of what they wanted and we designed, built and moved them into it in December,” Taylor Guild said. “It’s very rare to start and see the completion of a project of this magnitude in such a short time.”

The $80-million design and renovation projects for the Biloxi School District were a milestone for Guild Hardy Architects. It included a state-of-the-art high school that would make many colleges drool, three new elementary schools, additions to four elementary schools and renovation of the old high school for use as a junior high. The project was recognized in School Planning & Management, a national publication, and North Bay Elementary School received an award for the interior showcase that uses six different color schemes to identify the school’s innovative teaching pods.

“Overall, that was an ambitious building program that was completed in 18 months because schools start at a certain time and we had no choice,” Hardy said.

Guild Hardy also has the distinction of working as local architects of record with nationally and internationally acclaimed architects on Gulf Coast projects. The most notable is Frank Gehry, who designed the new Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art now under construction in Biloxi.

“We’re responsible for all the things you don’t see and that continues to be an exciting project,” Hardy said. “It will be finished in 2006 and will be an international attraction, bringing a different type of tourists to the area.”

The Infinity Space Center at the NASA Stennis facility in Hancock County has a $45-million budget and was designed by an architect from Vancouver, Canada. “That firm has finished their part, and we’ll pick up this project this month and take the lead,” Guild said. “We like that sort of thing. We can be involved with firms outside the area who have a different expertise and we provide our expertise.”

Guild Hardy also just signed a contract to work with TDS of Atlanta on the multi-million dollar Coast Convention Center expansion to be complete in 2007. TDS is an international premiere firm in convention center design.

“It makes our firm better, and we pick up experience with experts,” Guild added. “We’re an open-minded firm. We look to learn from others and expect to do more of this type of thing in the future.”

Hardy says the Coast deserves to have that kind of expertise from national experts who know the trends of the industry coupled with Guild Hardy who understand local needs and history. “Every client deserves the best design possible,” he said.

This firm believes in keeping green spaces, redeveloping downtowns, preserving the area’s uniqueness and client inspiration. They are a member of the United States Green Building Council, promoting the importance of implementing materials and design features that are not only energy efficient but environmentally friendly.

“We want to have an impressive space in every building, something for the human spirit,” Guild said. “Each design meets the spirit and expectations of the client. 15th Place in Gulfport has that uniqueness. So do Gorenflo and Nichols Elementary Schools, which we are submitting for state and regional awards. They are not out of the same mold, are innovative and respond to the neighborhoods.”

Hardy says an institutional look is an antithesis of what his firm does. “All our designs are designed for the human spirit and can stand the test of time,” he said. “The best compliments we hear are that someone loves going to work or to school in a building we designed.”

Looking to the future, Guild and Hardy say they will continue to concentrate on the lower six counties and their commitment to keep getting better at services for clients.

“We want to really keep our clients happy. We don’t see the need to go all over the place,” Guild, 48, said.

And Hardy, 39, added, “We will respond to the market and develop talent in our firm. We’re set up to have more partners and want to have young blood come in as we get older.”

In addition to Guild, Hardy and Stojcich, other partners are Joseph B. Crain and Mark E. Lishen.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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