February 12, 2015

Designing in Stealth Mode

Ray Trevillian, AIA, decided to become an architect in eighth grade, when a career aptitude test told him he’d do the job well. Then he interviewed a real architect and asked him what the work was like.

PerfectMatch_Ray“I decided right then and there that I wanted to be an architect,” Ray says. “And funny enough, I got my first job after college working for that same person.”

From there, he moved into the heavy industrial world, where he collaborated with hundreds of engineers. At one firm of 125 employees, Ray was the only architect. “I really had to know my stuff,” he says. “But that experience gave me the chance to learn about the manufacturing process, which is incredibly unique. Now, I understand how engineers think and what they need to do their jobs well, and I’m a better designer and project manager for it.”

Ray, who joined Baskervill 14 years ago, approaches his work with a pragmatism that is well-suited for the highly complex nature of advanced technology projects. “At Virginia Tech, we were trained as architects with the understanding that form follows function,” he says. “In designing highly technical projects, we shape the building around the manufacturing process itself.” (Ray jokingly refers to this process as “the guts” and the building as “the box.”)

He recalls a job he did in the 1980s, a $275 million building with two halves: one side for raw products and one side for processing these products. “The real challenge was the multi-disciplinary nature of the job,” he says. “It required many kinds of materials handling systems and chemicals.”

The production equipment was so heavy and sophisticated that only a powerful crane— one with a load capacity of 100 tons, a reach of 450 feet, and 44 water-filled shipping containers required for ballast—could place it in the building. “That project taught me a lot about putting a building together,” Ray says. “It made me aware of every aspect of the design.”

To be successful as an architect in this sector, you need to be able to think fast. Ray refers to his first meeting with a client as “a quick study” where he suggests a few different solutions on the spot. Before he leaves the first meeting, he has an idea of what the project is going to look like. “You need to be able to size up your situation and design on your feet, and you need to have an understanding of the complexities of the manufacturing sector,” Ray says.

Perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to keep the details under wraps. Ray calls himself Baskervill’s “stealth architect” because of the sensitive nature of many of his projects. “I’m privy to a lot of confidential client processes. What we do in advanced tech is rarely what gets featured in Architectural Record. Sometimes, it’s not even something you’re allowed to talk to about.”

While the nature of the job means that he is not often recognized for his innovative design sense outside of the office, what matters more to Ray is the role he plays in bringing manufacturing back to the United States. “I’m helping the industry to create environments that are more efficient and profitable,” he says, “and I love watching the companies I’m working with to succeed.”

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