Joel Anderson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is an architect with CTA Architects Engineers and is the design director for their Billings, MT, office. Joel believes that good design pioneers beyond market and programmatic barriers. Drawing inspiration from an environment, Joel’s projects often exemplify a contextual approach, highlighting contemporary construction details and forms within a regional palette of materials. He has been recognized for his contributions to the industry with several awards and honors, including state and local AIA design awards.
In parallel to his architectural work, he’s climbed significant alpine first ascents in Wyoming and Montana, started a youth climbing non-profit, and published a book on rock climbing on the rims overlooking Billings. He is an alumnus of the Illinois Institute of Technology where he graduated with high honors. Recently, Modelo had the opportunity to learn more about Joel’s unique approach and design philosophy.
On CTA’s principles
CTA focuses on providing high performing design experiences for our clients, both in our projects and our process. We are pushing an idea of elegance and simplicity into our work, distilling our work down to its simplest and most timeless form and materials. We do a lot of client education around these ideas — things like focusing on long-term solutions and life cycle costs analyses. All decisions are design decisions. It’s the idea that a building should have value for fifty, one hundred, two hundred years. We’re constantly pushing this idea as an overall firm philosophy.
At the same time for myself, I’m always looking for opportunities to reflect an organic, modern feel. Working in Montana, many of our clients enjoy the rustic nature of raw materials. How do we pair that with contemporary construction systems we currently see value in as architects?
On projects that represent this approach
The Edward A. Whitney Academic Center in Sheridan, Wyoming, exemplifies this approach. Here was a college that needed to re-engineer the experience with their community and they started with the front door. The building provided a brand new admissions experience along with additional classroom support for their growing programs. With that project, we focused on permanence of the facelift, timelessness of the materials, and how it interacts with the rest of the community. The college is only fifty years old, but they plan to be a key part of that community for the rest of that community’s lifespan. We wanted a building conveying that level of permanence. At the same time, we wanted to convey the idea that the college was of this time. It’s a unique blend of some contemporary ideas with daylighting and space planning, then melding it with some of the more traditional aspects of architecture they were looking for.
I would also say Dell’s Silicon Valley campus in Santa Clara, California, was a standout project for CTA. Dell had been acquiring software companies and wanted to consolidate them under one roof. They brought us into the project early, allowing time for research and for us to learn about Dell and their design problem. It was fascinating to meet with all of the departments and discover how we could design a work environment that unified them in a single space. One aspect we studied was how to showcase the server farm technology that frequently sits in many IT tech spaces. We designed elegant solutions to questions like, “How does one remove visual barriers and enable engineers to access noisy technology while at the same time allow them to be able to work at their desks and collaborate as a team functionally?”
On the future of architecture in the next 5–10 years
I really hope we see a continued push toward a simple and focused way of life. Sustainable buildings, energy efficiency, and reduction in carbon usage effects all of us. I think architecture needs to play a serious role in starting to solve more of these world problems, and design is a part of that. I believe it is not an engineering-based solution but a full collaborative solution between entire communities. That’s one of the benefits of working at CTA — our engineers own this philosophy as well. We’re tackling that bigger picture all the time with our projects and clients.
Main image: Anderson ice climbing in the South Fork of the Shoshone, southwest of Cody, WY