Rainy Hamilton Jr. is a principal of Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA), a Detroit-based multi-disciplinary design firm he co-founded in 1994 with landscape architect and planner Kent Anderson. For more than 20 years, HAA has designed projects around the world and close to home, including being part of the design team for Ford Field, MGM Grand Detroit, The Henry Ford Rouge Factory Tours, Little Caesars Arena, and the upcoming Motown Center. DBusiness Daily News spoke with Hamilton about the evolution of design.
DDN: What impact do you think architecture can have on a city? Detroit specifically?
RH: I think architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture can have a tremendous impact on the success of any built environment in any city. I used to say a real corny phrase that good design is good business. If you think through your design and execute a well thought out design then it will actually increase the client’s bottom line, be it manufacturing, entertainment, or hospitality. So, good design is good business for clients. One of the things we’ve done well is to have the privilege of working with clients like MGM Grand Detroit, that are hospitality and entertainment motivated, and they practice good gamesmanship. They are always trying to create environments that are exciting and uplifting from the time you drive onto their property to the time you leave. When we’re working with clients like MGM, we take that hospitality experience and weave it through projects we do for healthcare clients. Our healthcare clients appreciate the fact that we’re able to help them improve the quality of their spaces from the curb to the front door and throughout their facilities.
DDN: What is the business philosophy at HAA?
RH: We are problem solvers. Our clients come to us with problems, they have a need. They need a new facility built or an existing facility renovated and we help them to develop solutions to their problems that are creative and stimulating for the users and the occupants. We solve problems creatively and that’s our business philosophy. A typical problem a client might bring to us is that they want to build a new facility, they have x amount of dollars to build it, and usually those two are not in balance. Usually the appetite is larger than the budget. We usually have to fashion a program in terms of what the client is going to build. We really have to work with them to balance that program to their budget. That’s where we begin: what are the client’s expectations? What do they want to build? What is their vision for the project? What do they want to bring to the table in terms of resources for the building? It’s a definite collaboration. It’s us understanding our client’s business goals, needs, and vision to work with them as a partner. We really have to listen, understand, and fashion solutions to their problems to their project for them to review, approve, and move forward with execution.
DDN: What are of your most memorable projects?
RH: For the Detroit Public Schools, we did the Detroit School of Arts (DSA) in Midtown. It is a school that trains people to be musicians and artists. There was also a partnership with Detroit Public Television at the time, so there are actually studio spaces within the facility. Those students were being taught in the old Murray Wright Vocational Building, which if you can imagine learning the tuba in a space that was as small as a standard classroom, hearing damage was probably happening in those times. For those students to walk into DSA for the first time, and see the facilities that they now can practice and learn in, was really a monumental moment for me. The other project that I’m really excited about is one in Brush Park where we’re working with a team from Bedrock. We’re going to be bringing on a brand-new neighborhood of contemporary housing, which is really new for Detroit. It’s going to break the mold of what the traditional house and living unit has been in Detroit for decades. We’re really excited to see that coming out of the ground right now in Brush Park. You get to live in Brush Park, walk over to the QLine, and walk over to a Red Wings Piston’s game. We’re excited that we’re involved in the Little Caesars Arena right now, that’s going to be cool. Also, we’re the lead architects on the expansion of the Motown Museum. We’re looking forward for that project to break ground this year.
DDN: Any advice for those looking to start their own firms?
RH: I would say learn your craft. Practice, perhaps on others’ dimes. If you’re an aspiring architect, work for one or more firm. Get that experience and learn as much as you can. Participate in as many roles in that practice as you can so that you’ll understand how the profession works from the intern’s perspective to the owner of the firm’s perspective. Try to work in every category. In fact, our training and requirements are to take the exam (to receive your license) and that your training be across a broad spectrum of roles and functions within the firm. I would definitely say learn your craft, be passionate about it, work hard at it, and become an expert.
DDN: What’s next?
RH: We’re looking forward to our relationship with the Bedrock team. We’re looking forward to the Hudson’s project, which will be a very significant high rise on the old Hudson’s site on Woodward. We are also looking at Atlanta for another office location. Atlanta, like Detroit, is a very progressive city. They’re building a lot of mixed-use residential projects, so we are exploring that and looking forward to having an office there before the end of the year.
HAA is located at 1435 Randolph St. in Detroit. More information can be found here.