An architect at a Sioux Falls-based architecture and engineering firm has assumed a new role to enhance design and creative initiatives across the organization.

Chase Kramer was recently named Director of Design at TSP, which has been in Sioux Falls since 1930.

The position was created to place greater emphasis on achieving design excellence for clients, from start to finish.

Kramer earned a master’s degree in architecture from Iowa State University and a bachelor’s degree in art from Augustana University.

He was the lead architect for Augustana’s Hamre Recital Hall renovation, which earned a 2019 AIA South Dakota Merit Award, as well as the project architect on several other award-winning projects across the state. The recital hall renovation included an entirely redesigned seating layout and new chairs to accommodate more patrons, new house and theatrical lighting, improved stage accessibility, a state-of-the-art sound system with recording equipment, and updated ceiling and wall treatments to achieve proper acoustics. Beyond that, it provided a refreshed and welcoming look with tasteful blue accents and warm, golden maple tones in line with the university’s branding and identity.

Kramer, who joined TSP in November 2013, said a variety of experiences have prepared him for the Director of Design position. He is familiar with potential obstacles in the design and construction process that can distract from achieving a client’s original vision, and has the skills needed to advocate for and maintain this original intent throughout the life of a project.

Kramer shared some thoughts about his enthusiasm for design.

What do you hope to accomplish in this new role?

I hope to further unify TSP as a design firm that brings great value propositions to our clients. TSP prides itself on legacy design, and I would like to build on that tradition by fostering a common understanding of design and what that means to TSP as well as our clients. Being more thoughtful and intentional in our company-wide conversations about design excellence will help us define a stronger design culture.

I’m also excited about continuing to build trust with our clients to best maintain their vision and dreams for their project. It’s important that clients are comfortable all the way through the design and construction process. This is typically a three-way partnership between the client, the design team, and the contractor. Our most significant involvement with clients takes place during design. But we are with them through construction, helping to navigate any unforeseen conditions. This can include difficult conversations, so establishing trust is key. Through it all, the goal is that clients come back to us because they had a great experience. Our reputation as a dependable advisor positions us to not only provide an important service but also an experience that clients remember fondly. The graphic deliverables such as conceptual renderings and images and the virtual reality experiences we provide during the design process are part of that positive experience. Those images and tangibles are akin to the ticket stubs and programs people save from a sporting event or a concert experience that they want to remember and cherish.

How do you define good design?

I look at two tracks when it comes to design. For the first track, you could almost replace the term “good design” with “beauty.” And there’s a classical understanding to that where I’m pulling from not only my art and liberal arts background, but also my faith background. The second track is the more logistical side of design, where we mesh form and materials with life-safety, science, physics, math, sustainability, economics, and the engineering behind it all and bring it together into one cohesive “whole.” That’s architectural design. It’s focused on both aesthetics and functional aspects. Good design balances all those functional constraints and needs equally, where each decision is intentional, and the overall result is delight – delight in a beautiful building as well as delight from exceeding a client’s project needs.

What are some improvement areas you want to address?

We’ve got a lot of knowledge across our footprint, whether it be aesthetic design talent or functional expertise in markets like school design or health care trends and various other project types. But we’re not always talking about them and sharing across our footprint as readily and efficiently as we probably could in a more collaborative atmosphere. My hope is to facilitate more of those conversations by bringing different groups together and helping connect the dots between expertise and project needs. I want our clients to know that when they work with us, they are truly getting our whole team, not just one office.

What will look different after you’ve settled into this role?

I hope to influence a higher-level calling to make our communities better by design. If we first establish that shared understanding at TSP, then a better understanding of good design will develop in the communities we serve. There are some subjective elements to what people consider “good,” but there are certainly objective elements to that as well, which is why people recognize good design, even if they can’t explain it. If we continue and expand that intentional focus in our work, we’ll talk about good design more, we’ll be able to start to explain it, and it will be reflected in our communities, our regions, and our built environments – making them better places to live.

You’re known for having a strong eye for detail, can you explain further?

With architecture, people often interface with the details in a final build. You can stand back and look at the full picture of a beautiful lobby space or the entry of a nice building and be inspired by the design vision and intent. But if you walk up and go to a stair within that lobby and you grab onto a handrail that does not fit the vision of the rest of the building, you lose some of that favorable impression. So that higher design thinking needs to come through all that smaller-scale detail work.

What are you looking forward to in terms of collaboration with your TSP colleagues?

I am looking forward to having candid, one-on-one conversations with our architects and engineers about design, but not in a supervisory role. This is a leadership position, but I’m not supervising anyone in a traditional sense, so I come to the table asking them to tell me what they think about our work. Through that, I hope to hear more about our people’s design passions and strengths. I’m hoping for more cross-pollination of ideas between our offices in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Watertown, and Rochester.

What continues to spark your passion for design?

Like many architects before me, I see architecture as the highest of all the arts, because to achieve good design, one must balance a myriad of other elements that seemingly aren’t related to art, at a massive scale, that usually has some level of public interface. Because of this, all projects can and should achieve good design. Good design results in beauty, and beauty is life-giving and uplifting. It causes people to, if even for a second, move outside of themselves, be aware of the other, and move them to want more. That’s what I seek – to move people to want more, to have those beautiful experiences with the built environment.