In today’s Four on Friday, we chat with Paul Van Slyke, a partner with Goode Van Slyke Architecture (GVSA), an Atlanta-based company that is one of four architectural firms working on the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium. He talks about the range of properties his firm works on, his time studying abroad and the satisfaction of being a lacrosse coach.

Paul 2014Give us a summary of your firm – how old is it, what's the company's philosophy and what kinds of projects do you all work on?

Van Slyke: We are 18 years old and considered a general practice firm with a focus on design. We have been told that the bigger and more complicated the project, the better we seem to do, and this does seem to be the case. We have designed performing arts centers, many educational buildings, senior centers, office buildings, even an occasional single-family home and many more building types. While we perform traditional architectural design tasks, we also have executed a number of very significant master plans, including mixed-use projects and even a small town in Alabama.

Our most recent project of note is being one of four architects on the new Falcons stadium, for which we are designing 300,000 square feet of event-level space, a 700-car parking deck and administrative offices. As stated by the owner, we have shown vision and also an ability to deliver large amounts of design in a compressed schedule. GVSA has taken the initiative to create the Stadium District Master Plan that maps out development opportunities surrounding the new Falcons stadium and The Gulch in downtown Atlanta.

Educational projects have always been a constant in our portfolio. My partner Chris Goode and I both came from well-established, larger firms in Atlanta, but our first projects were small additions to and renovations of elementary schools. We progressed from the K-12 market to the university level and then bridged into the private sector.

We still are very busy with educational projects, and this experience is now serving to support many of the larger mixed-use projects that are actually districts that include all that a community needs to sustain itself. I am a founding member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Congress of New Urbanism and really enjoy creating larger, complex master plans.

As far as a workplace goes, we try to emphasize being a deadline-driven office versus a punch-the-clock office. This fosters teamwork, collaboration and a shared passion for success.

GVSA purchased an old warehouse in the Old Fourth Ward 12 years ago and renovated it, helping to spark some of the successful reactivation of this popular Atlanta neighborhood. This has helped some of our private-sector clients know that we too understand the decision-making process of a commercial property owner.

Our goal is simple: to do great work. 

What drew you to architecture, and when did you know that you wanted to become an architect?

Van Slyke: I wanted to be an architect as far back as I can remember. I think it was the marriage of science and art. I also think the house I grew up in on Long Island may have sponsored some of my interest as well.

You've studied architecture in Paris, London and Cambridge – which of those three experiences abroad was your favorite?

Van Slyke: I spent a full year in Paris studying at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, and it allowed me to really get under the skin of the city and experience it to its fullest extent. The last couple weeks I was there, I was still scampering around to see things I had not yet seen.

Our motto was, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education,” and I think it was a great credo to live by. Paris was the best of the three, and that year changed my life forever. 

If you couldn't be an architect, what would you like to do?

Van Slyke: If I had made another choice in my 20s, it probably would have been a stockbroker. I always had a fondness for Wall Street, even as a kid, and have always liked the excitement of the risk-taking involved with being entrepreneurial.

I would say if I was given that choice now, I might be a lacrosse coach. I have coached many levels, from fourth graders to college, and it never gets old to me. There is always something new to learn, and part of the experience is very introspective as you evaluate how you communicate with others.

When coaching youth, it always feels as if you are providing something of real meaning to young men that will hopefully be a fond memory in their later years and somehow make a difference in their lives.