Bayou Icon | Tim Brandon
article by GEORGIANN POTTS
photography by AMANDA LOCKARD
Not everyone knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up, but Tim Brandon (AIA, LEED GA, and president and founder of TBA Studio Architecture) did. He has always wanted to be an architect, even as a child. Today, he is living that dream. After working a number of years as a practicing architect, Tim established his own architectural firm, TBA Studio Architecture. Today that company and the talented team he assembled are recognized as among the very best in the country. In 2023 TBA Studio Architecture was named by Build Magazine as Best Education Architecture Design Firm 2023 and Best Elementary School Rebuild Design 2023 in the Southern United States, and National Firm of the Year by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). We are fortunate to have Tim playing a vital role in the growth of our region. Because of his incredible business success and the positive energy that he brings to literally everything, Tim Brandon is our October 2023 BayouIcon.
What does it take to be a successful architect in today’s world? When Tim Brandon is asked that question, he lists three essential keys to success. These are based on his own extensive personal experience in the field both as a practicing architect and as the owner of a major architectural firm.
First, Tim points out that for architects to be successful, they must remain up-to-date with the ever-evolving technology that they are faced with daily. Keeping abreast of the latest design software, building materials, and sustainable technologies will require study time, but that will be time well-spent to remain competitive in the field.
Secondly, Tim says that successful architects are the ones who are able to balance their artistic vision with practical constraints. Budget limitations, building codes, and client expectations must all be considered when creating designs that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The architects who can reconcile their creative aspirations with those will most likely be the most successful.
Finally, Tim emphasizes the importance of fostering an atmosphere of effective collaboration among all who are partnering on a given project. Clients, contractors, engineers – all must work together and share a common vision in order to achieve their goal. He adds that the successful architect will take care to be sure that everyone communicates effectively and works in harmony until the project is completed.
“These are all challenges that I’ve faced along the way,” Tim says. “They have tested my problem-solving skills, adaptability, and ability to build strong working relationships. They have been instrumental in my growth in my field, and have pushed me to find innovative solutions and refine my approach to overall project management and design.”
WHAT SHALL I BE WHEN I GROW UP
Tim was born in Hammond, Louisiana. His parents, Larry and Sue Brandon, met in high school when they were growing up in Gonzales. Interestingly, both of their fathers worked with their hands. Tim’s paternal grandfather, Verdell Brandon, was a machinist and worked on a lathe. His maternal grandfather, Clevland Bourque, was a barber, farmer, and home builder. Tim’s dad was a salesman, selling farm chemicals. His mom was an elementary school teacher and counselor.
When Tim was 5 years old, the family moved to San Antonio and remained there until Tim was in the 5th grade. At that point the family moved back to Louisiana and settled in West Monroe. Tim attended Drew Elementary School, West Monroe Junior High, and graduated from West Monroe High School. His passion during these years was fishing, hunting, and playing baseball although he played every sport he could. “My favorite subject was 6th hour during which we practiced whatever sport was currently being played,” Tim explains with a laugh.
As a child, Tim loved building forts out of scrap wood, sketching and modeling buildings from clay, and imagining innovative structures that could enhance people’s lives. Tim’s desire to become an architect heightened during high school as he explored new subjects including art, mathematics, and physics – all of which coincidentally are integral to architecture. “High school provided me with a broader perspective on the world,” Tim explains. “It helped me refine my academic and creative skills, and ultimately prepared me for the rigorous architectural education and training that lay ahead.”
During those early years Tim learned many important lessons from his parents that shaped both his personal and professional life. “My father taught me discipline and hard work,” he says, “and my mother taught me love and kindness. They are both my heroes.” Together they instilled in Tim the importance of attention to detail and of patience – qualities crucial in the field of architecture where precision and perseverance are essential. Tim’s parents also emphasized the importance of creativity and thinking “outside of the box.” That emphasis forced Tim to become innovative and to develop unique solutions to problems. “The lessons learned from my parents have not only enriched my architectural practice, but have also molded me into a more resilient, creative, and empathetic professional and person,” Tim says.
PURSUING A CAREER IN ARCHITECTURE
When Tim entered Louisiana Tech University, he was fully committed to pursuing a career in architecture. He was driven by what he calls “. . . a passion for designing spaces that could inspire, solve real-world problems, and leave a lasting impact on communities and individuals.” At Louisiana Tech, Tim learned that architecture is multifaceted, and that design isn’t just about aesthetics but also includes problem-solving, sustainability, and the human experience. “I wanted to shape environments that could positively impact people’s lives, whether I was designing a sustainable, energy-efficient building or creating spaces that fostered community and well-being,” Tim says. “The architectural education I received in college allowed me to explore various design philosophies, technologies, and historical influences all of which gave me a rich foundation on which to build my career.”
Two professors were important mentors for Tim during his Louisiana Tech years. Professor Robert Moran (Professor Emeritus) influenced Tim’s understanding of design principles and architectural theory. Professor Robert Fakelmann (Professor Emeritus) taught Tim the importance of creativity and innovation, and that it was perfectly fine to push the boundaries of traditional architectural design.
When Tim began his professional career, he worked with Hugh Parker, an architect who became his professional mentor. “His guidance extended beyond that expected in an ordinary traditional ‘employer figure’,” Tim says. “He provided me with practical insights into the industry, project management, and the nuances of working with clients.”
Moran, Fakelmann, and Parker each provided guidance that has proved invaluable in shaping Tim’s architectural perspective both as a designer and as a businessman. “These men shared not only their knowledge and experience, but also encouraged me to think critically, explore diverse design approaches, and develop a strong work ethic,” Tim remembers. “They have had a lasting impact on my career, reinforcing my commitment to design excellence and the holistic practice of architecture.”
DISCOVERING A LOVE GREATER THAN ARCHITECTURE
While pursuing architectural studies at Louisiana Tech, Tim met Jollie Rodes – the love of his life. Jollie was pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. The two dated for a year, and then paused a year while Tim was in the military. When he returned, they resumed their courtship for another 3 years and then married in her hometown of Benton, Louisiana, in February 1993 at the Benton United Methodist Church.
Their union produced three children – two sons and a daughter. Their oldest, son Kohl, is a licensed veterinarian living in Benton. He is engaged to Payton Whittington and they will be married in May 2024. Their middle child, son Kade, is a licensed architect who is married to Katie Edwards Brandon – Kade’s high school sweetheart. They live in West Monroe where Kade works at TBA Studio Architecture (aka TBA Studio) with his dad. The youngest, daughter Kiley, also married her high school sweetheart Colton Anderson and Kiley is pursuing her Masters in Mental Health Counseling. They also live in West Monroe.
Tim and Jollie are extremely proud of all of their children and are especially excited to welcome their first grandchildren to be born this winter. Kade and Katie are expecting their first child in December, and Kiley and Colton will welcome their first in February. Tim’s dreams for his children – and future grandchildren – are simple, and yet profound. “I want them to have the courage to follow their passions, the resilience to overcome challenges, and the kindness to make a positive impact on the world,” this proud father says.
A LEAP OF FAITH
In 2004, Tim founded TBA Studio in West Monroe. His dream was to create a full-service architectural design firm that would use what Tim describes as “. . . a service-oriented approach to bringing big ideas to life.” Since its founding, TBA Studio has grown with offices in Bossier City and San Antonio. In September 2023, TBA Studio acquired Douglas Architects, Inc., a highly regarded San Antonio architectural firm with a 17-year history of excellence in the field.
Just as Tim’s years as a practicing architect working for others had its share of challenges, so have his years as a business owner. Tim readily admits that the most unexpected thing he encountered when he opened his own firm was the impact of client relationships on the creative process. He had anticipated focusing primarily on design and project management. To his surprise, Tim discovered that the trust and collaboration between clients and architects equally influence the outcome of a project. “I learned that building strong, open lines of communication and truly understanding the client’s vision weren’t just professional responsibilities but were also cornerstones for successful, meaningful design work,” Tim explained. “This was an unexpected but valuable lesson that taught me the importance of the interplay between human connection and architectural creativity.”
The challenges of managing finances and client relationships while developing and then meeting project timelines were significant. Even so, meeting those challenges was immensely rewarding. Tim still remembers the first design project that his firm undertook, an elementary school renovation. “The satisfaction of seeing that project through from concept to completion – and the positive feedback from the client — were incredibly gratifying,” Tim recalls. “It was very exciting to see our vision come to life in the real world.”
And there was one more change that brought challenges – and occasional frustrations – to architects. When Tim entered the profession, hand drawing was commonplace. Computers were just entering the local market, and technology for architects was in its infancy. Today technology plays a significant role in architecture. According to Tim, technology innovations have streamlined the design process, making it possible for the architect to create and visualize complex architectural concepts in less time. “Tools like BIM (Building Information Modeling) and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software plus VR (virtual reality) have revolutionized the architect’s ability to communicate ideas with clients,” Tim says. “While it has been challenging, technology’s positive contributions far outweigh its complications, enhancing both the creative and practical aspects of our profession.”
Tim’s decision to start TBA Studio paid dividends. Two areas – K-12/university building design and sports stadium architecture – afforded Tim and his firm’s colleagues a number of exciting opportunities to merge their passion for architecture with an equally deep desire to create spaces that enrich communities and enhance the educational and recreational experiences of those who use them. “In education building design, we’ve worked on academic facilities that foster collaboration, innovation, and a conducive learning environment,” Tim explains. “In sports architecture, we’ve designed state-of-the-art athletic venues that prioritize fan experiences, sustainability, and modern amenities.”
When TBA Studio won the contract to design new athletic facilities for Louisiana Tech University, Tim recognized the unique design challenges and potential impact of the projects – especially the J.C. Love Field project. “This project involved a number of elements that had to be taken into consideration,” Tim says. “We had to preserve the historic character of the campus while simultaneously transforming it into a modern, technology-rich athletic facility. Seeing the fusion of tradition and innovation come together combined with the positive feedback we received from students and faculty made it particularly memorable.” In 2022, Tim was named Louisiana Tech Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in recognition of his many accomplishments.
WHERE DOES DESIGN INSPIRATION COME FROM
For Tim, inspiration comes from many sources. A trip to Pennsylvania included a visit to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic residential design. Tim was struck by how Wright seamlessly integrated the home with its natural surroundings by incorporating the waterfalls and landscape into the design. ‘This was a revelation, showcasing how architecture could become one with nature,” Tim remembers. “It was a pivotal moment that reinforced my belief in the potential for architecture to not only provide functional spaces, but also to create harmonious relationships between the ‘built’ environment and nature. Wright’s innovative use in Fallingwater of cantilevers and organic design principles which together evoked an emotional response solidified Fallingwater’s place as a source of inspiration throughout my career.”
A man who has always loved the outdoors, Tim finds nature constantly inspiring and consistently incorporates natural elements into his designs. He loves using sustainable, locally sourced wood because it combines aesthetics with environmental responsibility. “Wood promotes sustainability when sourced responsibly, sequesters carbon, and requires less energy for production compared to many other building materials,” Tim says. “Wood’s adaptability makes it suitable for both structural and interior elements, enhancing the overall design while contributing to a more sustainable ‘built’ environment.”
Nature also appears in Tim’s designs through his use of natural light. He believes that natural light has a transformative impact on a space’s functionality. “Natural light enhances the interior aesthetics and promotes energy efficiency and well-being of occupants by creating inviting, well-lit spaces. These connect people with their surroundings and reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day,” Tim says.
Tim often finds inspiration through reading and researching new architectural styles. He also finds new ideas through collaborative interactions with both clients and fellow architects. Even casual observations of how people interact with their surroundings inspire him. “Ultimately, inspiration comes from an ongoing curiosity about the world and a deep appreciation for the power of architecture to shape the human experience,” Tim says.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE
Aside from joining Jollie watching their family grow and enjoying time with those new grandchildren, Tim envisions a future where TBA Studio will continue to make a positive impact on the communities it serves. Tim has surrounded himself with a staff representing top architectural and interior design talent in the South. He finds that talent, gives them the tools necessary, challenges them to do great work, and then expects them to exceed all expectations. He looks forward to mentoring emerging architects and making contributions to the architectural community. And, as he always has, Tim will make time to volunteer.
Tim believes that volunteerism is very important. He says that giving back to the community and using his architecture expertise to contribute to the betterment of society has always been a core value of his practice. Tim sees volunteerism as a two-way street. For the volunteer, there will be personal fulfillment and purpose as he applies his skills and knowledge in a meaningful way while broadening his perspective. For the community, Tim says that volunteers address various social, environmental, and cultural challenges that may otherwise be neglected. Their fresh ideas, expertise, and resources help resolve a variety of issues. “Volunteers gain a sense of connection and purpose, while the community benefits from the dedication and skills of the volunteers,” Tim explains. His firm has a policy of volunteering as a group at least once a quarter for others such as Dixie Diehards Baseball and MedCamps.
If Tim were young again, would he choose architecture as a career? Absolutely. He finds the joy of transforming ideas into tangible, functional spaces incredibly satisfying. “I have always loved the idea of shaping the world around me, creating spaces that not only serve practical purposes but also inspire and uplift those who inhabit them,” Tim says. He agrees with French priest, writer, and lecturer Ernest Dimnet (1866 – 1954) who wrote, “Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but most surely, on the soul.”