This Architect Connects with Metal
Brian Titus sees architecture as a way of life
As a child growing up in Peoria, Ill., Brian Titus, LEED AP
BD+C, AIA, NCARB, would take Sunday drives with his family to
special places in Illinois. On one visit to see his aunt and uncle,
who were farmers, they stopped in to see the John Deere & Co.
headquarters, a Corten steel, metal and glass building in Moline,
The experience changed his life.
"After seeing it, I knew I was going to be an architect and I
was never going to change my mind," he says. Not only did he not
change his mind, Titus has gone on to design several successful and
creative metal-based architectural projects in his 25 years of
national and international practice as designer, project architect
and principal. He is currently director of design and vice
president for the Atlanta office of LEO A DALY, an internationally
renowned architecture, planning, engineering, interior design and
program management firm.
Education and experience
Titus received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies
from University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Ill. His Master of
Architecture degree is from Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.
Growing up in Illinois, he was exposed to architecture at a very
young age. "Chicago has always been a leading city for
architecture," he says. "The Sears Tower and the Hancock building
were being built when I was a kid, and at the time they were the
tallest buildings in the world."
At Clemson, Titus spent a semester studying abroad in Italy,
which he calls "a wonderful experience." He started working for
architects when he was in school during the summers. He also worked
in between undergraduate and graduate school.
The first job Titus worked on where metal was a factor was right
after graduate school. "It was a library and administration
building for a technical college in Pendleton, S.C.," he says.
"It's all metal. This was in 1987 and metal panels have evolved a
lot since then. The metal panels used back then are not the metal
panels used today. Back then, metal panels signified the future;
they were a futuristic building material. Metal can be used in a
lot of different ways. But using metal on the exterior like that
was a very contemporary thing to do at the time."
Japan and Kuala Lumpur
After his South Carolina experience, Titus went to work in Tokyo
for a year for Ichiro Ebihara Architects and Associates. "At that
time, Ichiro Ehibara was the oldest living architect in Tokyo," he
says. "His firm played a large role in the rebuilding of Tokyo and
Japan after the war.
"Tokyo is a very different environment to work in. The scale is
different from anywhere else I've been and I've been to many
different places. The reverence for creativity and design in Tokyo
is different than here in the United States. People photograph
buildings all the time here in the United States. If you took a
picture of a building in Japan, you could have someone from inside
the building run outside and tell you, 'You can't photograph this
building because it's a work of art!' It's a very different way of
looking at and respecting creativity."
After Japan, Titus went to work for Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo
and Associates in Hamden, Conn. "It is a successor firm to Eero
Saarinen," he says. "Eero is a historic figure in architecture and
so are Kevin and John." Ironically, it was Saarinen who designed
the John Deere & Co. headquarters building, his initial
inspiration to become an architect. "As a kid, I had no idea I
would later go and work for the firm that designed that building,"
A noteworthy design project that he collaborated on while
working for Roche is the Maxis Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Maxis Tower, or Menara Maxis in the Malay language, is an office
skyscraper that houses the headquarters of Maxis Communications and
Tanjong Plc Group of Companies. This 50-floor high-rise building,
which stands next to the Petronas Towers, features an aluminum and
glass-clad façade, as well as metal panels and metal awnings.
"The metal panel is a contrasting moment to where we have
glass," Titus explains. "At the time, there was no such thing as
LEED, but sustainability has been around for as long as I've been
in this profession. One of the things we had to accommodate when we
were designing this building was solar shading at all times of the
day. We looked at office occupancy times and other factors to come
up with a solution. There are awnings and solar shades on the
building's outside that shade the windows so when you are inside
you don't need horizontal blinds or shades. You can look out and
you don't have direct sunlight coming into the space. It's a
high-rise building with awnings going all the way around it. Metal
awnings were a common feature in the firm's architecture."
Daily Daly design
Founded in 1915 and headquartered in Omaha, Neb., LEO A DALY's
portfolio includes award-winning projects in 77 countries, all 50
states and the District of Columbia. The firm currently employs
approximately 1,000 architects, planners, engineers and interior
designers in more than 30 offices worldwide.
Since working at LEO A DALY, one of Titus' most innovative
metal-based projects has been the Georgia Gwinnett College Library
in Lawrenceville, Ga. The library, completed in 2010, was
envisioned, designed and built as a "Knowledge Center."
Metal was used in different ways in this project such as
defining the program elements and the building's planes. A curved
metal arch known as the "arch of knowledge" acts as a portal to the
"On the outside of the library, we have a curved arch which is
very symbolic of that institution," Titus explains. "Landscaping
metal accents, such as bicycle racks, site lights and lighted
bollards, around the building maintain a liaison between the plaza
and the project structure. We also brought the metal concept inside
as part of an integrated design. We wrapped the interior columns
along the glass wall with metal to make it more prominent in that
open space. From the guardrails on the grand stair and balconies to
the metal lay in ceiling tiles, miscellaneous furniture pieces and
metal shelves, we used metal in every possible way to blend the
outside with the inside."
On addressing the environmental push and the green movement,
Titus quotes LEO A DALY's motto and says, "Sustainability is our
nature." He feels sustainability and energy-consciousness have
always been going on in this industry, including when he was a
student in school.
"The sustainability rating system is new and different,
depending on where you work around the globe," he says. "Here, the
U.S. Green Building Council follows the LEED system, while China
and the Middle East follow different systems. At LEO A DALY, we
design all our projects to sustainable standards. Whether the
client wants to go through the LEED process or not, we are still
designing for sustainability."
Every LEO A DALY office has a sustainability officer or
champion. Most designers are LEED-accredited design professionals.
"It's just normal behavior," he says. "The impact of LEED system at
first is going to be new and different, but down the road it will
be very common place."
Metal and success
Titus likes designing with metal because of its many
applications. "You can use metal in a lot of ways," he says. "It is
a very versatile exterior material, but it is an interior material
as well. It can be on a wall, or it can be on a ceiling. It's
obviously a component of any glazing system. We have planned
existing projects where metal is a strong component. Metal is
always on our mind.
"If you look at the way Frank Gehry uses metal on a
building-very, very sculpturally both inside and outside-and
contrast that with my first metal-based projects in the late 1980s,
the current metal technology, and the sophisticated coatings and
colors available on metal panels are very, very different. The
looks that you can have now with metal are totally different than
what I worked with in the late 1980s. You can explore a lot of new
solutions with metal."
What brings Titus client success? "Listening to your client and
collaborating with them brings success," he says. "Listening to
clients is critical. You do it with every single client. Take the
Georgia Gwinnett College Library, for example. That is a program
custom tailored for the client on that site. We try to focus and
aim high, and then deliver."
His belief is that architecture is a way of life; it is not just
a job, it is a way of existence. He stresses patience and good
design, but acknowledges that neither of these two traits comes
easily. "If good design was easy we'd see more of it," he says.
"It's difficult and anybody in the profession who thinks
architectural design is easy, it is not. It takes a long time for
projects to come to fruition, depending on what the project's
typology is and what a client's goals are. You can start working on
a project and it never gets realized, sometimes it can take 10
years, but at a minimum the life of a project is probably three
years. More complex projects take longer. It's a way of life and
you have to be patient."
What's on your iPod while you work?
What do you do on weekends?
I like to play golf. One of the things I like about golf is it
is static. You are the one who puts the ball in motion, not unlike
design. Designers put things in motion with our clients. I like all
the professional golfers from Clemson University and University of
What is your favorite book?
"A Season on the Brink" by John Feinstein. It's the book that
thrust him into the public spotlight. He spent a season with
Indiana college basketball coach Bobby Knight. It's my favorite
because it is about how preparation yields success.
What's your favorite app on your phone or iPad?
I don't use many apps as weird as that sounds, maybe I am old.
Rhapsody is good for music. I use MLBTV, they have an "at-bat"
Where is your favorite place to vacation?
I don't have one, I like going to new places.
What historical figure would you most like to have dinner
with and why?
Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe