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How this Greenville architecture firm created success from a basement

Krys Merryman //March 27, 2023//

How this Greenville architecture firm created success from a basement

Krys Merryman //March 27, 2023//

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The NOMA Tower lobby is on Main Street in downtown Greenville. (Photo/Provided)

In the eighth grade, one of Brian Thomas’ teachers gave him an assessment that revealed being an architect was one of the careers that could be a fit for him — and she was right.

Thomas, who is a principal of DP3 Architects, thought art design would be a good way for him to express himself, after growing up with a mother who is a talented artist, he said.

“I think my passion for design stems from that and it sort of materialized from there,” said Thomas. “I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. Being an architect, every day is different, there are many creative outlets, and we have a group here that come in and challenge us every day, with new ways of looking at things and maintaining a healthy office culture.”

In 1984, three Clemson students–Mike Taylor, Mark Eggl, and Sam Justice–set up shop in a basement, where their vision of an architectural firm began. They knew they wanted to provide innovative, functional, and sustainable design for clients, and in the beginning, they took on any and all projects.

In 1985, they received their first big break when they had an opportunity to design an Applebee’s. From there, as the team grew, DP3 began distinguishing itself in the niche markets of higher education, community and restaurants. The DP3 team thrives on creating unique, innovative, and sustainable designs that give places true functionality and purpose.

Thomas joined the firm in 1993, and is now a current principal along with Meg Terry, Ben Urueta, and Mike Pry.

When a vision grows into a reality

DP3 Architects is a full-service architecture firm where the team works to understand the greater underlying purpose in the buildings they craft and how that will impact who will work and play there. Their mission is to create spaces that capture the client’s vision.

They are committed to designing and implementing facilities that promote reduced energy consumption and decreased environmental footprint, regardless of whether LEED Certification is a project goal.

DP3 has designed several notable projects around the Upstate in addition to national projects: Cartwright Food Hall in Greer, Simpsonville Arts Center, Kite Hill Brewing Co. in Clemson, NOMA Tower common area renovation in Greenville, Coastal Crust in Greenville, Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Fireforge in Greenville, NEXT Innovation Center, and Clemson City Hall.

Outside of the projects in the Carolinas, it has grown to have projects in Los Angeles and nationwide prototype and design rollouts of Red Robin, Bahama Breeze Island Grille and Starbucks.

Brian Thomas is a principal of DP3 Architects. (Photo/Provided)When asked what makes their architecture firm unique, Thomas said first and foremost: DP3’s culture.

“We have been named one of the top places to work in South Carolina,” Thomas added. “I think when you have a good culture internally the works shows externally, and I think our clients recognize that. The makeup of our people and how we all get along is reflected in each project.”

Sustainability has also been a hot button now for years, said Thomas, with LEED criteria, which they follow on a daily basis.

“What means more to us is to look at things in a logical way, with common sense,” he added.

Terry, DP3 chief marketing officer and principal, said her mother’s side of the family, who are artistic, also sparked her interest in the architecture field.

“I found a love for it,” she said. “Every client and project are different, and it’s really fun and rewarding to see where the process takes you and that’s always intrigued me. One of my favorite things to do is going to the project site once it’s finished and see people enjoying the space you had designed.”

As a music fanatic, Thomas said one of his favorite projects was the Hard Rock Café in Myrtle Beach. Another significant project to him that he felt really impacted other aspects of Greenville is the new Greenville Public Works building — how other spaces were used where old used to be.

“It ended up having great architecture that was a little unexpected, and it was a cool opportunity and experience,” said Thomas.

Terry added on that higher education design has also been a major pillar of success for the firm, such as the Anderson University Student Center.

“It changed the landscape of the university, how students, staff and faculty use their campus,” she added. “This has been impactful to the firm and the university.”

On the community side of things, Terry said the Travelers Rest City Hall and how it’s tethered to the fire station they also designed, creating community spaces, has been impactful to them and the community — in addition to the Upstate Warrior Solution located off Pelham Road, which has been an impactful program to veterans.

Inspiring young talent and the community

With four focus areas — higher education, hospitality, corporate interiors, and community designs — DP3 hopes everything they design positively impacts the Upstate communities.

Meg Terry is DP3's chief marketing officer and a principal at the firm. (Photo/Provided)“Our passion is more for the Upstate and serving the people here from a fire station to city buildings, to doing quite a bit of tech college work. It’s important we are one office, and that office supports the needs of the Upstate community,” said Terry.

Thomas and Terry serve on a few boards as a way to give back to the Upstate community.

“This opens our eyes to a different part of the community,” Thomas said.

He said the firm always tries to include summer interns, who are looking for that necessary real-world interior design and architecture experience, too.

“We love youthful energy with some new ideas, and this also gives them a chance for real-world experience,” he added. “In our profession, academia is quite different from the professional side. Academia provides a great foundation for design and how to design well,” but there are unexpected real-world experiences you don’t get in a classroom, such as what to do when a building leaks and working with real clients.

The firm also has a partnership with Clemson University, where they attend lecture and jury events. They find it important to be involved in local higher education institutions, especially with students who don’t have professional access they need in a meaningful way, which in turn helps spread the awareness of who DP3 is and to get to know students who will potentially be a part of the team in the future.

So, how does DP3 measure success?

Thomas said by the number of repeat clients they have, which is a majority of the business.

“It shows we do a good job, and we can get that next job,” he added. “We are trying to develop great architects and advance the profession. It’s all about being happy with what you do, too.”