Sitting Down with Ridge Dixon
What inspired you to become an architect?
RD: My father was in the business, so I was familiar with the profession from a young age. He taught me how to draw and got me my first T-square and triangles when I was probably about six years old.
What has been the most striking change you’ve seen over your nearly 40-year tenure with the firm?
RD: Well for one thing, when I started in the 70s under RTKL, we were just operating as one office in Baltimore. Now, seeing it grow to the international level has been quite striking. Obviously, we’ve grown a lot both in reach and in-depth—we now offer a huge host of variety in terms of our architectural services and can really touch every part of a project. What began as a tiny design practice in Baltimore has become a real corporate enterprise.
Q: What project are you most proud of?
RD: I would say either my work on the Bancroft Hall renovation at the Naval Academy or the Pentagon reconstruction. The Pentagon is obviously a very high-profile project and we did an amazing job of going from deconstruction to having people occupy in less than a year. It was really an incredible effort to get the documents done in time and ensure that there was no interruption in the government process. Bancroft is also an important project but my main attachment to it comes from the fact that I was on it for about nine years. It was a very major part of my career and, overall, a very significant building. It’s quite a satisfying feeling and led to a lot of other client work for us over the years, so we obviously did a good job. I’ve spent about 13 years working for the Navy as my primary client.
Q: What excites you most about the future of architecture?
RD: I think the projects have just gotten incredible. The capabilities we have with computer and modeling has made anything possible—design-wise. The imagination really is the limit. That can kind of be a double-edged sword because I do miss actually sitting down with a pencil and paper and drawing a building. One of the wildest innovations to me is the advancement in presentation technology. We used to have a whole model shop and now it’s all virtual. Some incredibly realistic—for the Reston Town Center project, for example, cost $180,000 back then. It was an 8 x10 feet square and included all of downtown. I remember it even included an aquarium in a restaurant and it had a fish in it. Now, there’s virtual reality where you can physically walk through every room and get a true emotional reaction to the design.
I’ve also met some phenomenal people. There are some extremely talented designers and others that were so deep into the details and technical issues, it’s been really fun working with such a wide variety of people. A group of us still get together that worked together 25 years ago. I’m so grateful for those relationships I formed early on, but I’m also excited to now have access to a lot of different people, perspectives and types of work.
Ridge Dixon: Ridge Dixon is a Senior Associate at CallisonRTKL. He began with RTKL in 1978 after completing a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Currently, he functions as a Senior Project Manager in the workplace sector.