The world of architecture is equal parts art and science: practice and theory. And perhaps nobody on the Curran Architecture team embodies that spirit better than Darrell Nickolson, who works with us part-time while teaching and researching in his role as a professor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
For over five years now, Darrell has enjoyed the best of both worlds. He brings his students valuable insights into a modern architectural design firm’s inner workings while putting his expansive architectural and interior design knowledge to work for Curran’s clients.
Let’s talk to Darrell and learn what makes him tick.
How did you find your way to Curran Architecture?
In a previous life, I’d had nearly ten years of experience working for other architecture firms. My background is in architecture and interior design. But by 2004, I was ready for something—that’s when I took my faculty position at IUPUI. I’ve been there for 16 years as a full-time professor. I knew Mike Long from my professional career, and he spoke very highly of his job at Curran. To gain a little hands-on experience over the summer, I asked Mike if they had any projects they could use some consulting help on, and I ended up spending the whole summer of 2015 working with Curran. When that was done, Shawn and I talked about opportunities to stay on and work on projects here and there, and it’s worked out.
What’s it like balancing work as a professor and a working architect?
Shawn has allowed me to have a very flexible schedule because of my faculty and research commitments. During academic semesters, I’m in the office maybe only one day a week. But then, during the summer, about 60% of my time is spent here working on projects, and only about 40% on research work in my faculty role. I’m very grateful that Shawn has been gracious, giving me the freedom to come and go as my faculty responsibilities ebb and flow. It’s worked out well, allowing me to grow professionally, and I can bring that professional project experience back into the classroom where it benefits future generations of architects. More than once, I’ve gone to Shawn asking if I could share project details or take students to a project site, and he’s always very dedicated to giving students these kinds of experiences.
I think a lot of what has worked about this arrangement comes back to Curran Architecture’s culture. It’s just different from any other firm I’ve worked for. The turnover rate is much lower here, and Shawn is very team-oriented to where it feels like a family, however cheesy that sounds. Shawn values every team member and makes me feel like a full-time employee whenever I am here. And our interns, which are always around and reflect Shawn’s desire to help educate future architects, get real work, and contribute to the success of our projects. That’s amazing.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on at Curran Architecture?
I enjoyed working on Pet Palace out in Fishers. I’d spent some of my faculty research time doing design consulting for the Indianapolis Humane Society. My students and I worked together on studying some renovations to their facility on the Northside and on Michigan Road. Then we helped design the clinic downtown near IUPUI’s campus. So it was really exciting to have another animal-related project be one of my first projects at Curran.
Beyond that, I wouldn’t say it’s individual projects that stand out but just the diversity of the work. One day I might be working on a dentist’s office. The next, I’m working on franchise restaurants like Burger King and Firehouse Subs. Then next week, I’m working on an 80,000 square-foot facility. I love that kind of variety.