As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we're featuring a new partner every few weeks. We start off the series with the person who set it all in motion: Manuel Zeitlin.

After moving back to Nashville in December, 1980, I decided to start my own firm that spring. My father tried to encourage me to work for a larger firm like Gresham and Smith. I responded that many of the modern architects I admired found their own way by learning from their mistakes and so could I.

I started working out of my parents’ basement while waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant called Alaman’s. From there I traded rent for attic space in a plastic surgeon’s office (Dr. Pat Maxwell) where we officed for a couple of years until the four of us got tired of bumping our heads on the sloped ceiling. Around 1986 we renovated the building on Blair Ave, next to Brown’s Diner. That was followed by a move to Cummins Station when the owners hired us to renovate it on the condition we’d move there. Rent was great, but the landlords less so, and we lucked out on getting our Hillsboro Village space at the corner of 21st and Acklen. We’d still be there if HG Hill hadn’t decided to redevelop the site.

Which brings us to our current location in Wedgewood Houston. Scott Chambers had hired us to design a masterplan for his site, and Janice (Zeitlin) finally convinced me that we should move our offices there as well. I trusted her vision, but I kick myself daily for not taking her advice that we buy something. Oh well.


1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Maybe a teacher or psychiatrist. Seems like I’ve become both.

2. Where did you go to college?

Washington University Undergrad major in Architecture: Totally intuitive feeling about it and applied early decision

Boston Architectural Center: Seemed much more alive than Harvard or MIT, so I went to Boston to check out

3. If you weren’t in the architecture business, what would you be doing?

I’d still be doing it, but in Italy.

4. Who are your architectural influences?

Aalto, Kahn, Schindler, Morphosis

5. Name a Nashville building you admire, and why

L & C Tower. It was great response to context and the period in which it was designed.

6. Which has been your favorite project to work on so far?

Youth Opportunity Center. It was about bringing together multiple agencies who all serve youth.

7. Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville? What do you love about it?

Bastion: creativity and willingness to take risks

8. Where do you get your coffee from? How do you take it?

Sump and Barista Parlor - black

9. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Dark Chocolate

10. What’s the most beautiful city you’ve been to?


11. Where haven’t you been to visit yet, but have at the top of your bucket list?


12. Name one of your favorite movies and why you like it.

A Good Year. Beautiful Setting. Marion Cotillard.

13. What’s your favorite place to go for a vacation?

Our backyard

14. Which languages do you speak?

Southern, and I'm learning Spanish. A little Italian, French, Hebrew and Yiddish.  Just a very little.

15. Sounds, Predators, Nashville SC or Titans?

Nashville SC

16. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Half full plus or minus