Hudson moves up at RTKL

Just the 2nd president in firm's 50 years, he plans more creativity


May 04, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

David C. Hudson yesterday was named only the second president in the more than 50-year history of Baltimore architectural giant RTKL Associates Inc., and one of a handful of contenders to lead the firm into the 21st century.

"He's always been a very smart manager," said Harold L. Adams, who in relinquishing the president's title will continue as RTKL's chairman and chief executive. "He understands the numbers and he gets behind them. That's a quality that is not always found in an architect."

As president, Hudson intends to continue to oversee RTKL's transition to a more global company and build upon the architectural disciplines it possesses.

To that end, Hudson is looking to cities such as Madrid, Spain; Shanghai, China; and Sao Paulo, Brazil, to open new offices, adding to the eight RTKL operates from Baltimore to Hong Kong. He is also seeking acquisitions to grow the firm, which last year generated $91 million in revenue, a 22 percent gain from 1997.

But more than geographic and fiscal growth, the 50-year-old Hudson also plans to further develop RTKL's ability to design and provide specialized engineering for health care facilities, government buildings and the ever-expanding hospitality industry.

He also hopes to continue to develop RTKL's intellectual property and skills beyond architecture. "I think RTKL will become much more of a creative factory than an architectural firm," said Hudson, who professes to be a computer and home-improvement junkie.

"Over the next 10 to 15 years," he said, "we'll continue to evolve into a place that most people won't even recognize, because computers will advance and do a lot of the work for us and that will allow us to concentrate on the creative aspects of architecture, interior design, industrial design and alike."

But Hudson considers his toughest task ahead recruiting and retaining talented people, along with reorganizing the more than 700 employees RTKL has away from a geographic focus to more of a "sector" focus, where employees worldwide will work on specialized types of projects.

Hudson's first project at RTKL 22 years ago was the renovation of an auditorium at Goucher College. But his real mark at the firm came in the mid-1980s, when he began designing projects in places like Seoul, Korea; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Nishina, Japan.

Back in the states, Hudson had a hand in designing the $90 million Alex. Brown Building downtown; portions of Reston Town Center in Northern Virginia; and the 1,500-room Marriott Orlando World Center in Florida.

"Good architects often come up with good design schemes that are totally hindered by their feasibility to be erected," said J. Joseph Clarke, president of Clarke Enterprises Inc., a partner in the firm working to develop a $120 million, mixed-use skyscraper known as One Light Street downtown. "David Hudson starts with a good design and a keen sense of what's affordable."

In 1992 -- when RTKL struggled like many architectural firms to survive -- Adams tapped Hudson to be one of eight RTKL board members, and two years ago, promoted him to executive vice president and chief operating officer to begin managing some of the firm's day-to-day operations.

"He's really proven himself the past two years," said Adams, who will turn 60 next week. "Especially in 1992, he was a steadying influence in the Baltimore office, which was in a state of panic. He helped build morale. Remember, 1992 was especially tough because our phones just didn't even ring."

"He's allowed me to spend more time on global issues, meeting with clients," added Adams, the chairman and CEO. "My role hasn't changed because of this, I'm just carrying less of a burden."

Both Hudson and Adams caution that Hudson's elevation should not be necessarily viewed as a clear line of succession, however.

"The future of this company will not be based on a single hierarchy," Hudson said. "It's not how we work now or will, I think. I think several people will have key roles. It's more of a team effort than when we were a smaller company. It has to be."

"There is transition planning certainly," Adams said. "People have asked, `What if Harold gets hit by a bus or a plane he's on drops out of the sky? Then what?' I am dedicated to stay here for as long as they want me, but I am delighted to give up some of the duties."

Pub Date: 5/04/99

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