Business began to pick up as the firm was selected to designed Harundale Mall, the East Coast's first enclosed shopping center, for James Rouse, the developer of Columbia; the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on Charles Street; and the Goucher College student center.
In 1961, the firm hired urban design specialist George Kostritsky, a Harvard University professor, and changed its name to Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky and Lamb. Seven years later, an exasperated receptionist who had trouble pronouncing the names shortened it to RTKL. The new name stuck.
Letter from Toronto
As business picked up, the architects had a difficult time juggling work and the day-to-day operations of a growing firm. In 1967, the partners hired Harold L. Adams to manage the business and named him president a year later.
Adams not only managed the operation, but also is credited with launching RTKL's international business one day when he answered a letter from a person in Toronto.
The letter was sent by an associate of Yoshiaki Tsutsumi of Tokyo, the wealthy chairman of a large railway company and a hotel and golf course operator. Tsutsumi was considered the world's richest man in 1990 with a fortune of about $16 billion.
Before Adams and three others left for Tokyo in 1987 to meet Tsutsumi, they studied Japanese customs, religion, culture, how to eat and drink, and even present a business card.
"Every little detail," said Adams, who is chairman emeritus and ran the firm for more than 30 years.
Within a couple of months, requests to do projects came rolling in from Tsutsumi.
"That really opened the world for us," Adams said. "They really gave us a big boost in getting started internationally."
Word spread in Asia about RTKL's work and the firm opened offices in Tokyo and London in 1990. Adams and other RTKL executives began meeting with businessmen, developers and government officials throughout China. They learned Chinese customs and ate Chinese delicacies. Adams dined on snake, mountain frog, pig intestines and duck feet.
The firm's first project in China came from a Hong Kong client in 1993, who wanted to develop a large retail project called the Sun Dong An Plaza in Beijing. "It was designed and built very quickly," Adams said. "That gave us very early credibility."
The firm was selected to work on bigger projects, including the Oriental Music Center in Shanghai and the Chinese Museum of Film in Beijing.
But the biggest win came in June 1998, when RTKL was selected over eight other companies to design the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology.
It was "a huge breakthrough for us," said Adams, who unveiled the project in a ceremony in Shanghai in 1998 with President Bill Clinton and the city's mayor. "It got us the recognition from the highest levels of the Chinese government. That really put us on the map."
It also helped the company gain enough recognition to compete to design the Olympics sports and exhibition center. In turn, that competition helped the company win a project redesigning a large area in downtown Beijing.
Today, the company has at least 20 projects under way in China.
Hudson isn't sure he will attend the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, but he is satisfied knowing RTKL had a small part in helping the Chinese land the Olympics.
"What is happening right now is we and many other firms are helping shape a whole country," Hudson said. "It is exciting to be a part of."
About RTKL Associates Inc.
Executives: David C. Hudson, president and chief executive; Paul F. Jacob III, chairman
Gross revenue: $61 million *
Equity: $10 million
Assets: $65 million
* For first half of year