Architects in one Baltimore office got a lesson about salamanders the other day.
The fire salamander, to be exact.
It's a colorful amphibian that can be found in hilly parts of southern and central Europe.
It's also the logo of ARCADIS, the Dutch firm that early this month bought RTKL Associates, Maryland's largest architecture firm.
"The fire salamander is very sensitive to changes in its environment," said Harrie Noy, chairman and chief executive officer of ARCADIS, which is based in Arnhem, Netherlands. "Anywhere you see a fire salamander, you can be sure it is a safe and healthy environment."
That's what ARCADIS strives to create for clients of its services, which include architectural design and engineering, property development and environmental remediation.
Noy stopped in Baltimore last week as part of a whirlwind tour of six U.S. offices of RTKL to meet with employees and answer questions about the sale, which was announced July 6. It was his first visit to Baltimore. A sale price for the company has not been disclosed.
Noy said it was important to meet his new colleagues face to face and not just communicate by phone or e-mail.
During a 2 1/2 -hour session with employees and later in an interview with The Sun, Noy stressed that the Baltimore office at 901 Bond St. in Fells Point will continue to be RTKL's U.S. headquarters.
He also said:
The firm will be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of ARCADIS-US by its current management, including Chairman Paul Jacob III and President and CEO David Hudson.
It will remain RTKL Associates and will continue to support local causes such as design-oriented lecture series and other initiatives.
RTKL does not anticipate layoffs as a result of the sale and, if anything, expects to grow. The Baltimore office, inside the Bond Street Wharf building it designed, has a staff of more than 100. Its other U.S. offices are in Washington, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
One of RTKL's first projects as an ARCADIS subsidiary will be a 36,000-square-foot addition to the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, a prestigious commission that Noy learned about in Baltimore.
ARCADIS was founded in 1888 and has more than 11,500 employees worldwide.
"The basic message we want to convey is that this merger was set up to create additional opportunities for RTKL and ARCADIS," Noy said. "I can't sum it up any further. ... The whole idea ... is creating additional opportunities for growth.
"We are not taking over management," Noy continued. "On the contrary, it is to empower management."
Although RTKL's Baltimore and Washington offices are fewer than 50 miles apart, Noy said they are very different, serve different clients and will remain distinct.
RTKL grew from a one-man architecture practice launched in 1946, by Annapolis native Archibald Rogers and now includes about 1,050 employees around the globe. It moved to Baltimore in the 1950s and was called Rogers Taliaferro Kostritsky and Lamb before an exasperated receptionist shortened it to RTKL.
Noy said that before the merger, about 17 percent of ARCADIS' work was in architectural design. With the RTKL acquisition, he said, he expects the figure to be closer to 27 percent. RTKL will take the lead on ARCADIS' architectural design work and master planning services.
Hudson and Jacob said the merger had been in discussion since November but had to be kept secret until the announcement two weeks ago. More than two dozen RTKL employees knew about the talks at some point in the negotiations.
Jacob and Hudson said RTKL considered other mergers or acquisitions over the years, but talks didn't go anywhere. Much of the appeal of this one is that "we were able to fit into ARCADIS and still be ourselves," Jacob said.