Emerging professional profile of Ryan Meador


By the AAJ Communications Committee


Zack Moore

Personal Information:

How do you like to spend your free time? 

RM: I regularly spend my afternoons and evenings during the week, reading or listening to podcasts or audible books about U.S. and global politics, science & technology, motorsports news, art and film, history and new music. 

My passion however, are cars, motorcycles and motorsports, which I share with my wife as well, miraculously [lucky me].  I have always appreciated the craftsmanship, styling and technology that went into the production of a beautiful car like the 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, motorcycles like the Ducati 916 SP, and aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, or the Concorde. 

The industries that create this objects are constantly innovating through new software, developing new materials like carbon ceramics, titanium infused carbon fiber, or aero-elastic composites, and at the same time creating wholly new manufacturing processes when a new model demands it. And in racing, that development can be even more rapid.  Take Formula 1 for example, where the car might not look the same from one race to the next, as a result of the development war that occurs over the length of a racing season.  In this war of ideas, the team with the best ideas will most often be the victor, but there’s always some luck too. 

Weather in Kentucky can be hot, humid, rainy or snow-filled at times, but the spring and fall can be unmatched, and we take every advantage to ride our motorcycles as often as we can along the undulating and twisting backroads of Central Kentucky, shooting sporting clays, relaxing on a lake, watching thoroughbred horse racing at Keeneland, attending unique bourbon events, hiking or climbing at Red River Gorge, or playing with our dogs.  And in the winter, we regularly head west to ski along the Wasatch Range of Utah.  If we aren’t already somewhere far away or fun, we are planning for the next occasion.

My other love is most certainly travel, which frequently intersects with my first passion above.  The first time I travelled abroad was with all of my fellow first-year architecture classmates in 2002 to Spain, to see and experience the masterworks of Antonio Gaudi, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, the monastery at Montserrat, and beyond.  Ever since that first trip, I have remained ever-inspired to draw during every trip with an assortment of mediums (charcoal, pencil, ink, watercolor and mixed media), as well as photography, to replenish my inspirational and creative batteries. 

I regularly seek new design inspiration from a wide array of sources outside of architecture, but travel, more than anything else, is the spark for many new ideas.  My wife and I share the same love of travel and accumulation of experiences over objects, like tracking down restaurants visited by celebrity chef and writer, Anthony Bourdain, in Florence, Dublin, or Budapest, or planning our travel around some kind of international racing event like Formula 1, sports car endurance or motorcycle racing like the Isle of Man TT with friends.

What is your favorite book? 

RM: I cannot say that I have a single favorite book, but in the last couple years, the books by Malcolm Gladwell have really intrigued me the most by blending contemporary or historical figures and events with social science, and insightful posits that thread the needle to highlight a fundamental truth.  I’ve never been one for motivational books, or books on success but, “The Tipping Point”, “Outliers” and “blink” by Malcolm Gladwell may be the closest things to those that I must admit, changed the way I looked at the world, and human behavior through the lens of social epidemics. 

In particular, his recounting of Paul Revere’s counterpart, William Dawes, and his relative failure on the same night of the famous ride from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn colonists of the impending British attack the following day.  This back story, and the underlying reason for Dawes’ failure, and Revere’s success, has remained the single greatest influence on how I look at relationships, however close or tenuous.

When did you first know that you wanted to be an architect? 

RM: Since I was very little, I was inclined towards design, so I drew and built model aircraft and automobiles like lots of small boys, and thought I would become an Aeronautical Engineer for sure.  I had an appreciation and eye towards the fusion of art and engineering very early. Then I thought I might want to be a pediatrician, and help people by becoming a doctor. As I took my pre-med courses, I felt that something was missing however, and while I still wanted to help people, I had the irresistible need to find my way into the design field somehow.

I didn’t really know how until my sophomore year at the University of Kentucky, after conversations with a good friend of mine who was in the architecture program at Notre Dame, and decided to make the change in majors. I took the entrance exam, and the rest is history. Ultimately, it seems as though my path was fated somewhat, since my mother is an interior designer and my father is a civil engineer, so to me at least, architecture was the literal and figurative middle ground.



What is your role within your firm? 

RM: I have had a rather diverse experience in my eleven years, ranging in both changing and consistent roles from designer, to programmer, planner, graphic designer, marketing, project manager, website and social media administrator, BIM committee member, QA/QC standards committee member, technology committee member and influencer – providing me a very broad and unique experience base. 

Early in my career, I helped lead the effort to adopt Building Information Management (BIM) software that I had first begun using in undergrad, and further leveraged the benefits it had to offer, over the then profession standard, AutoCAD. We successfully adopted and transitioned all of our projects over to Revit within just a couple years, and have not looked back.  As a protagonist for digital tools and trends, I have regularly sought opportunities to leverage new forms of media or technology to organize project data, share knowledge, generate new ideas, provide analysis, and convey information to clients in new ways.

How did you become involved in the justice market? 

RM: My mentor at the University of Kentucky, Gregory Luhan, AIA, took our undergraduate studio to New York City in 2005 to tour several offices; including Todd Williams & Billie Tsien, Tom Phifer & Partners, Resolution: 4 Architecture and a few others, including my current firm (previously known as RicciGreene Associates, and now CGL) where I first met Frank Greene, FAIA, and was introduced to the niche field of justice architecture. 

Shortly after graduation in the winter of 2005, I attended the AIA Kentucky Conference on Justice Design 2006, where I met the other half of RicciGreene, Ken Ricci, FAIA, and lured by the opportunity to meet with clients starting my very first week, collaboration with other notable firms as a result of GSA’s Design Excellence program, travel, and working within a field where I thought I could make a difference; I accepted my current position within the Lexington, Kentucky office under the tutelage of April Pottorff, FAIA, and have remained more than eleven years since.

What project have you found to be the most rewarding and why? 

RM: My first instinct was to reply that it would have to be the collaborative design of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio, or the recently completed high-rise design for the new Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, but in reality, the planning study I worked on for the State of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction probably had the greatest impact on me personally. 

Tasked with a number of goals by the Governor and Director, our team generated new ideas for updated or specialized housing and treatment facility prototypes, along with aggressive strategies for population redistribution or relocation to address overcrowding and long-deteriorating conditions in places, but of more consequential benefit to me, I visited thirteen of their prisons I believe, and this left an indelible mark.  These combined experiences resulted in many conversations with wardens, deputy wardens, guards and inmates, that humanized everything from the other side of the cell door in a way that a single visit to jail or courthouse before this time, just had not done. 

Since that experience, I have sought to sincerely empathize with the situation of anyone that may step inside one of our buildings, to understand their issues and concerns, and whether they choose to be there, or not, create safe and hopefully elevating experiences or environments, for due process and the delivery of justice for all.

 What has surprised you most about working in the justice architecture field? 

RM: The lack of knowledge amongst the general public as to the current state of the justice system in general; reluctance on the part of some owners or users to shift towards new paradigms where there is evidence of success elsewhere; the lengths to which agents of the courts or jails will go to help the public, as well as inmates; and the altruistic behavior that owners, users or public exhibit with the opening of their new justice facility.


Why Justice? 

What prompted you to begin working within the field of Justice Architecture?

RM: Prior to my work with CGL as an undergraduate, I worked part and full-time in a local firm that specializes in K-12 and higher learning facilities within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Although I chose to leave that firm and the education architecture niche, that experience and knowledge gained, confirmed within me that I wanted to create buildings for the good of the many, and not just the few. 

Justice architecture has allowed me to combine my core inclination towards design, with my own civic efficacy and desire to help and improve the lives of many. Representing a pillar of our democracy, and underlying rule of law in society as a whole, few building typologies offer their communities the same multi-generational symbols of this highest order. I’m proud to make my small contribution to that democratic belief in, and affirmation of, a society built upon rule of law.

Who is your mentor?  Describe your mentorship process and how you have become engaged in learning about Justice Architecture. 

RM: I have been fortunate enough to have worked closely with three, highly-accomplished Fellows (FAIA) within the justice architecture world; Ken Ricci and Frank Greene, but more closely with April Pottorff. Their combined mentorship across a mix of projects types (courthouses, jails, medical and youth detention), a range of scales from 35,000 to nearly half a million square feet, and across the country, have all played a role in my professional development and independence. I have had the best of teachers in this specialty, with much more yet to learn.


The future of the justice market:

How do you see the role of the justice architect evolving over the next several years?

RM: Architects will continue to do what they do now, but layered on top of that, I believe that more complex, and ever-evolving technologies and building requirements for meeting energy and performance goals will be layered into the design process and building systems. I think that architects will have a place in helping redefine how future courtrooms will incorporate new technologies like virtual reality (VR) that could enable jurors to put themselves into a crime scene that has been 3D photo scanned without leaving the courthouse.

Are there other opportunities for new paradigms? What should a law library/legal resource center be in the 21st century, as more resources can now be found online, rather than taking up precious building real estate with stacks of books? Justice architects will continue to lead by example in their work, the redefinition of how every individual should be respected, and provided safe environments, regardless of their legal status, guilt or innocence.

What do you see as the biggest issues or challenges facing justice architects and/or planners today?

RM: It should come as no surprise that governments will continue to work under difficult budgetary restraints in an era of government down-sizing, but likely still ask the architects and planners to fit all of their project needs under that same pressure.  I also believe that architects and planners will have to help lead the fight for justice reform in this country by confronting the murky waters of politics, and lending their voices to create a smaller, smarter, and more sustainable justice system. 




(Return to the cover of the 2017 AAJ Journal Q2 issue)