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Executive Q&A: FSB principal found architecture by design

Oklahoma City architect Rick Johnson spent his formative years in Italy and on the East and West Coasts, but considers Oklahoma home.
by Paula Burkes Modified: June 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: June 8, 2014

A: My father, who died of cancer this past August, had a second career as a dental professor at OU. After all that moving around, my mother has lived in the same house in Edmond since 1974. Oklahoma is home to me. I attended a small school in Maryland my freshman year in college, but transferred to OU my sophomore year.

Q: How did you decide upon a career in architecture?

A: My first semester at OU, my roommate was a construction science major in the architecture college. By the end of that semester, I was helping him with all his projects. It was like a light went off, and I realized I wanted to be an architect.

Q: What was your first professional job?

A: After graduation, I worked 10 years with Miles Associates, which then was a firm of about 10 and specialized in the building and remodeling of research labs on the health sciences center campus. But I always wanted to work with a large firm, and FSB is where I wanted to be.

I started as a project manager, and made partner in 2005. I’m one of five principals in the third generation of the firm’s ownership. We employ 120, and our firm is unique in that it has its own engineering department.

Q: What are some of FSB’s noteworthy projects, built recently or in design?

A: The OSU alumni center, the Capitol dome, the Myriad Gardens renovation, the Edmond Safety Center, the renovation of Central High School for the OCU Law School and the Maps 3 exhibit hall at the Oklahoma State Fair Park. Some 45 percent of our projects are outside Oklahoma. Because of our expertise in aviation and strong customer satisfaction levels, we successfully compete with firms nationwide that are as much as 50 times bigger. We’ve got ongoing projects in San Diego and Rhode Island, and four in Connecticut for the National Guard.

Q: Your focus is marketing and client management in the federal market, including aviation and the federal defense department. Tell us about that.

A: FSB has a long history in the aviation business, starting with American Airlines in the ’50s. For United Airlines, we built eight hangars and supporting shops in Indianapolis, after the city in ’91 won the bid over Oklahoma City for a new maintenance complex. The construction value of that project alone was $530 million.

Our aviation projects grew significantly throughout the ’90s. We’ve built hangars nationwide, including in Alaska and Hawaii. At our own Will Rogers World Airport, we designed a baggage handling project currently under construction, and we’re currently designing an emergency generator terminal.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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•Position: Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates P.C., principal and director of federal programs.

•Birth date: Birthplace: Dec. 13, 1954, San Diego.

•Spouse: Gay, married 23 years. Former running, now walking partners, they met at FSB where they were hired within months of one another and she worked five years as a receptionist.

•Residence: Asheforde Oaks in north Edmond.

•Education: University of Oklahoma, bachelor’s in environmental design and master’s in architecture; Oklahoma City University, master of business administration.

•Civic involvement: A graduate of the 2007 Leadership Oklahoma City and 2011 Leadership Oklahoma classes, he serves on the boards of Rebuilding Together and Possibilities Inc.

•Church: St. Luke’s United Methodist Church’s new Edmond campus.

•Free time: Morning spin classes; weekend jogs; science fiction novels; “House of Cards” TV series; monthly get-togethers with his mom, siblings, nieces and nephews; and unwinding on vacation. Next up: Playa del Carmen, Mexico.


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