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Meet Andrew and Sara Barnes of Agent Architecture in The Cedars

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew and Sara Barnes.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Andrew and Sara. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
(Sara) We officially formed three years ago. We both have been living and working in Dallas for about ten years. We thought maybe someday we might have a firm of our own, but it really happened earlier than we anticipated! It feels like entrepreneurship sort of chose us more than we chose it.

(Andrew) We came to Dallas in 2010/2011, when jobs were scarce in the Architecture world. We were lucky to find positions in the architecture field. Sara worked mainly on commercial interiors while I did retail/mixed-use as well as high end residential and some cultural work. In May of 2017, I left my job to launch Agent Architecture. It started with one client, but I found the projects started to stack up fairly quickly. In summer 2019, Sara joined Agent full time! It was quite exciting. Design is a collaborative act (or at least it should be), and finally having someone to work with and bounce ideas off of was invaluable. Sara brings a whole slew of talents and capabilities that I don’t have; our skills complement each other’s quite nicely. We have continued to grow and find ourselves working on a mix of both single-family and commercial projects.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
(Andrew) We are grateful that the project work has been fairly consistent since the beginning and even though the pandemic, but every day is its own new struggle. Starting out on your own eliminates the advantage of being able to walk over and ask a coworker a question. Architecture is a challenging business. One must know a bit about every aspect of the construction process and building systems to create a great project. Add on top of that, becoming competent in running a business, legal considerations, accounting, insurance, contracts, etc. It can be hard to juggle all of these things.

Now, dealing with COVID and the current world situation, we feel grateful that we were able to establish a solid client base and get a few projects under our belt before the world shut down.

(Sara) Yes, it’s a practice of balancing the two spectrums of preparing as much as we can for the future, while still taking each day at a time. There’s a piece of entrepreneurship that is rooted in being comfortable with the unknown. In a sense, the entire world is having to do that now as well.

Agent Architecture – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
(Sara) Andrew comes from a background with retail, mixed-use, and residential design. I come from the office and hospitality world. So, together we cover many sectors, which has been incredible in terms of our ability to take on a broad range of projects. We have a lot of respect for each other, which leads to a great collaborative approach bringing together our different skillsets. We like to think that we are creative, talented, and scrappy in a way that couples well with our young optimism. We both really care about Dallas as a city, and that shapes the kinds of projects we get involved in and the perspective from which we design. We recently won a design award for a piece we put together on a vision of the future of Dallas. Our proposal was very tongue in cheek but conveyed an intentional message: Dallas has a lot of potential left to develop in an architectural way that is good for people – equitable, walkable, healthy, community-centric, etc. We bring a piece of that optimism to every project.

(Andrew) We are a full-service architecture and interior design firm. I came from a firm that purposefully took on a range of different project types, which I enjoyed. We have taken that mentality into Agent Architecture. These past three years we have taken on a wide variety of work and are ready to learn and approach any project with a fresh perspective. That being said, we have found ourselves working on multiple projects that involve renovations of older commercial or retail buildings in or near the urban core. We take these older buildings, and while respecting their history and place in the urban fabric, create a new expression that is engaging and suited for the way we use buildings today.

Dallas is a town that thrives on the status quo when it comes to design. Most buildings here are very “safe” from an architectural or aesthetic perspective. We have found that there is great appetite from clients for architects and design proposals that think beyond the normal and typical. They’re looking for something that will give their building a visual identity and help it stand apart from their competitors, creating a place that is authentic to its context and generous for human use.

We are a small, nimble firm that is firmly embedded in the fabric of Urban Dallas. We live in the Cedars and are firm believers in the vital role a vibrant urban core plays in a healthy city. We love being a part of helping to bring new life at a granular level to our urban fabric.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
(Andrew) The thing I love about architecture is that you never know what the next project will be or where it will take you. We’ve just wrapped up documentation on our first education project, which we’re very excited about. We hope to continue doing work with the amazing clients we’ve had so far, expand into new project types and adventures, and along the way contribute to a better future for Dallas. We long to see a more people-centered Dallas – both in its physical design and in its priorities – that sees all of its residents benefit from its significant opportunities.

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Image Credit:
Personal Photo by Elise Hubbard

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