WILLIAMSBURG — Tom Tingle, the president of GuernseyTingle, likens his profession to that of conducting an orchestra.
He studied architecture at Virginia Tech in the late 1970s and is now responsible for guiding a successful 38-year-old architecture firm from an office building situated in the New Town area of Williamsburg. It’s an office space that the company also played a role in designing.
“We’ve been here [New Town office] for 16 years,” said Tingle in an interview with WYDaily. “We did a lot of work in New Town when New Town came out of the ground. We did the Corner Pocket, it was the first building occupied in New Town back in the early 2000s. We did Ironbound Gym, this building, the Williamsburg environmental group building, and a lot of residential work.”
Tingle has been a part of the firm for decades. After all, his last name is in the company’s name. The first part, Guernsey, is named after Rodger Guernsey, who was one of the original architects that invited Tingle out to Williamsburg in the early 1980s to join the firm.
Tingle arrived in Williamsburg in 1984. Since then, the architect has seen growth not only in the business he joined but also in the greater Williamsburg area.
“The change has obviously benefited somebody that’s in the architectural construction industry,” said Tingle. “One of the things that drew me to Williamsburg was that it felt like it was a town that was going to be growing. Not just the town, but James City County, and York County. It also felt like it was the right place to raise a family. That is still true today.”
GuernseyTingle is licensed from Massachusetts to Florida and Texas. The firm has been involved in many projects all over the region and in other states.
The nature of the company’s work is the reason why Tingle says that being an architect is like conducting an orchestra.
“As architects, we are trained to have good organizational skills and good processes. You start a project, you go through design, you go through detailed drawings, you execute a build, and you go onto the next project,” said Tingle. “We’re used to kind of being the orchestra leader with a lot of different people working on projects. We are architects but we also have on our staff interior designers, and then outside the staff, you got all the engineers that do the technical side of things. Structural engineers, site engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers. We don’t do all of that, but we organize those teams that work with clients to design and get projects constructed.”
The firm has worked with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Busch Gardens, the City of Williamsburg, Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg Pottery, and Dog Street Pub amongst many others.
“A lot of it is the client coming to us. Sometimes they come to us because of reputation, especially locally,” said Tingle. “So being here for three and a half almost four decades has helped. People know who we are. You get your share of potential projects because people will give you a call and see if it’s the right fit.”
Since arriving in the area, Tingle has been involved in various economic development and civic organizations including the James City County Economic Development Authority. He says these experiences have inspired part of the firm’s DNA of giving back to the community. The company has a staff of 27 people, and Tingle says that as the staff gets larger, the firm’s ability to get out in the community becomes that much more valuable.
“How do we get folks, on GuernseyTingle staff, engaged in the community? I think the folks that work here kind of got that that’s part of our culture,” said Tingle. “That’s kind of been the direction that I’ve tried to hit; how do I get folks involved? Not just to say, ‘Hey I’m on the board of x, y, and z,’ but ‘I’m interested in this, and I’m passionate about it.’ Whether it’s affordable housing or healthcare. That’s been the amazing part.”
“It should’ve come from a strategic plan, or some kind of ‘ah-ha!’ moment where we all got together and said ‘Let’s invest in the community,’ but it really kind of grew organically. We as a firm have always done work for non-profits. We wouldn’t give all of our services away, but sometimes we do. A lot of times we would discount services for groups like Housing Partnerships and the Salvation Army and so forth.”
GuernseyTingle will soon be entering its fourth decade and the variety of projects that the firm gets involved with continues to broaden. Anything from city buildings, housing developments, resorts, shopping centers, and even theming work for theme park rides such as the Invadr Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
“Through a consultant, they introduced us to an adventure tour company in the Caribbean owned by a family out of Jamaica. Just an amazing group,” said Tingle. “We are now doing work in Jamaica, Belize, and Barbados. We do their theming, and the ‘ideations’ as Disney would call it, and turn it over to folks there.”
A full list of projects can be found on the GuernseyTingle website.