Hastings claimed the top spot in business on this year’s Architect 50 list in part by being in the right place at the right time. The firm, based in Nashville, Tenn., has clearly benefited from that city’s current building boom, which shows no signs of slowing.

Over the last 10 years, says principal David Bailey, AIA, the firm—founded by Jim and Jeannie Hastings in 1985—has experienced double-digit growth in both revenue and staff size. Last year alone, the firm added 11 new positions, and it now includes 71 employees in total. Hastings enjoyed a 46 percent jump in net revenue from 2016 to 2017.

“We’ve definitely benefited from the fact that we are heavily focused in this community,” Bailey says. “And we have been for many years, even before Nashville became the ‘it’ city that it is today.”

The Thompson Nashville
Albert Vecerka/Esto The Thompson Nashville
Nashville Waterfront Boathouse
Courtesy Hastings Architecture Associates Nashville Waterfront Boathouse

Projects by the firm—including a number of high-profile residential and commercial commissions—are scattered throughout the region. They include the Thompson Nashville, a 224-room boutique hotel in the city’s Gulch neighborhood; the 51-unit Eastland apartment complex; a renovation of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium; and the Bridge Building, an expansion of a 1908 industrial structure overlooking the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.

William Hastings, also a principal, insists that the firm’s success has as much—if not more—to do with its employee-friendly policies. “We have a super low turnover rate, less than 2 percent,” he says. “That’s because we’re able to provide everyone with the growth opportunities that they want in their careers.” It helps that Nashville is now increasingly a draw for potential hires. “That has obviously helped us recruit and retain some absolutely world-class talent,” Hastings says.

The Ryman Auditorium
Albert Vecerka/Esto The Ryman Auditorium
The Eastland
Daniel Brown Photo The Eastland

Once a year, the firm closes shop and takes an all-staff trip to learn about the architecture and design of a major U.S. city. Recent destinations have included Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Dallas. “Even as the firm has grown,” Hastings says, “we continue to do it. In fact, it’s a non-negotiable item.” Another perk: The firm closes its office at 3 p.m. on Fridays. “We often have to encourage people to turn off their computers and start the weekend,” Hastings says, laughing. “They want to keep exploring and keep working.”

In the end, says Hastings, that kind of dedication “is the single biggest reason not only for the design success of our projects, but also for the success of the business itself.

Top 50 Firms in Business

Rank Organization Score
1 Hastings 100.0
2 Blair + Mui Dowd Architects 96.8
3 Clark Nexsen 94.7
4 PBK 93.8
5 William Rawn Associates 90.7
6 Mark Cavagnero Associates 90.3
7 Steinberg Hart 88.5
7 Spector Group 88.5
9 Semple Brown Design 88.0
10 HDR Architecture 86.3
11 Design Blitz 83.3
12 Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill 83.0
13 HKS 82.6
14 Studio Ma 81.8
15 Cambridge Seven Associates 79.6
15 Carrier Johnson + Culture 79.6
17 WRNS Studio 78.7
18 Fergus Garber Young Architects 78.0
19 Goettsch Partners 77.0
20 Payette 76.4
21 Populous 76.3
22 Page 76.1
23 Corgan Associates 76.0
24 FXCollaborative 75.6
25 Touloukian Touloukian 74.0
26 LPA 72.9
27 Ann Beha Architects 72.6
28 HOK 72.1
29 Ayers Saint Gross 71.8
30 CO Architects 71.7
31 Perkins Eastman 71.6
31 BWBR Architects 71.6
33 Mithun 71.4
34 EYP 71.3
34 Bora Architects 71.3
36 Opsis Architecture 71.0
37 Treanor HL 70.9
38 Schrader Group 70.2
39 NAC Architecture 70.1
40 CannonDesign 69.9
40 Anmahian Winton Architects 69.9
42 LMN Architects 69.8
42 Rowland+Broughton 69.8
44 Hord Coplan Macht 69.3
45 Rossetti 69.1
46 BRPH 68.3
47 ZeroEnergy Design 68.2
48 SmithGroup 67.8
49 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 67.4
50 HGA 67.3
50 Ratio 67.3