Hiland Hall Turner Architects P.A

Changes by owners after construction has begun on their new homes are typical for many construction companies, but not for Hiland Hall Turner Architects. “I’ve never had a client say, ‘I want to alter a space,’ after construction began,” owner Hiland Hall Turner says. “The design process in this office is an educational experience for the architect and client that allow them to interact directly throughout the design process. All custom residences are built around the lifestyle of the family and the will and desires of our owners. Because clients are so integrated into the design process, they are as familiar with their home as I am when we had completed the design phase.”

Turner remains involved with his projects until completion. “We spend quite a bit of time developing a relationship with our clients during the predesign phase,” Turner says. “This allows me insight into their needs, desires and goals, as well as perspective on personal lifestyle. Communication is key, and because of these insights, I generally achieve 90 percent of my clients’ desires. From there, it is revising and amending the design to the owners’ specific direction and desires. 

“During the construction phase of work, we assist the builder and owner with the construction of the residence by hands-on interaction with the builder and/or his subs,” Turner says. “It is my belief that this process makes for better and more efficient building by organizing a team approach between owner, architect and builder.”

Hiland Hall Turner Architects has designed a full range of custom homes from 1,800 square feet up to 40,000 square feet. It also has designed commercial and multiuse structures with a residential aesthetic – retail on the first floor and residential on one or two floors above. The company’s projects have been built along the East Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, but lately, the company’s work has centered on a 100-mile radius of its headquarters in Bernardsville, N.J.

Hurricane Sandy

Hiland Hall Turner Architects was heavily involved in the rebuilding of the New Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Its designs were used to rebuild homes that survived but needed extensive repair. Where buildings were completely destroyed, the architectural firm added finishing and aesthetic appeal to permanent modular homes at a lower cost than stick-building a new home.

Turner was pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the homes his company had designed along the shore before the hurricane had survived Sandy with relatively minor damage. Prior to Sandy, “When we designed the homes, we were fully cognizant of what could happen,”  Turner emphasizes. “Because of my familiarity with some of the environmental studies done by both the oceanographic society, we knew that the likelihood of a highly destructive storm was inevitable. It was just a matter of time.”

One home Turner designed suffered shingle damage but otherwise was in good condition after the storm. “This home is right on the ocean, so we had created a concrete porch almost like a prow of a boat,” he says. “In the event of a huge surge, this concrete porch would act like the prow to disperse the water and protect the structure.”

Windows and doors that met Dade County, Fla., standards for wind resistance and water infiltration were specified for all coastal houses. Pilings were connected by a grade beam. Cables from the second-floor plate were drilled down through the structure into the grade beam. “We did that about every 5 feet along the perimeter of the residence,” Turner recalls. “Along with that, we used interior shear walls which resisted the lateral force of the wind in the direction of the ocean surge and wind. Furthermore, we introduced strapping on the exterior sheathing to insure the structure was tied together and as rigid as possible.

“Those kinds of small little maneuvers from a design standpoint gave the building a lot of rigidity, strength and hold-down power,” Turner explains. “Concrete slabs were coming up from under the sand and pushed against this building, and it resisted those impacts because of that concrete prow porch on the water side of the building.” 

Founded in New York

Turner’s father and grandfather were architects who worked in traditional styles. In 1989, Turner founded Hiland Hall Turner Architects in New York City, and by 1992, he had established what was supposed to be a satellite office in New Jersey. “This office just took off,” he remembers, so much so that by 1995, he had moved his entire staff to New Jersey and closed his New York office.

In many of the suburban areas in which Turner currently works, zoning regulations have gotten rigorously demanding for the commercial structures he builds. Although he began his career as a modern architect, his buildings now match the more traditional styles of the areas in which he works. “You can design anything, but if you can’t sell it, you’re not going to have much of a business,” he points out.

One challenge Turner took on was to design a 40,000-square-foot drugstore in a traditional style. “Most of our commercial structures would be viewed as having a residential feel or look to them, even though they’re quite large,” he says. “The zoning commission’s planning incentives and directions for this project were to have all the buildings look like they were more agricultural or sympathetic with their community, even though these are commercial ‘box buildings.’

“The trick is how to make a box look residential or maintain an appearance as an agricultural structure,” he continues. “I took that commission to prove it could be done. I think I was in zoning hearings for close to a year. We decided to use the metaphor of what they would consider a Greek colonial kind of structure, more residential, like many of these types and styles of buildings in the community.”

It is the strength of designs that withstand hurricanes and innovative designs that turn a drugstore into a mansion that keep Hiland Hall Turner Architects prospering. Turner’s current goal is to encourage the creation of buildings that cluster and to develop spaces that provide intimacy, community interaction and living accommodations. He plans to do this by bringing back the town center, which allows for a living experience.

“We’ve been talking to clients who want to take a different design approach to downtown, with multiple structures which would create exterior space by the use of multiuse buildings with commercial restaurants, boutiques, shops and residential above,” Turner relates. “I would like to see us concentrate on that kind of development to go forward in the future. For me, that’s the fun of it – if you can create an environment that assists both in the shelter and the enjoyment of social activities and a positive communal enjoyment for all.” 

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