New firm leaders (l to r) Kristine Harding FAIA, Donald Simpson AIA, Donna Dowling IIDA, and Hugh Thornton AIA
Birmingham-based KPS Group, Inc., one of Alabama’s largest architecture and design firms, has announced leadership changes. Donald Simpson, AIA has been elected President of the firm and Hugh Thornton, AIA has been named Chairman of the Board. Graduates of the Auburn University School of Architecture, both have spent their careers at KPS and have long been principals of the firm. This transition to the firm’s third generation of leadership since its founding in 1965 represents continuity and stability across all practice areas of the firm and is a continuing commitment to its clients, its employees, and the values that have contributed to its success. Other key leaders of the firm are Board members Donna Dowling, IIDA, Director of Interiors and Kristine Harding, FAIA, Managing Principal of the Huntsville office. Gray Plosser, FAIA, has stepped down from the role of President and CEO that he has held since 1984, and continues his professional practice at KPS in a new role as Senior Principal.
The culmination of a years-long plan, this leadership change was implemented gradually to provide a seamless transition experience for the firm’s clients as well as our employees.
Donald Simpson, AIA, LEED® AP | President
Donald Simpson always relishes a challenge – that’s probably why he is the go-to person at KPS Group for especially complex and technically demanding projects. His portfolio encompasses a wide range of project types with a common theme – they have complicated programs with many moving parts. He has consistently championed initiatives that offer clients best-in-class services, like the firm’s adoption of BIM technology and its Client Service Quality Initiative.
A graduate of Auburn University’s School of Design and a USGBC LEED Accredited Professional as well as a licensed architect in multiple states, Donald Simpson has been with KPS for more than 30 years and leads the firm’s Civic & Culture practice group. Nationally recognized for his expertise in courthouse design, he has a multi-faceted portfolio of institutional and private sector building programs nationwide. Donald also has significant experience in higher education and banking operations. He has led some of the most technically complex projects undertaken by Alabama universities and is known for his ability to deliver outstanding results on one-of-a-kind endeavors.
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Hugh Thornton, AIA, LEED® AP | Chairman
Hugh Thornton’s goal on every project is to make the client feel that they have been well advised, gotten more than their money’s worth, and enjoyed the process – and his long-standing client relationships are evidence that he’s achieving it. Believing that the best project results evolve out of a partnership between architect and client, the years he has spent forging and nurturing those partnerships have crystallized into a coherent philosophy rooted in developing a true understanding of the client’s problems and earning trust by delivering on our promises. Leading by example, Hugh propagates the value of this philosophy firm-wide.
With degrees in both architecture and environmental design from Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Hugh Thornton leads the firm’s Workplace & Technology and Learning practice groups. An expert in adaptive re-use, Hugh’s widely varied portfolio ranges from corporate and commercial office buildings to educational buildings to master planning and capital programs for mature churches. Hugh is known for his achievements in the design of competitive sports facilities for wheelchair-bound athletes, and led the team designing the first new collegiate adapted athletics arena in the nation. He has been with KPS Group for over 30 years.
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Donna Dowling, IIDA, LEED® AP | Senior Principal & Director of Interiors
Donna Dowling enjoys working closely with her clients to translate their purpose, culture, and vision into branded spaces that embody who they are – whether that is a business, a university, a church, a hotel, or any of the wide range of project types in her extensive portfolio. She is highly regarded for her expertise in helping clients pinpoint where they are now, forecast where they want to be, and understand how their mission and vision can be expressed and supported through design image. Donna’s enthusiasm and genuine desire to engage designers at all levels into the process have attracted the best and brightest designers to the KPS interiors studio.
A graduate of the University of Alabama and licensed interior designer, Donna Dowling brings more than 30 years of experience in interior design, space planning, and programming. With a portfolio encompassing more than 10 million square feet of corporate and commercial office space, she is an expert in the design of spaces for business with a keen ability to integrate company-specific program and vision into pre-existing or leased space. Donna provides leadership on interior design efforts for all project types firm-wide and collaborates with the architectural teams to create cohesive environments.
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Kristine Harding, FAIA, NCARB, LEED® GA | Senior Principal & Huntsville Office Director
Telling clients what they need to hear – not what they want to hear – is at the core of Kristine Harding’s approach to every project. This candor has led to enduring relationships with loyal clients who count on Kristine to tell it like it is. By avoiding unfamiliar technical jargon and explaining things in layman’s terms, she helps her clients clearly understand the implications of their options and make informed decisions. This attitude extends to the project teams Kristine leads, where she’s careful to make sure the entire team understands the client’s needs and intent before moving forward, bringing a sense of collaboration to every endeavor. Kristine’s commitment to serving her clients’ interests is matched by her passion for evolving the practice of architecture in response to the 21st century technical and practical demands facing its diverse population of young professionals.
In 2018, Kristine Harding’s vital leadership in shaping the future of the profession led to her elevation to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects – an honor that has only been accorded to some 3% of its members nationwide. A graduate of Rice University and licensed architect in both Alabama and Tennessee, Kristine leads the firm’s Huntsville office and its teams on a wide variety of projects in the corporate, civic, and institutional markets. In addition to her demanding role at KPS, she has held numerous leadership positions in professional and civic organizations, and was named to the Alabama General Contractors Hall of Fame in 2017.
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