Opportunity Knocks: Derwin Broughton, AIA

Growing up on a small farm in South Carolina was one thing that led Derwin Broughton, AIA, to get involved and give back to the community. “I had limited exposure to things, so giving back is part of who I am,” he said. Broughton has served on numerous boards and committees that assist children, cities, and minorities, as well as young architects within the AIA — efforts that resulted in his receiving a 2013 AIA Young Architects Award.

Soon after he graduated from Clemson University in 2000, Broughton moved his family to Little Elm, a small suburb north of Dallas. Here, he was appointed to Little Elm’s Bond Election Committee, helping provide election outreach and awareness. This small taste of politics led Broughton to run against five other people for an at-large position on the town council, resulting in a runoff between him and a 30-year resident and former councilman. Though Broughton’s bid was unsuccessful, his passion for his town garnered the attention of staff and other council members, and Broughton was appointed to the Little Elm Board of Adjustment. His architectural background helped the board address the health, safety, and welfare of residents when targeting substandard buildings for demolition. “Progress was made that paved the way for positive re-development of many dangerous facilities and sites,” Broughton said.

At the same time, Broughton was building a career at Ron Hobbs Architects as an architect of record on many projects. He enjoyed working with end users from the outset, and he developed relationships that persist to this day. After a 13-year commitment to Hobbs, Broughton transitioned to KAI Texas, where one of his first roles was serving as project architect during the construction phase for Billy Earl Dade Middle School in the Dallas Independent School District. Dr. Dade, for whom the school is named, left a substantial mark on DISD as a teacher, principal, and administrator beloved of his community. A joint venture with Muñoz & Company, Dade Middle School was built in Fair Park, just southeast of downtown Dallas. The building’s skin establishes a dramatic connection to the local community.

“This school is located in an underdeveloped and underrepresented part of Dallas,” commented Broughton. “It’s one of the areas with the greatest opportunity for growth, but it has some challenges with drugs and crime. We wanted to see the area improve without losing the sense of community and character created by the primarily Hispanic 

and African-American students.” Muñoz & Company designed the multifaceted glass facade as a storytelling element: It is reminiscent of the work of the Gee’s Bend Collective, an African-American quilt guild whose famous patchworks tour the world. Several of the Collective’s quilts are now on exhibit at the school, reinforcing design theory, as well as the history and culture of the school.

Broughton managed the 10-month construction phase to build the 213,000-sf school, which now accommodates 1,000 students brought together from two middle schools to form a new student body. According to Ronald Biediger, AIA, principal in charge at Munoz & Company, Derwin was assigned to Dade when it was already in progress. “He performed admirably within a short timeframe, and his intense focus on the details proved to be important in gaining the client’s and project team’s confidence.” Almost at the end of its first school year, the new building is performing well for the faculty and students. Broughton visits, on occasion, and recently he guided a group of educational facility planners from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana through the school.

One of many important client relationships that Broughton has cultivated is with China Smith, founder and executive artistic director of Ballet Afrique in Austin. The dance company serves  over 150 families and provides underrepresented students exposure to the performing arts. Broughton met Smith when she was a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the Rosewood Courts, a City of Austin Housing Authority project for which KAI Texas now provides professional services. When Austin Community College bought Highland Mall, Ballet Afrique’s home, Smith called Broughton. He is assisting in the effort to find a location for the studio he will design for the dance company, depending on the outcome of its capital campaign. Smith hopes to broaden exposure to the performing arts in Austin with a new building, and Broughton’s design will serve as an instrument to attract people to, and teach them about, the arts.

Jennifer Workman, AIA, is an associate at Good Fulton & Farrell and vice president of member services for the Texas Society of Architects.

CORRECTION: The printed version of this article, which appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Texas Architect magazine, mistakenly identified KAI Texas as the designer of the Billy Earl Dade Middle School facade. Muñoz & Company was the design architect for the project. KAI served as architect of record.