In 1988, current RS&H Corporate Vice President Chung Rutter took a new colleague, Kris Bolt, to lunch on her first day at a small architecture firm in Jacksonville.
27 years later, Chung took Kris to lunch again – this time on her first day at RS&H. The 2015 lunch came after a recruitment campaign led by none other than Chung himself.
“I was leaving behind my team at the time to go out to Texas for my current position within RS&H,” said Chung. “I wanted someone I could trust and who understood both architecture and interior design to take over as the Jacksonville Corporate studio director.”
An experienced architect, Kris fit the bill professionally. Chung also thought her personality and leadership style would be a good match for the team.
Cool as a cucumber — that’s how interior designer Briehn Wildman describes Kris, her supervisor.
“I think some of us on the team can be more high energy, and that’s where I really think that calming force and wisdom can help,” said Briehn.
Kris also brings a notable focus on associate development to her role.
“Anybody can mark up drawings,” said Briehn. “But she’ll sit down side-by-side with younger architects and interior designers and give feedback.”
Her guidance extends to those outside of her team.
“She has an open door,” said Briehn. “You’ll see young engineers come in and ask her questions, and she doesn’t just give an answer. She also explains the ‘why,’ and that’s where growth comes from.”
Kris also seeks guidance from others, says Briehn, choosing collaboration over directives.
“As an architect, she’s very passionate about the interiors but really respects our input,” said Briehn.
Kris and her team produce such successful designs, added Briehn, in part because of Kris’ ability to balance cost with artistry.
“She always tells us to pick our moment,” said Briehn. “She jokes that you can’t have diamond-encrusted everything. Her savvy has helped us come under budget on a lot of projects.”
Don’t let Kris’ unflappable nature deceive you. Beneath her laidback exterior rests a competitive drive.
“She plays tennis, and her son is a professional soccer player,” said Chung. “That definitely translates from her personal life into her work, but it’s more of an internal drive than an outward expression.”
Kris’ self-motivation and visionary perspective have led to remarkable results in her career – and personal life.
“Thirty or so years ago, she was looking to buy a house in Riverside,” a desirable neighborhood in Jacksonville, Fla., said Chung. “She and her husband bought a real fixer-upper, and we thought she was crazy.”
Time vindicated Kris’ judgment.
“It’s now this beautiful, immaculate home,” said Chung. “She invested in something a lot of us couldn’t visualize as a benefit. Now, 30 years later, we can see it was a good value investment.”
That anecdote underscores one of Kris’ strengths, an important one to possess in this industry, said Chung.
“As an architect, you have to have vision,” he said. “You have to have a good eye for quality and aesthetics.”
Kris’ aesthetic sensibility is built on a familial artistic tradition.
Kris’ grandfather was a designer for an aerocraft company. Her mother was an art major in college. Her younger sister is a graphic designer, and her older brother is an architect – and he was actually the person who convinced Kris to become an architect.
“Even at my grandparents’ house growing up, there were always notepads and crayons,” said Kris. “We weren’t forced to be creative, but the tools were there for us to get involved in it.”
Kris’ refined taste extends beyond architecture. A great cook, Kris is also a wine connoisseur.
“You don’t want to go out to a restaurant with her and order a random wine,” Briehn said. “You want to get the wine she’s getting.”
“She’s got excellent taste, and she’s a wonderful architect,” he said. “But more than that, she’s a great friend and a great person. I’m grateful she’s on our team, and I know her whole team is grateful as well.”