Get to Know AJ Campbell
AJ Campbell is an architect inspired by creating spaces that improve quality of life and help clients realize their vision. Through his experience, AJ also shows passion for breathing new life into older buildings. While his interest in architecture began as a kid tinkering with scrap lumber, nuts, and bolts, his interest in historic buildings started abroad. In college, AJ visited Shane’s Castle in Antrim, Ireland. Built in the 16th Century, the castle was partially destroyed and exists today only in ruins. This experience led AJ to understand how he could create buildings that withstand time and understand how to preserve history through architecture.
“There’s genuine respect for buildings that have withstood the test of time and are still usable. If you don’t take care of them, they fall apart,” AJ said.
Years later, AJ has found himself leading and being a part of teams that strive to make historic rehabilitation a priority in the community.
Finding Purpose with Historic Preservation
Now, AJ has been at Holland Basham Architects for 16 years and working on a variety of projects for clients. His favorite project he has rehabilitated was Omaha’s Nottingham Apartments. The reward of successfully rehabilitating a vacant, historic building is unmatched, AJ said. To help maintain the integrity of the original design, AJ said they kept the building’s original “milk box,” – a compartment used by the milkman when delivering fresh milk to the home.
“When working on these types of projects, we want to keep the heart of the original building and think about what we want to celebrate in the building,” AJ said.
His passion for historic building preservation goes beyond rehabilitating old buildings. For AJ, it’s about celebrating the character of our communities by showcasing significant historic architecture. Extending the life of these structures also carries a sustainability aspect. Rather than demolishing and building new, AJ pushes to reduce the amount of waste generated by a project and utilize existing materials that have been in place for decades.
However, there are constraints and challenges when approaching historic buildings. Typically, there are limited building materials and quality drawings for these projects.
“You have to play detective and try to put yourself in the shoes of the person who built the original building during its time period,” AJ said.
Each rehabilitative project is unique and tells its own story. To help with the process, storytelling and conversation play a large role. Listening to people who have had a previous role in the building or lived in the neighborhood helps unveil the building’s history.
“There is a reason the buildings have survived for a long time, AJ said. “It is an honor when we get the opportunity to extend and celebrate their life.”