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Partners in Business

“You can’t live with them and cannot live without them.”

Every once in a while, one comes along for which only the “…you cannot live without them” is true. Martha Horlander was that type of Partner.

Martha came to work with us in 1984 as a marketing assistant. She quickly became the quiet glue that often kept us all focused on being the best people we could. She set the bar high—not just for her professional talents, but to be a role model for always thinking the best of everyone. She may have been the most non-judgmental person I have ever met. True, she could speak volumes with a sideways glance when a joke turned dumb and then dumber, or when you ventured into the zone of not knowing what you were talking about, but it was always with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

As the Austin market began to nose dive in 1985, our firm merged with another more engaged in interior design and Martha and I became “space planners.” Not in the sense of astrophysics but rather in translating corporate wish lists for imperial workspace into affordable offices. Martha was the ultimate puzzle solver. I have never met anybody before or since more adept than she was. She thrived on it—breathing it in like oxygen.

From that point forward, she soared and continued to create an Interior Design group as strong as any we have ever competed with. Her band of designers were and are the most professional, coherent, mutually supportive team any design firm could hope for. They demonstrate skill, passion, persistence, humility and humor every day, even in her absence, precisely because she was our role model. From Trammell Crow to Dell to LCRA and National Instruments, she has had her fingerprints literally on millions of square feet of Austin’s real estate.

When she began work on the Seaholm Power Plant Complex several years ago, I would remind her of the UT professor who told her during her academic career that she should consider pursuing another profession. The Seaholm project, one of the crown jewels of Austin and the subject of countless UT design studios, is all the better because Martha did not follow that advice. Fortunately, she had the confidence to follow her passion and all who have known her are better for it.

We shall miss her dearly.

- Jim