Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 111
Robin Holt and Bill Gartz
It could well be the stuff of a Hollywood rom-com: It’s 1985, in a small but growing architectural ﬁrm. Boy interviews and hires girl, thinks she’s “kind of cute.” Both are married, but become fast ofﬁce friends. She’s nice, so is he—he even attends the baby showers of her ﬁrst two children. (“Why should these parties be women only?” he asked at the time.) Time passes—”things bop along,” as he puts it—and their lives both converged and took separate paths. They continue at the same ofﬁce and occasionally work on the same project. But she concentrates on domestic clients, he on international ones. She has a third child. But each faced a “personal drama” as their respective marriages began to dissolve, and it was then that they began to “take a second look at each other.” The second look was the look that lasted, and they began dating some 11 years ago. Romance soon blossomed, and Robin Holt and Bill Gartz have been together for a decade now. But not married. “We saw no need,” Gartz says, “but she has a ring. We have a friend who calls her engagement ring an ‘e-ring.’ I gave Robin a ‘c-ring,’ for ‘commitment.’” Gartz became a second father to Robin’s children, who range in age from 16 to 25. Except for a two-year stint spent at other ﬁrms, Holt has worked with Gartz for nearly 25 years, not often on the same project, but always on hospitality or mixed-use buildings. “We were like pinballs bouncing around each other,” Gartz describes. But even though the change in the relationship was “a happy and pleasant surprise,” in Holt’s words, the two were aware that there were challenges in living together and working at close proximity, and the conﬂict was not all internal. “There was some feedback [within the ofﬁce],” says Gartz. “When void of information, people will ﬁll the vacuum with their own assumptions.” So the couple soldiered on, ﬁnding a proper balance between home and ofﬁce. Together they helped bolster the hospitality arm of Callison, which over the years has gone “from a local ﬁrm to an international one” and has included Hilton, Renaissance, Westin, W, and Sheraton among its clients. Gartz’s expertise was strategy, Holt shines at networking and building relationships. “Our conversations [about] work can be all-consuming,” he says, “but the difference is, we can talk well into the night and Robin’s asleep when her head hits the pillow. I’ll toss and turn for two hours.” “People often ask how we can spend the day at work and then go home together,” says Holt, “but it has enriched our lives to have a common experience.” Adds Gartz, who has recently left Callison, “In any longterm relationship, for people who are working in different worlds, it can be very rewarding because they can escape. But Robin and I can empathize with each other. We have a common ground to struggle through.” “You never have to explain your problems to each other,” says Holt. “On the other hand, the children are inundated. We’ve probably turned off three potential architects!” hd
From top: Callison is currently working on several brand initiatives including a modernized atrium prototype for Embassy Suites set for global expansion, and a restaurant concept for an international hotel company.