Staff Spotlight: Barb Charlton
1. Where did you grow up? I grew up on Apple Road, in Osceola, Indiana. For the more geographically-challenged, it’s about 20 minutes east of Notre Dame’s campus.
2. Why did you get into architecture? Growing up in a small town as a child, I traveled a lot with my parents, and was always mesmerized by larger cities. However, out of high school I went the direction of IT, where I stayed for 15 years. Then at the age of 32, I found myself in a position to return to school and pursue a life dream. When I told my dad I was enrolling in Ball State to study architecture, he reminded me of how since a very young age, I was drawn to buildings and their design, and even liked to create little houses out of shoe boxes. We all say “someday…”. It’s very exciting to say that I’ve achieved my “someday”.
3. Which projects are you most proud to have been a part of? Hands down the St. Joseph Hospital Burn and Wound Center. It wasn’t a hugely complicated or fancy project, but its purpose truly touched me. I will never forget the contractor’s faces or the quiet of the meeting when I explained the intention of the hydrotherapy room, and the importance of sound-proofing it. That crew poured their hearts into that project. At the open house when I saw the former patients coming into the new space, some of them small children, I cried. I knew we had helped create a good place for a horrible circumstance. The second project I’m most proud to have been a part of was my first freestanding building, South Bend Orthopaedics. Located in Mishawaka, IN, it’s a half mile from my junior high school. I loved bringing my dad to the site on weekends and seeing the pride in his eyes.
4. What are you passionate about right now? Aging gracefully. As a single mom since my children were very young, I had always been focused on making things happen for them. I forgot about myself. So now, I’m trying to be more aware of that idea by being kinder to myself and smiling more often.
5. What’s your favorite place to visit? Anywhere on the water, big water - sorry, Lakes James and Wawasee, but you’re not big enough. I've lived most of my life 45 minutes from Lake Michigan, and I really miss not having as easy-access as I once did (Fort Wayne is pretty land-locked). Put me someplace warm and a beach and it’s over. I still and always will have a soft place for Chicago as well - a perfect combination of my buildings and the water.
6. What’s your favorite quote? Just one? Sorry, I have a couple:
I attended a symposium with Frank Gehry and Peter B. Lewis the summer the Guggenheim Bilboa opened. During the discussion Peter B. Lewis said, “Success comes from realizing your mistakes and moving on.”
Next, and in that same vein, “breathe in, breathe out, move on.” Thank you, Mr. Jimmy Buffet.
Lastly, whenever my dad was greeted and asked, “how are you?”, he’d reply, “better than I deserve.” I miss him dearly, but am so blessed for having him teach me, I too, am “better than I deserve.”
7. What’s the last good book you read? The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. I’m able to relate to all the characters, either as my mom and her sisters or as myself with my sisters. I laughed and cried, but felt good at the end. Plus, there’s a bonus quote that all mothers can relate to, which I guarantee they will immediately stumble on it if they read the book. The other book I’ve recently read with my granddaughter is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. It’s never too early to encourage imagination.
Fun fact: I had a drink with Frank Gehry once. Other than that, and aside from my secret life as a mutual teller at the local off-track betting facility, I’ve also been known to hire a gun or two. Someone has to shoot those birds, otherwise Zeke, my English Setter, doesn’t get rewarded for finding them. Yes, I enjoy wandering fields in January in 20-degree weather, watching my dog do what he was born to do…. this coming from the same woman who roams the office with a sweater on in July complaining how cold it is!
Barb worked as a Systems Analyst for fifteen years before going back to school. Early on in architecture career, she worked and interned in Elkhart with her now mentor, Mr. Ray Enfield. Barb came to MKM as an intern and returned the summer of 2002 after graduation from Ball State University to fill-in for the office manager. She eventually transitioned into a graduate position with the firm. Barb’s current role emphasizes the technical side of acute care facility design, which includes a vast understanding of Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) compliance. Her project responsibilities have expanded from document management and field work, to architectural design, construction supervision, and study of the Life Safety Code.