It was more than 30 years ago when Todd Grove noticed one day that someone had bought the house next to his on Main Street in Shrewsbury. At the time, the young architect didn’t give it a second thought.
Today, though, he laughs when sharing the name of his old neighbor — Frank Dittenhafer.
After three decades of working for Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, the serendipity of that meeting is clear to Grove. Today, he can look back not only at the buildings and landscapes the two helped transform together but also at the unique way in which they did it.
“Frank and I share a real passion for the work,” Grove said. “Every project we’re doing is for someone – it’s about people – so each time, we want to look back and be proud of how things were done.”
A history of success
Grove came to Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects after graduating from Catholic University and having worked for a brief time as a landscape architect.
“I realized pretty quickly I didn’t want to learn the Latin names for all those plants,” he quipped.
When Dittenhafer and Mike Murphy offered him a chance to work with them in Baltimore and York a few years later at their new firm, he was ready.
The Shrewsbury native soon brought to bear his talent for drawing, working on everything from libraries to adaptive reuse jobs, churches to urban residential properties. He dove eagerly into historical preservation projects.
Along the way, there have been an array of innovative co-workers and collaborators, he said, and always the anticipation of what that next job might bring.
That makes picking a favorite project or two just too tough.
“I’ve had the chance to work on so many great projects, all of which were trying to achieve different things that I can’t ever really pick a favorite,” he said. “For me, each time it’s more about meeting the challenge of the project at hand.”
Dittenhafer credits Grove’s exceptional work to a rare combination of inspired design skills and rock-solid building construction knowledge. Todd will bring both a brilliant design plan and the understanding of how best to get it built, he said.
“We set the bar pretty high at M&D, but Todd has that strong capability, the depth of understanding,” Dittenhafer said. “He’s one of the most talented and well-respected architects around.”
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‘The soul of the building’
Everywhere Dittenhafer goes, it seems, people ask him the same thing: “How’s Todd?”
That’s a testament to both Grove’s good nature and his great work. It serves as a reminder, too, that, at Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, the job has always been about people and bringing the very best to each project.
“Todd always finds a way to best utilize what’s there in any building or site,” Dittenhafer said. “He has a way of maximizing the potential of anything that he works on.”
Each project requires important constants: drawings; materials; a budget. The challenge from there, Grove said, is to stop and ask one extra question: What else can I give to this building?
Maybe joy. Or a more contemplative feel. Or a special view the client hadn’t considered. Each time, it’s different. And, save for careful consideration, there’s never an easy way to find it, Grove explained. At Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, it does have a name.
“I remember Mike Murphy used to call it ‘finding the soul of the building,’” he said, pausing. “You know, I always liked that.”