Ben Lippen Stories

Andy Osterlund '93

Andy Osterlund ’93

Architect Andy Osterlund owns Osterlund Architects, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Superior, Wisconsin. Following his graduation from Ben Lippen, Andy attended Virginia Tech and graduated with a degree in architecture. He opened Osterlund Architects in 2008. His wife, Kristen, and their son, August, live in a house they designed just a few minutes outside downtown Raleigh. They have a senior cat, Alvar, and a guinea pig, Hibiscus.

Osterlund ArchitectsWhen did you decide to pursue a career in architecture? I wanted to be an architect as a kid, growing up around the hand-crafted industrial cities in the North. After college, I worked for several other firms in Raleigh until getting licensed and opening our office downtown.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in your tenure as a business owner? We used to print a lot more paper. Now we almost never do! Our software changed from 2D to 3D. We’ve watched the city of Raleigh grow around us, and we love to be part of that. The pandemic and the justice riots over the last two years created the biggest changes to our industry and our ways of thinking, entirely changing the way we consider our neighbors and the spaces we design, as well as our whole creative process. All these changes are positive and hopeful, and I wonder what the city will look like tomorrow.

How large is your staff? My wife and I are both licensed architects and are the principals in the firm. Our Director of Interior Design, Ashley, has been with us since we started the firm. We have two project managers and three junior design staff. Our office manager, Jordan, keeps it all running smoothly, including the bookkeeping and our published marketing. We have had two design staff members from Ben Lippen! One is still here as an experienced project manager, and the other left a couple of years ago for the West Coast. Our accountant, Tony Perricelli, who is now a Ben Lippen parent, was our class president and one of my best friends; he’s been advising our business since we started.

What is the biggest challenge of running your own business? The hardest part of owning a business is money. Cashflow is like the weather- floods and droughts- and that always reminds us to pray for our daily bread. Good office processes help us treat our clients and our partners fairly, even when we’d much rather pour ourselves into the creative work that we love.

What is the best part of your job? I love drawing with our clients and staff, turning words and ideas into places that we can all imagine. When drawings become buildings, it’s a miracle that you can touch and inhabit. All the challenges that go from creating an idea to creating built work and all the people that have to agree on the same goal…it’s breathtaking. And, I love seeing our clients move in, putting their art on the walls and doing their business in the space we created together.

What is your advice for someone interested in starting their own business? Get lots of advice and make decisions constantly. Pray all the time! I once told someone that I didn’t know what I should do. Their answer was, “I think you know what to do, you just don’t know what will happen!” Get a lawyer and an accountant. Walk in faith, plan to be surprised, don’t stare over the edge of the cliff too long, pay your bills, pay your taxes, use good contracts, and be yourself when you meet people.

Can you recall some of your favorite Ben Lippen memories? I have lots of good memories from Ben Lippen! The president song from AP History, talking about religion while washing dishes in the dish pit, discovering Camus in AP English, and hearing Mr. Hathaway break into a heartfelt aside about how God designed Calculus into all of creation are some of my best memories. Other fun memories are of listening to Alan’s GNR tapes on the drive to school and debating deeply with Scott about whether to attend the U2 concert in good conscience. He went and I didn’t, but he brought me back a t-shirt.

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