2017 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Ben Goebel, AIA, NCARB

Nov. 3, 2017

Ben Goebel, AIA, NCARB
Principal, Gresham, Smith and Partners
AGE: 33

  • Alma Mater: Bachelor of Architecture, Ball State University and Master of Architecture, University of Illinois.
  • What is your dream job? Growing up I thought I wanted to be a professional athlete, but I spent a lot of time with LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and just experimenting with old scraps of wood. I think my passion for creating and building brought me to a field that I would call my subconscious dream job.
  • Who has impacted your career the most? I have had fantastic professional leadership in my career by mentors who genuinely care about me as a person and I hope they know how grateful I am. The person who has guided me the most is Kenny Goebel, my father.
  • If I could visit any airport in the world, it would be: I hope that the International Space Station counts as an airport. I would really like to know the travel experience of going outside our atmosphere.
  • If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead: I would like to sit down with architect and structural engineer Santiago Calatrava. 

Ben Goebel has a track record of increasing value for clients with innovative solutions to the unique challenges of airport design and has become a trusted advisor to clients at major U.S. airports. He joined Gresham, Smith and Partners (GS&P) as a 24-year-old intern architect and in just eight years became the firm’s Fort Lauderdale aviation studio leader with responsibility for projects valued in excess of $500 million.

In 2013 Goebel became a firm associate before being promoted to senior associate in 2015 and in April, he stepped into firm ownership. His experience includes design and management of complex medium- to large-scale airport terminal projects involving large, multi-disciplinary design teams.

As his roles and responsibilities have expanded, Goebel has grown into a trusted advisor to the management of each airport he’s worked for, leading them to request him by name to oversee the design and construction administration of future projects. He has been instrumental in the success of projects at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports.

Goebel started out drafting toilet partitions for bathrooms in the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal (MHJIT) in Atlanta, but in four years, rose to deputy project manager for the $1.4 billion project and GS&P’s point person to the client and contractor’s senior management.

Goebel took this leadership role at a critical time, coordinating the complex design elements of MHJIT’s underground train tunnel while continuing to provide on-site architectural solutions. He built strong working relationships and maintained an aggressive project completion schedule, with MHJIT being completed in spring 2012 on time and on budget.

After finishing MHJIT, Goebel moved to South Florida as GS&P’s point person for a major expansion, renovation and modernization of Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Fort Lauderdale. After three years, he became principal-in-charge of the $500 million+ program and head of the firm’s aviation studio in Fort Lauderdale.

Goebel oversees a large, multi-disciplinary design team as they tackle each terminal’s unique design challenges. He has played an integral role in developing everything from the conceptual planning to project close-out for the ongoing projects, including new pedestrian canopies, new in-line checked baggage handling systems and inspection stations, concessions master planning and signage and wayfinding master planning. The projects also include a complete renovation of Terminals 1, 2 and 3, which involves new restrooms, interior finishes, multi-story atriums, relocation of aircraft gates and new Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Outside of work, Goebel has been heavily involved with professional and community organizations. In 2016 he guided four intern architects through the examination and licensing process as part of a National Council of Architectural Registration Boards mentorship program. He also participates in design initiatives, conducts surveys and helps airports understand developing trends through the Airport Consultants Council’s Terminal Committee and its Young Professionals Forum.

While in Nashville, Goebel co-chaired GS&P’s 2011 and 2012 United Way giving campaigns, which raised a combined $125,000 for the organization’s Middle Tennessee chapter. He’s now spearheading efforts to increase the Fort Lauderdale office’s involvement with United Way of Broward County.

Goebel feels it’s really flattering to have someone trust in you to help them realize their vision. “A professor once said to me `Architects really have the best job in the world. We get paid to help people turn their dreams into a reality,’” he said. “There is a moment on the job site when the client sees the home, office, hospital, or airport they had in their mind becoming real right in front of them. It is incredibly gratifying to observe that moment and reaffirms the point that architecture begins with an idea.”

Many have developed their ideal architect from what they have observed in the movies, said Goebel. “It’s difficult to convince someone of your qualified experience when you look like you just graduated this past spring,” he said, speaking about his career challenge.

Everyday seems like another opportunity to connect people from different walks of life, said Goebel. “There are so many stakeholders needed to create a successful airport and improved passenger experience,” he said. “Bringing these stakeholders together in a room and listening to their different perspectives of how an airport should operate is very informative and educational.

There are two pieces of advice that Goebel tries to reflect on periodically. “One, manage your ego. A project should be referenced to as the project or our project, not my project,” he said. “Second, do the small things well. It’s not difficult to show up on time, stay positive, act professional, and do the
things you say you’re going to do. The rest will come.”

It’s truly an environment of learning something new every day, said Goebel. “And being next to the airplanes all day isn’t too bad either.”