April 15, 2024 Barry Alan Yoakum (’78) to Deliver Commencement Address

The College of Architecture and Design will welcome Barry Alan Yoakum, FAIA (’78) Cofounder and CEO of archimania to address graduates during the college’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16.

Barry Yoakum

For nearly three decades, Memphis-based archimania has realized work that has garnered national and international acclaim for its progressive, high-performance design narrative. This includes being ranked as high as 8th nationally in design by Architect Magazine.

His journey to the profession began in third grade when his teacher allowed him to use milk carton flats to build a model house during class for extra credit. She suggested to Yoakum that he become an architect, and from that day forward, he considered no other career path.

While spending summer vacations in Ƶ with his extended family, Yoakum became infatuated with the University of Tennessee.  His late uncle, Rhea Burns, was the Controller of UT for almost three decades and is credited with instilling a love for the Big Orange into him.

Yoakum worked at a gas station during high school to earn money and to work on his muscle car. He graduated high school in 1974, just as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo on the United States, tripling the price of oil and impacting him as he traveled across the state to UT where he began his architectural pursuits.

Yoakum began considering energy in new ways, simultaneously, UT was contemplating the same.

“At the time, the College of Architecture and Design had faculty who were informed by the work taking place at the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” he said. “The School’s program had the early beginnings of sustainable design, which wasn’t something I initially planned to pursue.”

Yoakum began to approach architecture by doing more with less. After graduating in four and a half years, Yoakum took his architectural knowledge back home to Memphis, forging a unique path to the first half of his career. The second half of his career has been with Todd Walker, FAIA, Founder of archimania, and the many talented archimaniacs who together, seek to design spaces and places that are authentic, appropriate, and affordable.

Barry and Kathy Yoakum
Barry and Kathy

In 2018, Yoakum and his wife, Kathy, traveled to the 2018 AIA Conference in New York. The pair were at a presentation of the Committee on the Environment (COTE) Award winners when they heard a challenge they couldn’t walk away from.

“They said ‘we need people from the middle of the country creating excellent sustainable design.’ Kathy and I looked at each other and we both were like ‘let’s do it,’” he said.

Two and a half years later, Yoakum and the team at archimania designed and built his current home, , the first zero energy and zero carbon building in the world to achieve dual certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Shortly thereafter, 663 South Cooper, the offices of archimania, would become the second building in the world to achieve such dual certification. Both projects have received a coveted AIA COTE® Top Ten Award, the industry’s best-known award program for sustainable design excellence.

In 2023, Barry and Kathy established the Yoakum Zero Carbon Scholarship Endowment in the College of Architecture and Design. The award supports students who focus on design that elevates economic, environmental, and cultural development of both high-design and high-performance integrations to reconcile humanity’s relationship with the national environment.

In addition to his practice, Yoakum has served as an author, educator, juror, mentor, speaker and community board member.

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