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PART 1: Faris Eid one of those who has made his mark on the Knoxville landscape

dia-architecture(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series on Faris Eid, a well-known Knoxville architect and business executive whose fingerprints are clearly visible on many local developments or redevelopments. Eid will be honored tomorrow night {October 20} when the East Tennessee Community Design Center presents him with the “Bruce McCarty Community Impact Award.”)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

One of the individuals whose design expertise has made a significant difference in many notable Knoxville buildings, both old and new, initially left his adopted hometown after graduating from college more than three decades ago.

“Knoxville was dead after the World’s Fair,” Faris Eid, President of Design Innovation Architects+Interiors+Planners, says in describing the local environment in December 1983. That’s certainly not the case now, as the always gracious Knoxvillian cheerfully acknowledges during our recent interview in his office that occupies one of those reclaimed spaces.

Eid had just graduated in 1983 with his degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee (UT), but job prospects in the region were not that great. So, like others who left the community then, he joined a firm in Atlanta.

In many respects, relocating was nothing new for Eid who was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents. The family had visited Detroit, Oklahoma, and San Jose in 1970 and moved to the U.S. in 1975, soon after his grandparent had died.

“We immigrated to a place we did not know,” Eid says of the family’s initial, but brief stop in Livonia, MI, just outside Detroit. “My parents wanted to give my brother and me a better future.”

They quickly decided within a few months to move south, partly because of the weather and partly because his aunt (Renee Jubran) had moved to Knoxville and also because of the familiar faces of friends in Knoxville’s well-known Harb family. In addition, there was the environment, something that is attractive to so many people who make a visit here and soon decide to permanently relocate to East Tennessee.

“My parents loved the mountains and the lakes,” Eid says of his family’s attachment to the region.

Although a machinist by training, Eid’s father decided to purchase Harb’s Grocery Store in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood. Both sons worked in the store as well as a number of other jobs while attending Fulton High School.

“At first, it was tough, but it was a great experience,” Eid says of high school, quickly adding in his dry-witted, humorous style, “The English we learned in Jordan was different than Southern English.”

The decision to pursue a degree in architecture was stimulated in part by having an uncle in Jordan who was also an architect and also his love of art. Initially UT rejected Eid because of issues with test taking in English, but he refused to accept it, challenged the system, won and was accepted in 1979.

“I started weak, but graduated with high honors,” he says of the five-year degree program he completed in four and one-half years. “It was a very great experience.”

Listening to others, learning, and working hard are traits that have served Eid well over the years.

While in Atlanta, the young architect made his first design mark in Knoxville with an iconic small building in the UT and Fort Sanders area, which housed Sam’s Party Store and the Falafel Hut restaurant.

The owners – his aunt and her husband – had operated the businesses which were located in an old brownstone building that was consumed by a fire. They planned to rebuild, but their architect relative did not think the design for the new structure a block behind the College of Law was appropriate. So, Eid redesigned it for them and turned the plans over to a young builder named Raja Jubran who had recently founded his own construction company.

That project and connection with Jubran provided the impetus for Eid to return to Knoxville.

NEXT: Eid’s impact on Knoxville transcends older buildings as well as new construction.


Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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