meet Robert Acuña-Pilgrim, one of TBG’s newest principals
Doing what you love and loving what you do – with someone you love.
This is how Robert Acuña-Pilgrim, one of our newest principals at TBG, defines success. We sat down recently with Robert to get to know him a little more and to share his story with the rest of you.
Growing up in Mississippi and Finding Landscape Architecture
Robert grew up in Mississippi as an only child – spending his elementary years in Vicksburg and later graduating from a high school outside Meridian. His memories of his early years are filled with loving recollections of Sunday afternoon drives in their family Volkswagen Beetle though the Vicksburg Memorial Park. Without knowing better, this was his first taste of the impact landscape architecture can have on someone.
When his family moved to Meridian, their Sunday drives changed to driving through new communities, looking at one home after another (before HGTV). Unlike other city kids, Robert also grew up with the good fortune of being able to spend extended amounts of time on his grandparents’ farms. He spent many of his days dreaming of how he could create communities focused on the great ponds and creeks on the land.
In high school, Robert excelled at math and, naturally, entered college as an accounting major. For fun one semester (narrator: we have different ideas of fun), he was taking a 5-credit hour calculus class when his professor asked him why he was majoring in accounting. Robert responded, “I’m thinking about architecture instead, but a respected adult told me that if I didn’t like physics, then I shouldn’t be an architect.” His professor then threw out the idea of engineering or landscape architecture. Robert had no idea what landscape architecture was and, naively, didn’t think you needed a degree to mow grass. After some light research in an encyclopedia, Robert decided on Landscape Architecture and transferred to Mississippi State, where he’d get his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture.
The Real World
Upon graduating from Mississippi State, Robert moved to Atlanta – where he finally found the true south that he always craved. In Atlanta, he also found a bustling city and vibrancy nestled within a beautiful natural world consisting of mountains, rivers and great parks. After practicing for a few years, he decided to return to Mississippi State to complete a degree in Architecture – later joining a multidisciplinary firm focused on planning, architecture and landscape architecture. It was at this firm where his love for planning was fueled. Fast forward a few years, and Robert joined TBG before later joining TBG again in 2018.
Defining a Design Philosophy
A lost art, but Robert believes that every good design solution begins with a simple act – listening. “Keep it simple. Keep it clean. And certainly make it walkable. ‘Walkable’ includes shaded, wide sidewalks and connections. Plants should be resilient and not overly fussy.”
His design philosophy, as well as his career, has been influenced by many mentors along the way – and most currently, Robert pulls from his fellow principals (Earl, Sean, Tom, Jim, Mark, Will Seth, and CJ – to name just a few) at TBG for guidance.
Other Things to Know About Robert
Favorite Vacation? The one where I married my best friend! But truthfully, all my vacations with Luis are awesome and all have fun stories – like the time we ran a half marathon on a whim in Vancouver.
Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster? Tiny elephant.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to hit a deadline? I was working on a project and decided that a model scale based on plastic army men was needed. I used the men as scale, cut off their weapons as best I could – and spray painted them to try and hide the fact that they were Army men. It didn’t work and it looked awful. Ironic that it was for a country club in Atlanta.
Next up on your travel agenda? Laurel, Mississippi for Thanksgiving, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico in December – and then the Rio Grande Valley for Christmas. Maybe Marfa in 2020 and 2 weeks in Europe to celebrate Luis turning 40?
Favorite movie line? “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies.” – Gone with the Wind
Road trip he’d like to take: I’d like to go out to Marfa – hopefully in early 2020!
Celebrity Doppelganger: Not sure today, but in the late 90s it was David Duchovny. I was compared to him several times. At one point, it left someone speechless. I never saw it.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Depends on the day, but San Miguel del Allende, Mexico. Ansley Park in Atlanta is a close second.