Austin Tunnell

Austin Tunnell

Austin Tunnell

Austin used to be a number cruncher. Or what is more officially known as a CPA.  But back in 2013, feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in his career, he decided to take his life in a new direction, setting off for the jungles of Panama to work for Kalu Yala, a small company with a big dream: to build the world’s most sustainable modern town.  This is where he was first inspired to make building his career, and also happened to meet a man who would later play a pivotal role in making that happen.

But first, he needed to pursue another dream.  The Peace Corps.  He spent two years in Uganda working with everyone from farmers and small business owners to schools and health clinics teaching basic accounting and business, computer technology, HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, and gender equality and human rights. 

As much time as he spent teaching, though, he spent far more time learning, and walked away with a broader worldview yet a more focused mission.  He knew what he needed to do next.  First, and most importantly, convince Sarah, another volunteer who had been placed in the same town over the two years, to become his partner in crime for life, and second, find that man from Kalu Yala, Clay Chapman, founder of Hope for Architecture.

Back in the US, the former went off without a hitch.  Mostly.  Two weeks after their wedding, with little money and no backup plan, the two set off for Oklahoma to meet Clay Chapman.  History is unclear whether Clay actually accepted Austin as an apprentice, or if Austin just showed up and refused to leave.  Either way, he spent two years learning from the famed master builder, which shaped him in immeasurable ways, and gave him the skills and experience to begin his own dream: Building Culture. 

Austin sees his entire life up to that point as training for this particular mission.  He believes that how we build shapes how we live, that the values that go into our buildings are afterwards reflected back to us and reinforced for as long as they stand.  What we build carries weight, not only for us, but for our children, and our children’s children.  So it is with both caution and enthusiasm that Austin founded Building Culture in order to earnestly explore the question, how can we build a thriving world?