- 30th Year Anniversary
- What was your goal for your firm 30 years ago?
I did not set out to build a firm of 50 with a portfolio of more than $1.2 billion. I set out to grow the business sustainably, and was just as grateful to have a couple others in the studio with me in the very early years, including Steve. However, what we’ve achieved over these 30-years in our reputation and office culture was on my mind from the first day – to do design work in genuine collaboration with our clients that reflects their goals with a talented thoughtful staff. I couldn’t be happier at how this initial goal has come to fruition.
- What inspires you about educational design and QKA’s clients?
My inspiration for educational design remains unchanged from my first school project all those years ago. When you sit in a room with passionate dedicated teachers and administrators who work under such funding and time limitations that would not be accepted in the private sector, you cannot help but be inspired. I have always had an adoration for teaching and learning, and working so closely with teachers reminds me how imperative their work is. I am grateful that we get to make spaces to allow teaches to do this essential work.
- We know you have more than 30 stories to share that have shaped your career, but what is one story about a project that has made you proud?
That’s true, there are so many stories about projects I am pleased with, but I’d say one that I may be the proudest of came from a teenager. An earlier project of ours was under construction and nearing completion, when the contractor saw two students during their summer break peek over the construction fence and overheard one of them say ‘I can’t wait for summer to be over so I can start school here’. If I can get a teenage excited about their learning environment, I’m delighted. As any parent will tell you, adoration by a teenager is not an easy thing to get.
- What do you consider your best advice received?
A well-known and rather unabashed San Francisco architect, who knew me to be detailed oriented, once told me not to worry so much because something’s still going to go wrong. His language was a bit more colorful but the advice was what I needed. I am reminded to plan as best I can but remain nimble enough to adapt and overcome challenges.
- A lot has changed about the design process in 30 years. What hasn’t changed?
Yes, the revolution of technology and increased expectations for speed and accuracy has transformed my business. What has not changed is the need for genuine personal service. In a faster paced world, simple acts of human kindness and care need to remain – perhaps now more than ever – when all around us is moving at light speed. Routinely asking clients if we’re meeting expectations or what we can improve for them, thanking the people we work with, being sure we truly understand what our clients are looking for – these remain an essential part of our work despite three decades of advancements in the field.
- What does the next decade look like for QKA?
The next ten years are a transition for QKA. We have remarkable firm leadership including two junior partners and three associates. Steve and I know that in order for the firm to continue to thrive and adapt to an ever-changing terrain, we need to hand more of the reins over to younger nimbler hands. I believe one of our strength has been allowing our talented younger leadership and staff to help guide the firm. While we will remain out in front over the next 10 years, we imagine more of the firm will be managed by others; and I find that very exciting and promising not just for us but for our clients.