Anderson Mason Dale Architects gives clients throughout the Rocky Mountains a structure that fits their needs and styles.
OFTENTIMES, architecture firms force their clients to work within the con nes of their specific, established style, even when it means forcing their demands into less-than-ideal design scenarios.
Anderson Mason Dale (AMD) Architects takes the opposite approach out of its studio in Denver. The company instead listens to each client’s specific needs and designs spaces that bring their vision to reality.
“As a result of this philosophy, our work de es any preconceived style or agenda,” says Paul S. Haack, president of AMD.“Instead, AMD seeks architecture that heightens human well-being by addressing the specific cultural values of each institution and the distinctive qualities of each place.”
AMD has been providing services associated with the programming, planning and design of award-winning work within the public realm across the Mountain West region for 40 years. AMD twice has been awarded the American Institute of Architects Firm Award for its distinguished body of work within the region, and it has been the recipient of numerous design awards from local, state and national organizations. The company’s work and project approach center on the concept that each project is unique and must re ect the vision of the users and the institution. Every building’s character stems from a relentless exploration of program, context, craft and character, according to Haack.
“Our practice shuns the popular trend of designing eye-popping work,” Haack says. “Instead, we seek an authenticity in our work that is a direct response to our client’s program, the unique aspects of the site, the expressive possibilities of our craft, and the experiential qualities of place-making that give buildings an unforgettable character.”
Design for Higher Learning
AMD has grown its reputation by delivering quality projects in the higher education market. This focus and expertise has enabled the firm to advance the thinking about higher educational environments and has enabled it to craft buildings that break the bounds of conventional thinking in terms of academic environments, according to Haack.
For example, AMD has applied these principles most recently to Brown Hall at the Colorado School of Mines and the Enzi Educational STEM Facility at the University of Wyoming. These projects, according to Haack, explore the ideas of active learning environments, maker spaces and science on display, and the projects have become the most popular buildings for students on their campuses.
“One of the facets of our expertise in education is exploring the cross connections between K-12 environments and higher education learning spaces,” Haack says. “One of the things we are very excited about is the realization that from an architectural perspective, these educational spaces are part of a continuum, without the conventional distinctions between K-12 and college.”
Despite making a name for itself in the higher education field, AMD has focused on diversifying its portfolio recently. The company has brought its adaptable design philosophy to projects like the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Visitor Contact Station & Interpretive Center, the Hotel and Transit Center at Denver International Airport and the Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center.
Haack says the company is able to move nimbly between market sectors because of a collaborative atmosphere used to develop AMD’s projects. The company embraces the iterative nature of the design process because each cycle of development brings with it new opportunities based on a higher level of understanding that emerges.
“Drawing and collaboration is at the center of our design culture,” Haack says. “Every project at AMD begins with a sketch problem. That may sound dated, but we believe that the uninhibited first reactions to a problem are often the source of our best work.”
From there, all of AMD’s partners participate along with the project team. The sketch problem encourages the firm’s staff to combine different drawing techniques in order to unlock the visceral impulses and gestures that make up a project’s DNA, according to Haack.
“Drawing for us is a way of seeing and thinking – it’s at the center of our design process,” Haack says.
No matter the sector or the tools at hand, Haack says AMD’s dedicated employees are the true drivers of the firm’s studio culture. Each employee is a professional and is given the freedom to develop as an architect, family member and participant in the community, according to Haack.
One practice AMD implements is regularly sending its employees overseas to discover new places that influence its work in the U.S. Every other year, AMD leases a villa abroad that becomes the focus of office lectures, investigations and dialogue, according to Haack. The firm has traveled to Tuscany, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Helsinki; Paris; Rome; Lisbon, Portugal; Amsterdam; and London. Copenhagen, Denmark, is on the schedule for summer 2016.
“These trips rekindle the fire that makes our profession so unique, and the lessons learned from the trips have become part of AMD’s design legacy,” Haack says. “Being at AMD is hard work, but it is this balance that optimizes creativity, empathy and responsibility.
“The hard work that is invested each and every day is tempered by office activities that connect us to our common passion – architecture,” Haack adds.