WDG has perfected the art of running a successful architecture firm over the course of nearly 80 years.
WITH NEARLY 80 YEARS of experience in its portfolio, WDG has the authority in the architecture industry to proclaim it has mastered its craft, dominating the market in two major U.S. cities.
“What sets us apart? We’re better at it,” says Rick Hammann, managing principal of WDG. “We have more experience and we’ve been through all the learning curves. That doesn’t mean we’re not still learning every day, but we have invested in our staff, in turn elevating our creative, and offering faster turn out. This is all better for the bottom line. We work with builders day and night, and we’ve got a great team.”
WDG was founded in 1938 as Edwin Weihe & Associates. With a history that extends seven decades and more than 500 major buildings totaling over 50 million square feet of office space and more than 40,000 residential units, WDG is one of the oldest and most prolific architectural firms in the United States.
Today, the company employs 140 people in its Washington, D.C., headquarters, as well as 35 in its Dallas office. WDG’s geographic reach extends nationwide. Among its many projects, WDG’s built portfolio includes The Varsity, an edge-campus student housing high-rise in Ann Arbor, Michigan; the hip Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas; and The Vue, a wood-frame residential development in Beachwood, Ohio.
Although WDG built its reputation on office and multifamily residential work, the company expanded into additional sectors to foster a diverse portfolio. Today, WDG is active in higher education, hospitality, senior living and interiors, as well as urban and master planning.
Architecture firms do not survive and thrive for nearly 80 years by resting on their laurels. WDG is constantly developing for future business; assets that will support its efforts and growth for generations, whether that means investing in new technologies or developing employees. In terms of technology, WDG has been at the forefront of 3-D modeling as the products have become available.
Today, Hammann says, all of the company’s work is conducted through Revit, and includes the utilization of SketchUp, Auto- CAD, PhotoShop and virtual reality goggles for panoramic views.
WDG also remains on the forefront of sustainable design. This is especially critical in the Washington market, where most buildings must be certified at a minimum of LEED Silver.
To grow the next generation of leaders, WDG nurtures what Hammann calls a “collegiate and collaborative” environment for its internal teams.
“We’re trying to be as open as possible with our employees, and we’re seeing that a lot of people value the sharing of ideas at all levels,” Hammann says. “It has certainly made a difference in the last few years since the recession when everyone was down for a little bit. It’s a fun place to work.”
The most important result from this effort is that WDG’s junior staff members are contributing just as much as the veterans of the firm. Hammann says this has helped WDG create better architecture as ideas from a cross-section of generations are considered for just about every project.
“We’re getting great ideas from our younger people as well as some of the old fogies,” Hammann says. “We’re truly collaborating
much more than perhaps traditional firms might have in the last century. We have a lot of tangible things that we do that actually help our junior architects move up, as well.”
WDG also offers in-house Revit training programs, and the company pays for external classes on the software. Hammann says WDG also hosts “lunch and learn” programs every week for its staff, where leaders discuss topics like new products and building codes.
“There are more graduates coming out of school looking for a variety of experiences, which we try to accommodate with our work culture,” Hammann says. “We have a robust portfolio of project experience. Offering this helps distinguish us from others.”
One of WDG Architecture’s most recent projects is Insignia on M, a 310,000-squarefoot, 324-unit residential building with 13 stories plus a penthouse.
Located in Washington as part of the new development surrounding Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, Insignia on M also features three-and-a-half levels of below-grade parking for 213 cars, and includes 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail that will house a restaurant, a club room and a fitness center.
According to Hammann, Insignia on M follows the pattern many multifamily residential structures in dense urban areas ascribe to lately – buildings with smaller units that feature luxurious amenities. Insignia on M has a rooftop that houses a pool and sundeck, and other common amenities include a yoga studio and dog spa. The penthouse level houses accessory use spaces with a kitchenette, pool and outdoor seating areas.
The site is situated directly above the Navy Yard metro station, giving residents easy access to local cultural and sporting events.
The grand streetscaping facing the main thoroughfare features bioretention ponds, sculptural benches and retail outdoor seating.
The restaurant space is enclosed in glass, as well. Residents will have views of the U.S. Capitol as well as Nationals Park.
“The trend we’re seeing nationwide – particularly in Washington, D.C. – is designing amenities on the rooftop level to give patrons panoramic views of surrounding landmarks,” Hammann says. “As an architect, we’ve had a lot of fun with that trend.”
No matter the size, scope or type of project, Hammann says WDG has learned over the course of nearly eight decades that working hand-in-hand with the builder is the best way to bring in projects on time and on budget. The adversarial nature of the building industry has fallen by the wayside in an effort to deliver projects for clients.
“We’re creating value for our clients and educating a generation of new architects,” Hammann says. “And we’re doing it naturally.”