– By Mike Konzen, principal and chair
There’s an old saying, often attributed to former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, that “all politics are local.” He meant that a politician’s national success is directly tied to the issues that matter to their constituents at home.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our success has become increasingly local.
For the past several years, this has not been particularly true. Our practice was anything but local. Rather, we worked hard to cross the globe, designing projects on five continents. We’ve spent too many hours on planes, in hotels, and in conference rooms around the world. We measured our success at the brink of Niagara Falls, the Biltmore Estate, in China, in Dubai.
The past two years have changed this profoundly for me, based on two events. First, in 2014, our Saint Louis community was stunned by the events associated with the shooting of Michael Brown. My wife Ann and I watched in disbelief the protests in our streets, within view of our windows at home. Our community was divided, and struggled to find meaning and resolve amidst this upheaval. Faced with this, any thinking person would ask themselves lots of questions. What could we do?
Then in 2015, at PGAV we celebrated our 50th anniversary. Fifty years is a nice thing, but I spent much of the anniversary year pondering what it really means to be in business for this long. What does this mean to be in business in a community for fifty years? More importantly, how about the next fifty years?
Out of these two events came the following resolution: We would use our success as a means to help advance our community as well as our company.
An important step in this resolution is our partnership for the Alberti Program with the Sam Fox School of Design at Washington University. We made a five-year, $125,000 commitment to fund this program, which introduces architecture and design to third grade to eighth grade students, many of whom come from underprivileged backgrounds. Our staff will also volunteer at this program, sharing their passion for design and opening doors to inspire fledgling future architects and designers.
Why are we doing this? Because we live here and raise our children here. Because we are proud of Saint Louis; and believe that, like our company, our community can have a spectacular future. Because investing in our community and providing opportunities for young people must be part of how we measure success.
Our workload projections are more international than ever, with projects on five continents, and throughout the US. And we recently announced that we are working on $1.2 billion worth of projects as we start our 51st year in 2016. In other words, we’ll continue to spend time on planes and in hotel rooms for years to come.
Global recognition for our designs will continue to be very important for our practice. But local recognition for our values – that is how we will truly measure success.