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California’s Elite Education Design Firm

From design expertise to educational funding specialists, the combined resources of DLR Group and BakerNowicki enhances the firm’s competitive position in the K-12 Education market in Southern California beyond. The firms share a commitment to design excellence that benefits students, teachers, and educators in local communities along the West Coast. In August 2021, the two firms merged forming DLR Group | Baker Nowicki, unquestionably the premier K-12 Education studio in California.

rendering of a symmetrical gray building with a metallic transparent volume at the top of stairs and concrete planters
Valley High School Performing Arts Theater. Photo © DLR Group | BakerNowicki


Specializing solely in educational architecture, Jon Baker, FAIA, and Richard Nowicki, AIA founded the firm on the four pillars of collaboration, innovation, integrated design, and sustainability.


Collaborative Planning Processes: Design 39 Campus

The Poway Unified School District community sought to change the way schooling is done with the new Design 39 Campus. During a week-long programming and design symposium, more than 100 parents, teachers, administrators, business partners, and community leaders collaborated with designers to develop the curriculum and vision for the campus, which has become the new model school for the district. The campus prioritizes self-autonomy to prepare students to be independent and responsible for their learning journey and connects learners to the community through business and industry partnerships.

children walking on diagonal concrete paths between landscaping in front of Design 39, a multistory building with glass facade

The resulting design encompasses a variety of learning spaces, such as learning pods with non-traditional grade spans, collaboration areas, maker spaces, and imagination studios that elevate learning.

wood ceiling over concrete bleacher seating against a wall with blue orange and green panels and ipads and screens embedded

Innovative Solutions to Challenging Needs: Edward James Olmos School of Film and Cinematic Arts

A space that once functioned as a second story library at Santa Ana High School has transformed to the Edward James Olmos School for Film and Cinematic Arts, a specialized program for film and cinematic exploration. To expand its already robust portfolio of arts programs, this space provides industry professionals with access to students studying screenwriting, editing, broadcasting and special effects.

waffle slab ceiling with orthogonal lighting and wooden floor in a hallway lined with glass walled media labs and classrooms

Books, stacks, technology resources, and study areas are replaced with a large studio outfitted for filming and instruction, two editing rooms, a digital broadcast suite with control room and studio, a digital media lab, and a flex lab.

waffle slab ceiling wooden floor inset in concrete with media wall framing classroom with glass exterior wall and red chairs

The addition of windows where none previously existed offer incredible views that overlook the main campus plaza, activating the exiting architecture and visually connecting the campus to the transformed space.

Integrated Design

Integrated Project Design + Delivery: Del Lago Academy of Applied Sciences

Del Lago Academy of Applied Sciences, a specialty high school in San Diego, is situated on previously undeveloped land. The varied topography of the 34-acre parcel presented physical and spatial challenges to the campus development and expounded upon the firm's growing expertise with Building Information Modeling and design. Rocky outcroppings featured throughout the property contain evidence of past occupation by Indigenous peoples. To respect this legacy, grinding mortars honed into the living rock and petroglyphs were preserved. The result is campus that provides unique educational opportunities for our future leaders and scholars while maintaining a crucial link to the history of the area and local cultures.

orthogonal tile and concrete building with glass windows and landscaped courtyard set into a recessed cliffside at dusk

Digital technologies used for developing the landform modifications and building-site integration allowed for precise grading strategies requiring no special protections through the construction process.

oval ceiling recess above circular blue lounge seating in library learning area with blue and beige and tall glass walls

Sustainable Design Strategies: Del Mar Heights Elementary School

Del Mar Heights Elementary School is scenic and expressive, capitalizing on expansive ocean views and the surrounding Torrey Pines Environmental Preserve. The high-performance campus design harnesses aspects of the coastal climate to maximize energy efficiency and occupant comfort through careful material selection, building orientation, natural light, operable glass walls to capture prevailing breezes, passive heating and cooling, and thermal massing. Learning environments maintain healthy air quality levels through natural ventilation and provide visual connections to the coastline and nature preserve.

meandering paths through a grassy field lead to a cluster of brown shed style buildings with glass walls and slanted roofs

The site is terraced along its natural topography, allowing for a continuous transition to the ocean.

kids in casual learning setting of floor to ceiling glass walls and wood beam ceilings overlooking sand dunes and sea horizon

Simple shed-roofed, open structures are accessed along the campus boardwalk lined with beach sand and coastal grasses to mimic the water’s edge.

The Latest

Firm News

Design 39 Campus in San Diego Photo © DLR Group | BakerNowicki
San Diego

K-12 Design Firm BakerNowicki Joins DLR Group

August 11, 2021

DLR Group acquired San Diego based education design firm BakerNowicki Design Studio. The firm will operate as DLR Group|BakerNowicki to serve K-12 and higher education clients in the San Diego market and join with DLR Group K-12 studios in Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, and San Francisco to serve the interests of education clients throughout California.

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Meet the Team

Jon Baker


Jon Baker

A recognized expert in the planning and design of educational facilities, Jon’s experience includes the design/renovation of individual buildings and campuses, and institutional master plans that delineate strategies for future change and growth. He has completed the renovation of over 52 public K-12 campuses and 27 new schools.

Richard Nowicki


Richard Nowicki

Richard leads design in our San Diego studio. He co-founded Baker Nowicki Design Studio, which merged with DLR Group in 2021.

Buddy Gessel


Buddy Gessel

Buddy’s career has been dedicated to educational facilities including new and renovated K-12 schools. He specalizes in the delivery of publicly-funded projects throughout the San Deigo area. Buddy has been practicing architecture for over 17 years, a field about which he is very passionate.

Brian Leonard


Brian Leonard

Brian has extensive experience with educational facilities, providing innovative and sustainable design solutions to K-12 campuses. A proven communicator and facilitator, he is an expert in the strategic use of BIM technologies.

Meet our People

Our sector, discipline, and executive leaders are dispersed to mentor the next generation of employee-owners, counsel clients, and share their design voice in their local communities.

Black curved wall section with rounded dip in ceiling leading to dining. Left, translucent purple wall room below white wall

Integrated Design

Our promise is to elevate the human experience through design. We explore global challenges with best-in-class clients committed to improving our world.

Infinite Shade at the Chandler Art Museum illuminated in multicolor array at night

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