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Canyon View High School viewed from across a courtyard with lettered overlaid and imprinted onto cement wall blocks

The Promise of a New Year

Griff Davenport

The only constant I’ve known in my 40-year-career with DLR Group is change – and 2020 was a year unlike any other I’ve experienced in my lifetime. A global pandemic that nearly ground the world to a halt was followed by some of our nation’s most momentous civil rights demonstrations and movements. And if these didn’t represent enough headwind for us to navigate through, we all closed 2020 witnessing perhaps the most tumultuous and divisive election cycle in our country’s history that culminated in the senseless attack on our national symbols of freedom in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021.

DLR Group has not been insulated from these world events – like a willow tree, we are bending with the winds of change and taking on different forms from the forces of nature around us. From these life-altering global events emerged new opportunities, enabling us to emerge in 2021 as a different kind of firm. Together, we took some giant steps forward into the future.

In March of 2020, all our locations, domestic and international, pivoted to a 100% work-from-home model. Our established technology infrastructure allowed us to continue delivering design work to our clients with little-to-no disruption. And the creative use of these same technologies kept us connected as a firm – perhaps as never before – helping to strengthen the culture that binds us together as a firm to successfully navigate the “stormy seas” of our economy and even our way of life in the places we live, work and play!  In many communities, we lent our expertise to organizations actively working to protect citizens from the virus. From rapid testing and housing facilities to temporary surge hospitals and safe performance spaces for the arts, we committed wholeheartedly to supporting the places in which we live and work. And through all of this, we embraced the opportunities of a virtual workforce, opening up the possibilities of attracting and retaining the best and most vibrant, agile, and geographically diverse workforce.

An assessment and recovery center site in King County, WA. Photo © King County, Wash.

Exercising our design voice embedded us deeper within our communities. After the tragedy of George Floyd’s death in May and the following civil unrest that truly shook the city of Minneapolis, we committed to rebuilding and supporting the communities most vulnerable population: children. At the Urban Ventures Early Education Center in North Minneapolis, we broke ground on a new facility designed to help families with kids who needed more resources in their North Lake Street neighborhood.

So much of what we read today laments all that we lost or postponed due to COVID-19 and the nation’s racial inequities. Yet within that loss, pain, and uncomfortable truth we found opportunities to make DLR Group a better firm: a firm that can continue supporting design for clients and communities, while diving head-first into the work around equity, diversity, and inclusion. We have doubled down on relationships – within our own organization and with our clients – that embrace equity. Our brand promise to elevate the human experience through design, continues to serve as our North Star. And one of our core values, environmental stewardship, continues to drive our commitment to improve the condition of our planet through the built environment. Those principles will continue to drive our employee-owners to accomplishment.

Exterior view of a section the Triumph with window covered facade illuminated at night with interior rooms visible

The Triumph in Washington, D.C., recipient of the 2020 American Architecture Award. Photo by Kevin G. Reeves.

I am incredibly optimistic about the year ahead as DLR Group evolves into the firm we desire and need to be in order thrive in the future we now face. And if the past year was a reflection of what we can accomplish when the world is upside down, I’m excited to see what we’ll achieve in 2021 as our world establishes a new norm and begins the process of healing – physically, socially, and politically. We are all part of one global community, and we are better together! If our only constant is change, our firm is committed to transformation that makes our world a better place.

You can read DLR Group’s 2021 Annual Report here. 


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