Published on June 7th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine0
Method Studio celebrates 10 years of growth and creativity while looking forward to the future with a new office space.
The celebration of a milestone is really the celebration of a beginning. In the case of Method Studio, the firm’s tenth anniversary is a tribute to the unmistakable moxie demonstrated by its trio of founders who started the company on the eve of the great recession. Ten years later, with more than ten times its original headcount (up from 6 to 70), the firm is going strong. Its award-winning portfolio includes projects ranging from stadiums and student housing to corporate headquarters and affordable apartments.
The beginnings of Method’s story are
marked by the very attributes that have led to its long-term success—courage, strategic-thinking, creativity, and integrity.
In 2007, the three founders and principals—Becky Hawkins, Joe Smith, and Kelly Morgan—worked together at a national firm, though based in Salt Lake City. Over time, they felt as if they couldn’t fully express their ideas within the confines of the national firm, nor run operations in a way best suited for the community. That’s when they decided to go it alone.
“The recession was approaching, things were slowing down, and we were getting stifled with the national firm looking over our shoulder,” said Morgan. “We felt we were the black sheep of the family out in Salt Lake, different from the large cities where the firm also had operations. They wanted us to take on bigger projects and get published in magazines, but they weren’t letting us take on small and medium projects to build relationships and establish ourselves. We said, ‘We can do this ourselves. We can make our own rules.’ We used our connections locally and started the firm. That alone lets you think more creatively and out of the box. As soon we were free from those restrictions, we cultivated those relationships and defined the company as to how it should fit into this market, rather than how a national firm thinks we should fit into the market.”
“When we started, we wanted to tap into our creativity and bring fresh ideas to the table—technically and creatively,” said Smith. “We wanted something we could get excited about, that would set us apart from what was being done. Part of this stems from previous experience at other firms that felt a lot more corporate and not as energetic. We wanted to create a process that was a lot more collaborative, which gives an opportunity for all us of to have a voice in the design process, and to tap into the various talents and creative nature of the staff.”
Both Morgan and Smith attribute their success in recruiting young talent to these ideals espoused early on.
“We’ve built a reputation for great design and fun working environment and that’s what has translated into an ability to recruit and keep top talent,” said Smith.
“When we started, we said ‘This isn’t going to be your grandfather’s firm,’” said Morgan. “It has to be nimble and change with the markets, adapt
to different technologies, and different ways of offering a culture in the office to retain the employees. Half the battle is keeping the employees happy with the profession, because if they feel stifled like we did, we’re not doing anything different. We have a drum set in the corner. We have dogs in the office. When you walk into our office, it doesn’t feel like the stodgy old architecture firms that clients have been used to. There is real atmosphere. It’s not made up. It’s who we are.”
That sense of authenticity and honesty are key attributes that helped the team weather its early years during the economic downturn. For Hawkins, the firm’s proudest accomplishment is making it through the recession while holding those values intact. “We had projects go on hold, with developers owing us hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we paid all of our bills. We went out and took out a personal loan. We did not want to cause suffering to those that had worked so hard. We kept all of our staff. We made it through that time with record growth. We got through an extremely challenging time with integrity.”
In addition to integrity, the company focused on stellar service to the few clients they were able to secure during such a difficult period. They stayed nimble and embraced opportunities that arose out of seeming failures. “When we formed the company, we had a couple of clients and that was it,” explained Morgan. “We established a relationship with a developer who wanted to build condominiums and we took the project far, almost through to the completion of documents. Then, the developer said, ‘We’re going to hold off’ and they ultimately dissolved the development company. We had developed a personal relationship and though they couldn’t pay us the balance owed us, they did introduce us to another developer out of southern Idaho. That developer was frustrated with their architectural firm, based out of Houston, which didn’t understand the market or the climate. We got in with them, we impressed them and we’re still doing projects with them now. We’re doing a $15-20 million student housing project with them right now.”
Hawkins agreed that by focusing on relationships, the firm has achieved a great deal in one decade. “We love what we do. We become friends with our clients. We love our employees. That’s why we’ve seen success.”
She also shared advice for young professionals considering work in the field. “If you love architecture, go for it and don’t let anyone talk you out of it,” she said. “Go in with eyes wide open. Follow up. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you do it with integrity and passion, you’ll succeed.” For a firm that began by taking on projects with total budgets of $50K and now works on projects with total budgets of $50M, this approach has served Method Studio well. It was named firm of the year by IIDA last year and its website is scattered with other awards for work across the state.
Notable projects include Utah Valley University Performing Arts Building, Utah State University Maverik Stadium, Utah State University Classroom Instruction Building (Price, Eastern Campus), Bud Bailey Apartments, Cedars Apartments & Micro Units Housing, Replay Microunit Condominiums, Tooele Applied Technology College, Dixie Applied Technology College, Dixie State University Campus View Suites, Kamas Library and the BYU Harmon