The move grows CannonDesign’s geographic reach with the addition of SRG’s Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington studios in the Pacific Northwest. CannonDesign now has a network of 18 offices and more than 1,300 teammates across North America and India. ARCHITECT magazine spoke with CannonDesign CEO Brad Lukanic and SRG Partnership President Lisa Petterson, and discussed the firms’ shared commitment to designing spaces that help people, communities and the environment flourish.
“We started to discuss the idea of a merger almost a year ago,” shared Petterson. “The more we talked, the more we kept uncovering synergies and it became clear we could have more impact together. Our cultures are so aligned, and our shared future so bright.”
Curious about this new development, ARCHITECT interviewed Lukanic and Petterson about their thoughts about the merger, which became official today, and what the future holds.
How did the proposed merger come about?
Brad Lukanic: Lisa indicated this conversation started almost a year ago. I think it is important to add that this discussion began between designers at our respective firms. This was a design-led exploration and is now a design-led partnership. We quickly recognized that our design cultures could be stronger together.
Lisa Petterson: In the Pacific Northwest, it is important to be a local firm who understands the region. Localism is an important part of the region's cultural ethos and values. So, we were very clear from the start that a merger could not be about our local firm being absorbed by a large firm. And that is not what is happening. What I really appreciate is that even though CannonDesign is a larger firm, they maintain a small and nimble approach to business. It is not your typical corporate, all-business atmosphere – and that really resonated with us.
Often firms that merge have worked together in the past. Has that happened here?
Petterson: We have had shared pursuits over the years. I think we’ve always recognized cultural alignment with one another. I remember learning about CannonDesign’s Open Hand Studio and how it enables them to do public interest design work worldwide. I thought to myself, ‘SRG needs a program like that.’ The more we discussed partnership, the more we uncovered possibilities.
Are there recent projects you especially admire from the other firm?
Lukanic: SRG has a legacy of incredible work across the Pacific Northwest. Their commitment and expertise in sustainable building design is remarkable. It shines in award-winning buildings like the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Research Building or their Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. We are thrilled to have these buildings as part of our portfolio, and we want that sustainable design expertise to cascade into and amplify our sustainable work across North America.
Petterson: We’ve been building our behavioral health portfolio in Oregon and Washington, and we are just wrapping up the Center for Behavioral Health and Learning at the University of Washington. So, I am particularly excited about CannonDesign’s leading behavioral health expertise and its truly groundbreaking projects like the net-zero Cordilleras Mental Health Center in Redwood City, CA, and Sheppard Pratt’s new behavioral health campus outside of Baltimore, MD. These projects are boldly infusing nature and biophilic design into the healing process, which is so critical to mental health and well-being.
How do you envision the firm’s architectural style and/or design culture evolving?
Lukanic: I just referenced sustainability and that is huge. The opportunities to grow are bi-directional. CannonDesign and SRG both work across the same market verticals of health, education, science, workplace, sports, etc. We both really care about designing buildings that have lasting impact. CannonDesign proudly shaped Living-Centered Design a few years back and I believe SRG embodies that design ethos. We are going to make each other stronger in known and unexpected ways.
How will the merger influence your approach to sustainable architecture and social responsibility?
Lukanic: The Pacific Northwest has always led the way in sustainability, and SRG has long been leading the way in sustainable design. In my mind, the opportunity to grow our sustainable design impact is one of the biggest advantages of this merger. Our sustainable design team has been growing, we just released our inaugural sustainable design impact report, we have net-zero projects, we are implementing mass timber structures...and to now add on SRG’s proven expertise in this arena is incredibly exciting.
Petterson: Sustainability is hardwired into our culture at SRG and we are members of industry coalitions like the Institute for Health in the Built Environment and the Tall Wood Design Institute. I hope every project we touch moving forward has a strong sustainability story, and I know we have the people, expertise and resources to make that a reality.
How will leadership responsibilities be divided or shared moving forward?
Petterson: What is wonderful is that all the leaders at SRG are going to have similar roles to the ones they hold now, but they will be able to focus more on their passions. As we have grown, many of us have had to be taken away from being market or design leaders in order to run the business. This merger will allow our people to refocus more on the markets and/or disciplines that inspire them. For me, I will transition from president of SRG to being the office practice leader of our Portland and Seattle studios. We will also operate as SRG Partnership + CannonDesign for the foreseeable future in the Pacific Northwest.
How do you plan to foster innovation within the merged firm?
Lukanic: I think so much of the infrastructure for innovation is in place thanks to CannonDesign’s in-house innovation incubator (Amp), our Spark innovation platform and the events and programming we offer throughout the year. While CannonDesign is more than a century old, we have always embraced an entrepreneurial spirit and now we have new people, new ideas and new cultures to infuse into that innovation DNA.