Smart Design Rooted in Sustainability and Authenticity
At BVH Architecture, its team of fifty-five employees may seem small, but their passion makes up for it. BVH Architecture employees love the challenge of designing a new building, and they go above and beyond with all they do.
Since 1968, BVH Architecture has been putting its passion to work, designing and implementing smart, sustainable solutions to meet and exceed client needs. Now, in March of this year, this company with offices in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, celebrated its 50th year of incorporation by giving back.
With its newly launched “Design That” (designthat.org/) initiative, BVH Architecture has positioned itself to address community challenges using critical thinking and problem solving skills. With the help of select partners, the initiative is centered on ameliorating social issues and helping to approach problems from a different perspective, something many communities struggle with. Like all viable community development, Design That follows a bottom-up, collaborative model: community stakeholders provide feedback and help identify challenges in the community; the team undertakes a cooperative approach to solve the problem; and finally, the design is put into action.
The Design That initiative is a perfect fit for BVH Architecture’s core values and focus on “a genuine investment in bettering our communities through design.” As the company’s comprehensive website explains, the BVH team goes “beyond building design and invest(s) in our community through an authentic, collaborative and meaningful dialogue.” The company’s process hinges on engaging in a meaningful way with stakeholders and building consensus to achieve win-win outcomes in all that it does.
The staff at BVH Architecture value the opinions of their clients and the broader community, evidenced by a reception desk the team built for its office in 2016. Not only did every team member put his or her mark on installing a dowel for the desk; so too did the company’s clients. Looking at the desk when you first walk in, the word “Wonder” greets you while “Knowledge” is just around the corner. The cornerstones of this company, these words embody what BVH Architecture strives for in every project, big or small.
A team of just three employees, interested in design fabrication, took on the challenge of making the unique feature of the Lincoln Studio. As a team-building project that captured the company’s core values, it is also a conversation piece comprising over 18,000 dowels. This number includes acrylic dowels engraved with partners’ and clients’ logos, which shows the importance of all who have contributed to the success of this company.
It is obvious that this firm takes partnerships, both big and small, seriously. As Kristine Dorn, President and Principal at BVH Architecture, states, “The architectural industry is truly changing, requiring a change in the partnership with our construction partners and fabrication vendors moving forward.”
Wisner-Pilger Public School is a prime example of the company’s dedication to its clients and the designs that are best suited to their needs. When a tornado destroyed the original school, the Superintendent had big dreams for the rebuild, seeking a new way to deliver the curriculum, and went to BVH Architecture with design ideas. Together, the team designed a concept that has opened the eyes of many who work at and attend the school. “The result,” says BVH’s website, “is a cutting-edge, 21st century invigorated learning environment that creates opportunities where typical classroom designs fall short.”
As this was such a unique experience for all involved, one of the staff who worked on the school will be returning to the project to understand how this environment is impacting the students’ learning. Being able to understand the building’s strengths will help the team better understand what to recommend for similar projects going forward, which is always top priority for the firm’s long-term vision.
The company’s projects are not always new builds, of course. BVH Architecture balances designing buildings from the ground (or perhaps below ground) up with restoring and renovating existing locations. The State Capitol building of Nebraska is one such example which the firm has had the privilege to work on for four decades. The National Historic Landmark designed in 1920 by Bertram Goodhue, the building’s preservation and adaptive reuse has involved its limestone masonry exterior, tower façade, tower window systems, gold tile dome, tile murals, roofs, and roof plazas as well as the addition of the courtyard fountains – an element originally designed by Goodhue but not completed due to the Great Depression.
The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer is another important structure. Being 75,000 square feet and an historic building, the value of the work and importance of design were integral. Designed by renowned modernist Edward Durell Stone, the building remains a testament to his design skills, and is his only existing building in Nebraska. It was crucial to respect the building’s original identity as a landmark and iconic cultural center, and as a fixture of the community.
The company is guided by the principles of a Commitment to People, the Pursuit of Knowledge, and a Sense of Wonder. Above all, the team’s work is authentic, guided by the communities in which it is based and the end users who will ultimately call its buildings home. Designing a building involves much more than just material and square footage, and it is obvious that the staff at BVH Architecture take building relationships as seriously as the longevity of their structures.
The team is constantly building on its knowledge base, and in this era of skilled labor shortages it is important to note that BVH Architecture does not keep its expertise to itself. To help shape the next generation of skilled architects and designers, staff members mentor students and youth who, they recognize, can help them create new possibilities for the future. Many of BVH’s staff also lecture at and work closely with local universities, like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Working in the educational, cultural and civic, commercial, and faith-based sectors and beyond, BVH Architecture values clients of all sizes and projects of all scopes. In each sector in which it works, its underlying principles of people, knowledge and wonder come into play in different ways to create spaces that can be fully experienced, appreciated, enjoyed and used to their fullest extent. Environmental sustainability underpins all of this work, as BVH considers it not an optional add-on, but a fundamental aspect of good, modern design.
BVH Architecture’s size enables it to remain flexible and nimble. With the help of technology, many employees are now able to work remotely and collaborate, provide input and gain feedback from professionals all over the globe. Having studios in both Omaha and Lincoln has enabled BVH Architecture to compete at local, regional and national scales, providing leading-edge design and second-to-none service. Now with a provisional patent for an app that leverages technology, allowing teams to collaborate more effectively during the documentation of an existing building, it is clear that this architectural firm is making a difference, both to its clients and the broader industry.
With an annual revenue of $15 million, and fifty years of history under its belt, BVH Architecture continues to hold fast to what matters most – its people and the impact architecture and design have on all of them. The thread that weaves the BVH Architecture team together is its collaborative, holistic approach, one which takes into account a building’s use, its place in the community, and its ecological footprint. To show appreciation to its staff and highlight the company’s strengths over the past 50 years, the firm travelled to New York City, a trip that allowed for both celebration and the appreciation of the city’s stunning architecture. It is a fitting reward for this team that, since 1968, has employed people who are passionate about architecture and are provided with the tools needed to learn, create, and wonder.