David PolzinAs the Executive Director of Design Strategies, David is committed to ensuring design excellence influences everything we do as a firm. Read on to learn more about David’s perspective on design, and why he thinks 2016 was our firm’s best year yet.

Can you describe your role as Executive Director of Design Strategies?

There are four things I am focused on: championing design excellence, communicating our identity as a design firm both internally to our people and externally to the world, identifying talented people, and creating a context for those same people to do what they do best. To call these things goals is to suggest there is some point in the future when we have accomplished those things and we can stop. But I believe these are living goals that will always need to be tended to, otherwise we run the risk of becoming something less than what we have the potential to be.

So in nutshell, my role is to build and maintain a culture of creativity and innovation in all we do.

Reflecting on 2016, from a design excellence standpoint, what are you most proud of?

2016 was arguably one of our firm’s greatest years for design excellence. For starters, we ranked #16 in the Architect 50, which is a ranking based on the quality of a firm’s design portfolio. What’s especially impressive about this ranking is that we ranked well ahead of our traditional competitors and are in the midst of some of the country’s most respected boutique design studios. As a firm, we also took home 36 awards for design excellence and innovation, including 14 awards from the American Institute of Architects – more than we’ve ever received in a single year.

Architect +50

For the Architect 50 design ranking, we submitted five projects to be reviewed by the jury: 1. Clinicas Oncologicas Integradas’ comprehensive cancer system; 2. Kaiser Permanente’s Radiation Treatment Center; 3. CJ Blossom Park; 4. Jacobs Medical Center; Elms College Chapel.

What is a CannonDesign project that stands out to you as an example of how design can affect people in a meaningful way?

All of our work impacts people’s lives in profound ways, but personally, I feel I have been most touched by our work for cancer patients. I’ve had the honor to help design several of these spaces for people and their families dealing with such a devastating disease. There are many wonderful examples of cancer care facilities in our portfolio, but perhaps the most recent example of bringing beauty and calm to this human challenge is Kaiser Permanente’s new Radiation Oncology Center. The way it brings nature directly into a radiation therapy vault is just phenomenal — so much so that it was awarded an AIA National Healthcare Award.

How is our firm’s design process different than other firms?

The strength of our design process is that it establishes the optimum environment for the creation of successful design solutions. Creativity and innovation occur here precisely because we bring together the smartest, most talented people we can find and we create a space for them to have a dialogue around a challenge. The synthesis of creative exploration, advanced technical knowledge, and unparalleled subject-matter expertise is what makes us different from our peers.

How is technology evolving to improve our design process?

There are so many amazing tools out there that we are using in our work process, and we’re introducing new ones every day. These span from virtual reality and BIM to parametric modeling, 3D printing, augmented reality, ever-evolving software, and tools for collaboration and communication. We’re even using tools that allow clients to interact with our models via the web.

But even with all of our technology offerings, we still pride ourselves with using our hands. There’s nothing better than putting pen to paper, or rolling up your sleeves to build a model or prototype.

How would you describe your personal design process? How do you start to create ideas and solutions?

The most important step for me in the commencement of any design investigation is what I refer to as assimilation. We are master synthesizers of knowledge, information, experience, and insight. In order to synthesize all of the aspects of a client’s challenge, I must internalize three spheres of knowledge around a subject: the physical, the intellectual and the human. The physical refers to the built context for a proposed intervention in the environment. This might be the formal structure of a campus, the functional organization of a program or an existing building or complex, the latent rules of an urban setting, or a set of environmental conditions.

The intellectual refers to all the a priori thinking that precedes our involvement: what ideas live in the mind of the client and how do we interpret those? The human sphere refers to the experience of those who will engage in this place that is yet-to-be. All of these things must be internalized before the creative process can even begin.

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