For the past decade, Wingate Hughes has been at the center of commercial architecture in Washington, DC. This month, we take a look at what has made DC architecture unique through the years. We sat down with our co-founder, Gavin Hughes Daniels, to get his thoughts on the change he’s seen in DC and how it’s impacted the city’s architecture, his design approach, and Wingate Hughes.
Q: When did you arrive in DC? What drew you to the city?
Gavin Daniels: I got to DC with my lovely wife and our little dog back in 2004 – I had just finished grad school at Texas A&M. I came out here knowing that I needed a different scene than Texas, I needed to see something different, and what better place to go to than the nation’s capital? When we moved here, we moved into the middle of the city and made it our home.
Q: How would you define classic DC architecture?
Gavin Daniels: One of the things that I think defines DC architecture is all of the little details, the characters in a frieze on the Department of Agriculture, the nods to the plant life. Many people will say that DC is a conservative city from its look and feel, and it’s “buttoned-up.” I think it might have been, but the DC I know isn’t – the DC I know is really vibrant and the architecture is really starting to reflect that. Our architecture can be iconic, our architecture can be transformative. More and more with developments like the Wharf in DC, our architecture is about people and how they live and accepting them on their terms – and I think that’s truly amazing.
Q: What’s changing about the way people work?
Gavin Daniels: People in DC are changing the way they work every day because the type of work and the nature of the work we do is becoming more inclusive and more fast-paced. I think DC operates at a different gear than most cities. We’re fast and we run hard. What I’m seeing now in the working landscape are places more focused on learning and people being together and collaborating. When my staff is learning and getting better each day, everybody succeeds. My company benefits from that learning and my clients benefit from it too – we’re designing office spaces for people to do exactly that.
Q: How can architects celebrate DC heritage while still pushing design forward?
Gavin Daniels: That’s a great question. Architects are called to celebrate the heritage of wherever they go. Architects can really celebrate a community when they design something that accepts people for who they are, what they want, and what they need. So if you’re going to design something for someone in DC, you need to design for those people who are just starting families and working so many hours a week. You need to design for those people who are third generation Washingtonians living in a row house in Southeast, DC. You need to design for people from all over the world and from right here. That’s what we do.