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Return to office: How it started and how it’s going

Before the pandemic, architectural practice had been relatively staid. Few can attest to that better than Angela Watson, FAIA, CEO of the 150-year-old Boston-based firm Shepley Bulfinch. Any changes to how the firm designed and delivered projects occurred very slowly during its first 100 years and then slightly ticked up with the late 20th century’s technology wave, she says. Then the pandemic sent the rate of change skyrocketing. “We can’t go back to the way it was,” Watson believes.

Nearly four years after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, firms continue to assess next steps for their practice. Below, five design leaders share how their firms are moving forward: Leah Bayer, AIA, president of Architects Fora, a 12-person virtual firm; Dan Stine, AIA, director of design technology at Texas-based Lake|Flato Architects, which has 150 people primarily in two locations; Watson, who oversees 190 employees in six studios, including a virtual studio; Roxanne Malek, AIA, managing partner at SmithGroup, with 1,400 people across 19 locations; and Susan Klumpp Williams, AIA, co-CEO at HOK, with 1,700 people across 26 locations.

Read more: Return to office: How it started and how it’s going | The American Institute of Architects (

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