WTW Architects' Collegial Approach Works within Firm, with Clients

By Olson, Thomas | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 6, 2011 | Go to article overview
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WTW Architects' Collegial Approach Works within Firm, with Clients


Olson, Thomas, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Confronted with a steep drop in architectural work about two years ago, the head of WTW Architects Inc. called all 65 employers together.

"We asked people if they would rather have a four-day week, take a pay cut or reduce the size of the staff," said Richard De Young, president of the North Shore-based firm.

The solution turned out to be a mix. During that summer, 20 of the 65 employees were let go, staff pay was reduced 12 percent and principals took a 25 percent pay cut. With fewer workers, the firm consolidated into just one of its two floors.

The collegial approach worked. WTW survived in what remains a downturn in the industry, revenue is stable and the firm has even started to hire again, adding two people recently.

"We didn't want to let people go in dribbles and drabs, because that creates tremendous uncertainty and fear among workers," said De Young, who joined the firm in 1976.

"We are creative people, but we are also running a business," he said. "And it's important to match income with staffing levels. Not all firms do that."

Founded in 1959, the firm is known largely for designing university housing, such as a project under way at Duquesne University, and student activity centers, such the one going up at the University of Houston.

WTW served as the local architect on Heinz Field, designing the interiors of the private boxes and the two club suites. The football stadium opened in September 2001.

Between 40 percent and 50 percent of its projects tend to be in Western Pennsylvania, and the rest are scattered across the country.

Other recent projects in this region include a new Dollar Bank branch nearing completion in Bethel Park, and new student housing and a renovated recreation center at California University of Pennsylvania finished last year in Washington County.

"WTW has developed an expertise in student unions, which was a very smart move, to kind of brand themselves in that way," said Anne Swager, executive director of the American Institute of Architects, Pittsburgh chapter.

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