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2010 Best Architectural Design Firm: AXIA Architects

Author: John Abbott
May, 2010 Issue

AXIA has won scores of architectural awards, but its selection as “Best Architectural Design Firm” in the North Bay has caused even more excitement around headquarters. “We’ve won traditional design awards, but this one feels special,” says Doug Hilberman, president of the firm. “We believe this one reflects a more rounded award that takes into account our involvement in the community in addition to the energetic pursuit of our craft.”

The company traces its roots in Northern California to 1939. “We’re well established—our current principals go back about 30 years—Peter Witter merged his design practice with Schuyler Jeffries in 1987. We believe their contributions in this region over the years are acknowledged through this award,” Hilberman says. A Bay Area native who attended architecture school in Oregon, Hilberman returned to California in 2003 to join AXIA and became its president in 2006.

The company has an expansive portfolio of work, but it specializes in high-end residential work, K-12 educational projects, high-tech/biotech, hospitality and civic work. “With five principals, we all have areas of technical expertise,” Hilberman points out.

Hilberman believes the company’s success is deeply rooted in its dedication to its craft and its clients. “Our philosophy is to create an architecture that’s specifically suited to a place through a thorough understanding of the clients and their programs. We have a diverse, regionally focused practice that draws upon a wide range of experience and expertise to cross-pollinate our work and bring fresh thinking and creativity to each project.”

That sense of diversity plays out in many ways. “If you do just one type of building, you can become myopic,” Hilberman says. “We try to take the best practices from each type of project and apply them to the other areas of our work. For example, a public works project tends to be very schedule-driven, with lots of communications tools in place to keep everyone abreast of what’s happening. It’s a very methodical way to work, but it ensures consistency. We can take that style and overlay it on our residential projects, so it brings more consistency than you’d normally see. Likewise, there’s a level of detail at the residential level—or a winery or a corporate headquarters—that can be applied to the civic work as well.”

The firm continues to evolve to keep pace with the demands of its clients. For example, AXIA recently joined forces with Carlile•Macy and MK2 Engineers to develop the Winery Design Group and introduced it to the public at the January Wine Symposium. A collaborative team of design professionals specifically focused on the wine industry, the group offers a full span of services related to master planning, water and wastewater engineering, cave consulting, process equipment design, green energy strategies, tasting room design and residential design.

“Our strategy for the future is to build upon our legacy and stay focused on the regionally appropriate design and professional execution that best serves our clients,” Hilberman says. “We’re committed to a personal level of attention and project leadership for which AXIA has become known.”



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