Beyond the Boardroom

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Doug Hilberman

Author: Alexandra Russell
April, 2016 Issue

Doug Hilberman

For Doug Hilberman, president of AXIA Architects in Santa Rosa, building and creating have been lifelong interests. “I had a Tonka truck fetish as a kid and dug major construction sites in our backyard,” he recalls. “Drawing was a passion nurtured by my grandfather, who was a cartoonist in the golden era of early animated films. After architecture school, I spent about five years as a contractor before returning to architecture as my real interest.”

Hilberman grew up in Menlo Park (“before Silicon Valley took steroids”) and met his wife, Wendy, while both were attending University of Oregon. They relocated to Sonoma County in 2003, when Hilberman was hired to transition the company to the next generation of architects. “I’m proud that our current team has recently completed that transition and have a really talented group of architects moving forward,” he says.

What do you love to do outside of work?

My personal time is usually carved out in the early mornings. I play racquetball a couple of times per week with a group of friends. We drag each other out of bed at an ungodly hour and beat each other up for an hour and a half before starting our days. I did some amateur winemaking before finally deciding others do it much better. Wendy and I also enjoy hiking and exploring areas in Sonoma County off the beaten path.

Are you a sports fan?

Wendy and I are both rabid Ducks fans! We bleed green and yellow in our household. The Oregon Ducks football team has been a lot of fun to watch. I’m also a lifelong Niners fan (but seeking therapy).

Are you more of a cat person or dog person?

In our household, this is like the Hatfields and McCoys. I’m definitely a dog person, slipping in a little love for the cats when nobody’s looking. My wife claims to be a dog person, but it’s so obvious she needs to come out of the closet as a cat person. The kids are split. The goldfish is neutral.

How much poetry have you written in your life?

Much inspiration

Might be poetic to some

I should draw from more

If you could go back in time to any era, what date would you choose?

I’d love to have been in Europe in the 1920s during the Expressionism and Bauhaus movements. So much of modern art and architecture finds its roots in that time period. There was such an amazing incubator of creativity that embraced the romanticism of life and our evolution as a society.

If you could not fail, what would you do?

With that kind of Hall Pass, I’d have to say, “be a great parent”—now if only I had that wish from a genie 12 years ago! I love my kids, but man, are they quick to figure out “work-arounds” to every smart thing I think I’m doing as a parent.

What do you think heaven is like?

Heaven better have a cold beer and a hammock waiting or I’m going to be sorely disappointed. With my luck, I’ll be the guy stuck in purgatory futilely rolling the ball up the hill while my paperwork is being processed by a regulatory agency.

What does your car look like on the inside?

My car carries a set of work boots for jobsites, 15 pairs of broken headphones that the kids have discarded and an empty gas tank indicator that tells me that my wife has borrowed the car.

What subject didn’t you pay attention to in school that you now wish you had?

I skated through chemistry in high school. It was too close to lunchtime, so I was destined to blow it off. I was convinced an architect only needed math and art. Fate, being a fan of irony, had me designing semiconductor facilities for Intel, Hyundai and Motorola in the 1990s, with acids, bases and enough chemicals to make your head spin. So much for having the world figured out at 17.

What would you like to be known for?

I hope that I can contribute to my family, my profession, and my community in meaningful ways. Life, like architecture, is a constantly changing set of variables through which you carefully sift for inspiration and the right solutions. It’s an amazing feeling when you really nail it and impact people’s lives. It inspires me to keep swinging for the fences.


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