By Meghan Hall
The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector is a competitive one, with multiple firms vying for bids for new, interesting and innovative projects—and clients. To establish a solid presence and reputation in the industry requires diligent practice. In the late 1930s, Ralph Cushing and Everett Terrell established AEC firm Cushing Terrell, which now has a growing presence throughout the United States, including Seattle. After more than 80 years in business, the firm implemented a rebrand—changing from CTA Architects Engineers to Cushing Terrell—and made Greg Matthews 24-year Cushing Terrell veteran as President. The Registry spoke with Matthews about the AEC industry and how Cushing Terrell hopes to grow in the future.
In 2019, Cushing Terrell began using its present name after operating under CTA Architects Engineers for 80 years. How has this rebrand sought to enhance the firm’s legacy and core values moving forward?
Scott Wilson (outgoing president) served as an incredible leader to Cushing Terrell over the past 9 years, and I am grateful for having had a front row seat to witness the amazing things that he has done for our firm, our team, and our clients during his tenure as President. His unwavering commitment to our values and heritage while pushing us to step into the unknown and take on new challenges has been extremely inspiring to watch and is something that I will strive to continue during my tenure.
What have you learned over the course of your career that has prepared you for your new role as president and CEO?
I was fortunate to be a part of the recent rebrand as a member of the committee that drove that initiative forward under Scott’s lead. It was a challenging undertaking but one that proved valuable in a time of rapid growth into new markets and market segments. This firm has the luxury of drawing upon a rich, compassionate and client-centric legacyfor inspiration as we simultaneously look to the future, strengthening a commitment to environmental stewardship and innovative design practices. The rebrand was symbolic of this, blending our longstanding, values-based identity and our vision of a progressive future for the company and the architecture and engineering industry as a whole. It has realigned us with our longstanding mission to forever improve our design work and the service we provide our clients.
As Cushing Terrell’s new president and CEO, what are your goals for the firm in 2020? What strategies does Cushing Terrell intend to employ to continue its growth? Why?
We have made a firm-wide commitment to sharing, expanding, and building our knowledge for the benefit of our clients and those using the spaces and systems we design. By applying this knowledge, we will be able to offer a level of service to our clients that is rare in our industry, which is why one of our primary corporate initiatives as I take over is to steward the development of a long-term legacy and culture around this most cherished and valuable asset.
We have utilized and shared our knowledge throughout our successful past, but the challenge and opportunity in front of us, is to discover efficient ways to recall our past knowledge and experiences, and to create new knowledge that can be shared and actioned in our competitive tomorrow. Our vision statement is, “To shape a new world using knowledge and creativity as a means to educate, enlighten, delight, and forever improve.” This manner of thinking will lead us to constantly discover new ways to fulfill that vision.
Cushing Terrell has several offices around the United States, including Seattle, where the firm is known for its work on the Hotel Theodore and Rider Restaurant. Have you seen any trends emerge over the past several years that will continue to be relevant in 2020? If so, what are they? Why are they important?
The Cushing Terrell Seattle team is highly engaged in the design and development of workplace environments and grocery and retail spaces in the area and across the US. A trend of interest that we have recognized in the retail and commercial/workplace markets is placemaking, in other words, promoting the health and well-being of a community by applying local assets and inspiration to planning and design. People increasingly want to feel connected to the community where they reside whether they are grocery shopping or heading into the office. This is achieved through materials selection, amenities offerings, biophilia, and environmental graphics, among other design decisions. In response to this trend, our teams are focusing on creating intentional spaces to gather while recognizing the role that technology plays in connecting society beyond physical gatherings. In an economy like Seattle’s, technology is a major factor, both in industry and in design. We’re able to bridge placemaking with technology by working with our clients to integrate and maximize digital experiences within physical spaces. We see the design decisions in response to this trend spanning client-types, even manifesting themselves in the form of optimizing the grocery store experience or overlaying culture in unexpected ways in the workplace. At the same time, we’re seeing developments striving to be all-in-one buildings (or at least in one block) where people can work, play, and live to maintain the cohesive work-life balance that we all continue to seek.
Looking at the Puget Sound market, are there any projects that Cushing Terrell would particularly like to highlight? If so, why?
Our Seattle team is an incredibly diverse group of designers and engineers, reflective of an increasingly diverse workforce in this region. With this diversity comes creativity and insight that has allowed us the pleasure of working on projects for some of Puget Sound’s most beloved companies, including Uwajimaya, Metropolitan Market, Town and Country Market, PCC, Boeing, Costco, UW Medical Center Northwest, and a number of global tech and retail firms with a substantial presence in this market.
Is there anything you would like to add that The Registry did not ask or mention?
With my appointment to CEO, the leadership team also moved to create a new executive position, chief knowledge officer (CKO), to oversee the distribution and retention of intellectual capital, facilitate equity and professional growth, and support learning for all team members. This position will be filled by Jim Armer, PE, a 14-year veteran of the firm, formerly co-lead of the retail design studio. The chief knowledge officer role is the result of Cushing Terrell’s commitment to improve and transfer knowledge for the benefit of our clients and our team members, and Jim has been pushing the envelope in these areas for years. He is the right person to guide us through this chapter in our quest for continued improvement.
All of this collective change reflects the importance of the development and advancement of the Cushing Terrell team, which in turn supports our ability to provide our clients with the best possible output.