Local architects spur innovation through space making

A building’s architecture doesn’t just dictate how someone will move through a space, but it also influences how they act and think in it.

Architects such as Gavin Daniels, founder and principal of Wingate Hughes Architects, are keeping this in mind when designing spaces that spur innovation and entrepreneurial growth.

Wingate Hughes has designed spaces for many area tech startups, including Optoro, iStrategyLabs, TrackMaven and EverFi.

The motive behind the space design came from a drive to “bring out the way people want to work, and the way that the leaders of the company want the company to go,” Daniels said. “Rather than design to somebody, we design with people.”

While foosball tables and coffee bars are symbols of startup culture, Wingate Hughes advises businesses to focus on “making money in every square foot, or people aren’t going to be able to come back to work,” said Daniels.

In recent years, Daniels has noticed a few problems with the stereotypes of startup spaces. “We think that the worst thing that’s happened in innovation over the last few years… is that people think sit or stand is a big deal, and that open or closed offices is the only choice. We think there’s a million more choices in between those,” he said. The balance is struck by listening to what the company actually needs to excel.

“If they understand that this space is going to be great for them, and help their lives be better when they’re at work, they don’t care what size their office is,” Daniels told What’s Working in Washington.

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Daniels moved from Texas to the D.C. region thanks to his wife’s career in politics, and found a market in the startup community. “Growing up in Houston, living in Dallas and San Antonio — some of these monster huge cities — coming to D.C. was like moving to a small town,” he said. Embracing the tech and real estate community, Daniels has become part of a tight network where “we all know each other,” he said.

“I work with some of the smartest people in D.C., and some of the best designers in D.C., and they are always pushing me,” he said.

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