NELSON, a global architecture and design firm, announced last week its merger with San Francisco’s WK design group. The company explained that one of the driving ideas behind the merger was its ability to increase its focus on large-scale, core and shell architecture, while at the same time expanding its presence into the Bay Area.
Led by Gary Weske and Joel Karr, RA, NCARB, WK design group specializes in architecture, interior design, building design, core and shell architecture and construction administration. As a passionate group focused on company culture, the firm offers a boutique approach to architecture and design—an important factor to NELSON as growth ensues. WK design group’s specialties include commercial and corporate design, hospitality and retail, multi-family, single-family, and campus master planning design. They have completed well-known projects in the Bay Area including Equity Residential Trust, Essex Property Trust, Allianz, and Harvest Properties.
WK is the second firm that has joined the NELSON family in the last 12 months. In December of 2016, AAI, an architecture and design firm based in San Jose merged with NELSON, which was then the company’s first entry into the Bay Area market. We wanted to ask NELSON’s CEO, John “Ozzie” Neslon, Jr. about this transformation. Here are his thoughts.
THE REGISTRY: Please tell us about the significance of this merger with another Bay Area firm in less than a year after the merger with San Jose’s AAI?
JOHN “OZZIE” NELSON JR.: Further expanding our presence in the Bay Area continues to be of paramount importance to the NELSON team. After increasing our design presence within the region through our merger with AAI Design in 2016, we began diving into how to continue developing our architectural services and influence. We believe that in combining our existing interior and exterior capabilities with those of WK design group, especially regarding architecture, we will offer new possibilities to current and potential clients.
TR: What complimentary skills exist between your firm and WK Design, and how will you work on the process of integrating the two firms and cultures?
JON: As a global design, architecture, and consulting services firm, NELSON has a collective network of clients ranging in size throughout a variety of practice areas. In turn, WK design group brings an increased focus in building design and core and shell architecture to NELSON as we continue to grow that aspect of our firm.
One of NELSON’s goals throughout our continued growth is for individual offices and new merger partners to welcome our core mission and values while remaining true to their existing culture. WK design group is a very passionate and culturally-oriented group that prides themselves in their work and client interactions. As they fully transition into the NELSON brand, we look forward to learning more about their strategic operations.
TR: What are you gaining with this merger? Skillsets, people, clients, access to certain geographies…all of the above? How would you rank those?
JON: While we are elated to expand our reach within the Bay Area and neighboring regions, the most important thing we’re gaining with this merger is a group of passionate individuals who add increased value and niche skill sets to the NELSON team.
TR: How important is the West Coast to your company’s future, and how do you anticipate that growth to continue?
JON: The West Coast is paramount to NELSON’s future in that it offers a network of talent and access to clients within desired, untapped service lines and practice areas. We anticipate NELSON’s growth to continues both on the West Coast and throughout the US in a way that reflects our overall vision.
TR: Are there any specific services that you will focus on expanding in the Bay Area going forward?
JON: Over the past few months, we’ve made it our continued focus to further develop our existing architectural practice. With the addition of WK design group, we’re especially excited to emphasize our core and shell architecture services and hospitality and retail practice areas.
TR: What are some of your projects & clients with which you are active in the Bay Area?
Sokon/SF Motors—Interior Design, Architecture
Verizon Innovation Center—Interior Design
TR: What excites you the most about your expansion into the region, and what concerns you most about the Bay Area market? How are you mitigating those potential issues?
JON: One of our goals as a company is to be a leader in our industry—in every sense of the word. As we continue to expand, we are becoming leaders in the west region, leaders in architecture, leaders in new practices, leaders in existing practices. Now we are able to add leaders in the Bay Area to that. As for potential issues, we understand that the Bay Area is incredibly unique when compared to other metropolitan areas in the US. We don’t intend to approach this market with a cookie-cutter approach. Combining WK design group with AAI into a local team with a boutique feel that suits the Bay Area will make sure we are always in tune with the areas changing needs.