Written by Morgan Gemay Marks
1957 was the founding year of CWG Architecture which makes them Helena’s oldest architectural firm. They’re located at 650 Power Street, where you’ll find a very large and very impressive building that looks right at home in the historic downtown Helena Mansion District, nestled between tall trees and other historical homes and mansions. The completely remodeled building, which formerly housed Senator Powers' team of 12 black horses and carriages in 1891, now houses the team of 14 people who comprise CWG Architecture. This is where the team at CWG works their magic. And – their magic is something very special because it’s for everyone.
“It’s the kind of place where people take care of one another”, shared Tyece Pool, CWG’s Interior Design Director. Pool considers her co-workers as her second family. Kory Kennaugh, Vice President, Secretary of CWG, echoed the sentiment, sharing that CWG is a “diverse collection of personalities” and they’re an “awesome group of people”. Staff are extremely team-oriented and celebrate birthdays, volunteer and share afternoon beers together, and they even have enabled a virtual team chat to stay connected and encourage one another.
CWG has seen three generations of owners. They are truly a Helena institution. Sure, they have goals to “keep up with the times”, “evolve their culture”, and “stay relevant”, says Kennaugh. Still, even with those goals, they are a dynamic group and continue to “evolve but keep their core values”, says Pool.
CWG’s focus is their client’s satisfaction and needs, with a heaping slice of exceptional design. Each staff-person shared the same thoughts and beliefs about projects undertaken by the firm: clients are put first and treated right, teamwork and collaboration are key, and striving to go beyond client’s expectations is what’s expected. Taking a client’s vision and turning it into reality is what the firm does, it’s what they enjoy, and most importantly, what they are good at. Projects are owned by the clients, so while CWG cares about positive outcomes, what they really care about is ensuring that their client’s needs are met, and that their vision is brought to life.
They’re good at what they do because they “really listen” and they “listen intently”, says Pool. They’re also good at what they do because their favorite projects are the ones where their team of architects, interior designers, and structural engineers get to work on a project together, from start to finish, which sets them apart from other architectural firms. It’s normal for the whole team, from architects-in-training to the Presidents of CWG, to be involved in projects and for every person involved to have direct contact with the client. CWG is purposefully collaborative.
The CWG team understands the experience of going through a remodel and living in dust and dirt. When they remodeled 650 Power Street, they were living in a space that was in flux with undergoing construction, so they experienced what their clients go through. “It was a good reminder of the process”, Kennaugh shared. So, the CWG team gets it and they understand how to minimize disruptions even during the construction process and support clients through each phase of a project.
They’ll phase the work so that businesses can stay open and a client can continue to live in their home. The team will tailor processes for each individual client. From serving as facilitators and liaisons, to hiring external consultants, looping in their mechanical, engineering, and structural staff, and managing all the processes in between, they maintain an organized and streamlined approach to projects with impeccable professionalism.
“Good design can add value to any space and impact every place”, says Pool. Having worked at CWG for five years, Pool started as an intern and has worked to have her current director title. With masks on, her eyes lit up when she talked about her love of design, the clients she is humbled to work with, and how at CWG, there is something for everyone.
As a person who is not at all familiar with architecture and design, I peppered Pool and Kennaugh with questions to better understand how design can be for everyone and was pleasantly surprised at the answers I received. The firm doesn’t just focus on large scale projects. They focus on people, and right now, many people are currently working from home. This shift from office spaces to home offices, or let’s be honest, kitchen countertops and couches, can be tough, unsettling, and stressful. Imagine the stress relief that could come from “good design” in your home.
“There are always small elements we can help with” says Pool, “because a fresh set of eyes improves things”. Cassidy Blanton, CWG’s Marketing Coordinator, followed up with, “good design just feels right”, and everyone smiled and agreed. Kennaugh went on to explain through an example of what “good design” looks like, when he had reflected on the idea of doorless S-shaped bathrooms. Design can be very helpful when thinking through how to keep people safe, especially in the times we are currently experiencing. CWG has been utilizing door-less S-shaped entrances to bathrooms for clients for some time. These unique entrances have taken on new meaning and greater importance when it comes to “pandemic” design and keeping people safe. This design is a simple change that businesses can incorporate because restroom accessibility is easier, and people can stay apart from one another. The team thinks outside of the standard design box, that’s for sure.
CWG’s work is stamped across Helena and can be found statewide. From multiple projects at Carroll College, to a remodel and overhaul of the Diesel Technology Center at MSU Northern in Havre, to the newly renovated and downright beautiful Helena airport, CWG creates functional and highly innovative spaces. The airport used to be an outdated and dull space, lacking light, and not wholly conducive for connections to be made between travelers. Now, the space has evolved with the times, and it’s bright, open, and offers those arriving and departing, a shining example of everything Helena is – hopeful, engaging, and collaborative.
I sat in CWG’s conference room and while I was busy scribbling notes and making sure the recorder was working, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of being grounded amongst the people I was visiting with and the place where the CWG magic happens. The time spent at CWG felt more like spending time with strangers, now turned friends, as the staff is down-to-earth. I was greeted upon entering and thanked upon leaving. They’re people who really care about the work they do and the people they work with and serve. The work CWG does and the impression they left is nothing short of timeless, and the place CWG calls home matches this feeling. The building is a testament to the roots of CWG because the firm is rooted in history and yet they’ve adapted and grown into a flourishing and proud Helena business.
Get to know CWG Architecture by visiting their website at https://cwg-architects.com/ and follow them on Facebook, , Instagram and LinkedIn to witness their journey to deliver great design with immense passion.