For 75 years, SMPC Architects has put its heart and soul into some of the state’s most iconic buildings and infrastructure, leaving an ubiquitous “Made in New Mexico” stamp everywhere it goes.
Its creative design is imbedded in thousands of structures across the state, from landmarks like the Albuquerque Main Public Library and Santa Fe’s Hotel St. Francis to Isotopes Park and Virgin Galactic’s terminal building at Spaceport America. Its footprint lies at the foundations of hospitals, schools, office buildings, commercial complexes, historic properties and more.
Now, as SMPC commemorates three quarters of a century in business, the state’s oldest architectural firm is still going strong, with numerous projects either just completed or underway. That includes One Central, the new, $34 million mixed-use entertainment, retail, multi-family complex and parking structure that opened last year Downtown.
SMPC principal Peggy Favour says the company’s longevity, lineage and history reflects a team approach to everything, allowing it to remain relevant and competitive in today’s markets. SMPC’s 29 employees work together to continually evolve and re-align the business as needed, with constant mentoring and coaching for younger professionals who may emerge as future SMPC leaders.
“It’s all about our people, our culture,” said Favour, an architect/licensed interior designer who joined SMPC in 2007. “That’s the bottom line.”
That camaraderie and embrace of next-generation professionals is built into the foundational values and mission at SMPC, which Gordon Ferguson launched in a home office in 1944. Originally called “Gordon Ferguson, Architect-Engineer,” the firm changed its name to SMPC a few years later after Don Stevens, Robert Mallory, George Pearl and Bob Campbell joined as partners.
Those original principals had the “good foresight” to convert the company from a partnership to a corporation with stock ownership in the 1980s, said principal emeritus Glenn Fellows, an architect who joined SMPC in 1978.
“That provided a path for younger staff to follow in their steps in terms of ownership,” said Fellows, who became a principal in 1991. “It’s allowed the firm to transition its leadership three times. We’re now in our fourth ownership transition.”
The principals also worked to build democratic structures for input in managing the firm with special emphasis on mentoring up-and-coming professionals, Favour said.
Mentoring and more
They set up four different committees for business development, project delivery, office management, and financial affairs, with additional subcommittees to further contribute to decision making.
“That helps us engage all our staff in managing issues and improving how we work and operate the business,” Favour said. “It’s an all-embracing office environment where we invite and encourage the staff to participate in the committees, enabling their input on decisions and allowing them to become invested in the outcomes.”
The firm now operates through a “collective personality,” Favour said.
“We recognize our individual professionals, but the committees have also helped build a collective personality that bonds and unifies us as we look to the future,” Favour said.
SMPC’s team approach consistently earns recognition from industry peers. It received the “When Work Works Award” the last two years from the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, which seek out employers who use effective workplace strategies to increase business and employee success, such as work-life balancing policies, flexible scheduling and transition-to-parenthood programs.
The company also won the gold-level distinction in 2018 for the third year in a row from Family Friendly New Mexico. And it was named “Architecture Firm of the Year” in 2018 from the American Institute of Architects’ New Mexico Chapter, a distinction it’s earned on four occasions as well from the Albuquerque Chapter of Associated General Contractors.
A close-knit, collegiate atmosphere reigns at SMPC, said marketing manager Jason Holubiak.
“We’re kind of a family here,” said Holubiak, who joined the firm in 2010. “We celebrate holidays together and spend time outside of the office together.”
New offices have raised employee morale even more. Last year, SMPC moved from its old Nob Hill location at 115 Amherst SE, where it operated since 1948, to the eighth floor of the First National Bank building at 219 Central Ave., a historic landmark built in 1922.
That expanded its workspace from a cramped 6,300-square-foot facility to 8,000 square feet now, offering spacious, brightly-lit conference rooms and communal areas, plus a vast, collective work area with a maze of open-style cubicles that facilitate collaborative teamwork.
“It was a tremendous effort to move from Nob Hill, where we’d been for more than 70 years,” Favour said. “It was a beautiful building outside, but inside we were cramped into little partitions. The staff is now invigorated by the new office.”
Moving Downtown also put SMPC into the heart of Albuquerque’s emerging innovation district, where urban revitalization, combined with historic preservation of landmark buildings, is thriving.
When the company remodeled its new office suite, it carefully preserved its unique architectural heritage, something SMPC is now focusing on with other buildings Downtown and elsewhere.
“It’s important for this city and state to take a hard look at fixing our infrastructure and not let it go to waste,” Fellows said. “We don’t want to just tear down these structures, so we’re doing a lot of tenant rehabilitation work.”
Being Downtown has also boosted the company’s community involvement. SMPC now hosts local artist displays with an open community reception the first Friday of every month.
“It’s an evolving show,” Holubiak said. “We change out the local artist highlighted in our lobby each month.”
That reflects SMPC’s already-long tradition of community involvement, including significant contributions to United Way and the Albuquerque Community and Museum foundations, plus fundraising support for beneficial causes like Holmans Foundation for Autism.
Still, as an architectural, planning and interior design firm, SMPC’s biggest evolution in recent years is its adaptation to modern, 21st century technology, incorporating all work into a cloud-based network with computer aided design software that links everyone in real time as a project evolves from start to finish.
“Our information technology allows us to coordinate everything with one model that’s active and shared with everyone involved,” Holubiak said.
That’s greatly increased accuracy and efficiency, while paving the way for SMPC to evolve into a full-service firm that takes clients from initial concept and design through all stages of planning, construction and final delivery.
But it’s SMPC’s unbending commitment to the founding principles of embracing historic preservation while also incorporating a clear sense of place – including culture, history, tradition and local environment and context – into all designs.
“It’s different for each one, because every project has its own context,” Fellows said. “Clients change over time, so we strive to remain nimble and flexible in everything we do.”