The firm's founder, Edwin Weihe, graduated from The George Washington University in the heart of the depression. As a result of limited jobs for architects, Eddie spent his first years with a contractor. This experience enabled him to expand his contact base and gain experience in all construction types. In 1938, he opened the office of Edwin Weihe & Associates, offering services as a practicing Architect.
Eddie became an Executive Officer in the U.S. Navy, operating in the Pacific during World War II. Upon his return, he reopened the practice and quickly took part in the development boom that hit the entire country. Within the DC region, the firm appointed one of its first females as a Principal.
By the mid-1950s a handful of new office buildings had been completed in downtown DC; the firm having designed the majority. Eddie's development of the "flat plate" design, which allowed the maximum amount of space to be built within Washington's restrictive building heights, became the standard method of office building construction. His client list quickly expanded to include the major developers of the era, including Morris Cafritz, Marshal Coyne, and John McShain. In addition to many prestigious clients, the firm celebrated a hospitality milestone by designing Marriott's first hotel in 1957, the 365-room Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.
Throughout the 1960s, the firm was fortunate to acquire several new clients who developed into long-term relationships. Charles E. Smith and Oliver Carr were among these clients who had their first office buildings designed by the firm. The first office building for the Oliver Carr Company was in 1967 called "The Mills Building" at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the "second best address" in Washington.
After designing a number of downtown office buildings for Charles E. Smith, they also expanded by acquiring an industrial area in Arlington where the two "Crystal House Apartments" were built. The name uniquely inspired by a small crystal chandelier in the elevator cabs. The developed area grew to be known as "Crystal City" as it is recognized today.
In the 1970s, the city began its transformation into the capitol of the world, and WDG played a significant role. Many clients became the core of the practice, including Quadrangle Development, JBG, and The John Akridge Company. The portfolio expanded to incorporate large mixed-use projects with hotels, retail, and residential towers in emerging areas such as Crystal City, Skyline City, Bethesda, and Silver Spring. In addition to the many offices and apartments, the firm also designed two of the first senior living projects in the country. By 1978, the firm had grown to 50 people, and George Dove, WDG's longest serving Managing Principal, became a partner. The new name became Weihe, Black, Jeffries, Strassman & Dove.
Adding to the firm's history of pioneering design, they implemented the use of sloping columns. First used to simplify the framing of the "wedding cake" setbacks required by the Zoning Ordinance of the District, it quickly expanded to the lower portions of buildings. This system allowed a column pattern that works well in office space and in garage areas without the use of large and expensive transfer girders. Originally used at Farragut Square at 17th & K Streets and at 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, this method of framing has become almost universally used.
Seeing the District falling behind other cities in building codes and life-safety requirements, the firm was among the first to urge the District to adopt a National Building Code. This goal came to fruition in 1984. The firm has since remained active in code matters and has prepared original drafts for uniquely local code items, such as windows on property lines.
As the 1980s boom continued, the firm grew to more than 100, embracing technology and refining its design and production systems. Eddie retired in 1987 at the age of 80. It was time for a less cumbersome name and The Weihe Partnership, Architects & Planners was formed. Weihe Interiors was created to provide a full range of interior services.
The economic downturn of the early 1990s brought new challenges and the need for a quick response to an uncertain economic climate. Although staff was reduced, the firm continued to serve its loyal clients well, crafting a strategic plan for diversification and eventual growth. Emerging mid-decade with its reputation intact, the firm was prepared for the challenges of an expanding economy. The new name Weihe Design Group was announced and reflected the freshly energized team, which later became WDG Architecture. The focus on emerging markets such as high-rise multifamily housing, hospitality and urban infill projects helped the firm obtain diverse assignments, such as a performing arts facility at Shenandoah University. The evolution into a national firm soon began, and in 1998 the Dallas, Texas office opened.
The firm continued to expand its client base, therefore, enjoying the luxury of numerous repeat clients taking WDG Architecture with them throughout the country. The firm's growth spread internationally to China, Egypt, and Vietnam. At 150 employees, we became the longest continuously operating firm in the Washington, DC community. The firm's internal growth included the establishment of WDG Interior Architecture in 2004.
WDG Architecture was recognized for its design excellence by the AIA for Arlington Gateway in Virginia in 2006 and Plaza Lofts 22 in Maryland in 2008, and for its urban design and planning expertise by the Congress of New Urbanism for Rockville Town Square in Maryland in 2008.
The firm transformed its design process with the implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM) using REVIT in 2007. The Ashton at Judiciary Square was our first project to use the software.
The completion of Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Apartments in 2011 was our first project certified LEED Platinum by the USGBC. In 2012, the project won an AIA DC Washingtonian Residential Design Award.
2013 marks the firm's 75th anniversary, and our leadership continues to provide vision necessary for continued evolution. The firm's award-winning portfolio demonstrates our ability to apply comprehensive technical and design expertise to produce inspiring solutions for the buildings and spaces we create. Our highly collaborative approach ensures the sharing of ideas, experiences, and best practices both internally and with our clients.