WYK Associates Designs Bright Future from Historic Past

By Brittany Murray, Staff Writer, The Exponent Telegram, March 27, 2016

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Staff Photo by Brittany Murray

CLARKSBURG — Many buildings in Clarksburg and the surrounding area were designed by WYK Associates, and after 116 years, the company is still impacting the region’s horizon.  “We don’t really specialize in one thing,” WYK President James Swiger said. “We do a lot of commercial work; we do some residential, but not a lot. There’s a wide variety of projects we work on.”

Since 1900, the company has designed everything from churches and schools to fire stations and industrial structures. In addition to architectural design, WYK does master planning and 3D printing.  “We are architects, and we focus on doing what we’re trained at,” Swiger said. “We have a team of consultants that we pull in for the expertise that fits the project the best.”  WYK Associates is working on plans for the new Harrison/Taylor 911 Center and the Duff Street Methodist Church, as well as renovations for the Robinson Grand Theater.  “I personally like the restorations more because it’s more of a challenge than a new building,” Swiger said. “The Robinson Grand has been challenging, but it’s a fun project and a very unique project.”

However, Swiger said new building designs have their own advantages, with each one being treated as a unique project.  “New buildings are nice too because you can start with a clean slate, and you can be a little more creative than you can be with an existing building,” he said.  Swiger said the mechanical or structural engineers he turns to for a small office building may be different from those he uses to complete renovations of the Robinson Grand Theater.  “We have a few structural engineers that we work with,” he said. “So on the theater, for instance, we used one with a lot of historical experience, and we might use another structural engineer on a new building.”  Having those resources at hand is more beneficial than having engineers in house, Swiger said.  “If you have all those under one roof all the time, you’re limited by the expertise of what you have,” he said. “We don’t believe in that, and I don’t want to get into the engineering business.”

WYK Associates does, however, have nine employees, all of whom specialize in different areas of architecture.  “One of the really amazing things about WYK is that everyone here is passionate about different things,” client relationship manager Jordan Garland said.  Joe Sinclair specializes in sustainable building, and Meghann Gregory enjoys adaptive reuse and education, while Swiger and Stephen Kelley focus much of their efforts in historic restoration.  “They all work very well together and give it a very holistic approach,” Garland said. “No matter what the building is, it does not scare them. They can do anything.”  Garland’s role is business development and marketing.  “My role is primarily to go out to meet with folks throughout the community to introduce people to WYK and grow business,” she said.

Though Clarksburg and Bridgeport have several WYK-designed buildings, the company has also completed work in Boone, Monongalia, Pocahontas and Upshur counties.  “We’ve done work throughout the state, but most of our work is within an hour to two hours from Clarksburg,” Swiger said. “But we’re reaching out more throughout the state.”  With over a century in business, WYK Associates has seen tremendous changes since it first began.  “Obviously the way we do the work has changed,” Swiger said. “It started out on paper and pencil or ink on linen.”  When Swiger first worked for WYK after college, the company used AutoCAD 2-dimensional programming. By the time he returned about 10 years ago, technology had morphed to include building information modeling (BIM) and 3-dimensional modeling.  “It’s changed the way you do things because you’re building the building within the computer,” he said. “Everything is integrated into that one model, which makes for better quality control before it goes out to bid.”  Desired designs have changed as well, Swiger said.  “The sustainability movement is increasing more and more,” he said. “People are looking for more environmentally friendly designs for buildings.”

Since it’s inception, Swiger said WYK Associates has been heavily invested in giving back to the community, particularly when original owner Edward J. Wood served as Clarksburg’s mayor.  “He was very active in civic organizations, and we still have continued that philosophy all the way through,” he said. “A lot of us are involved in many aspects of the community, not just professionally but also civic minded.”  Garland agreed.  “That’s a very important thing to all of us. Everybody here volunteers and is a part of at least two different groups,” she said. “That’s something that’s very dear to all of us, and I think that shows through.”  Though Garland has only been a part of WYK for a year, she’s enthusiastic about being a part of something so lasting.  “It’s great to be a part of something that has been successful for 116 years and growing. I feel really blessed to be a part of that experience,” she said.

Swiger added that he hopes to see the company continue for another 116 years.  “As far as the future goes, we’re looking to grow the company, and we recently brought on another architect this past fall,” he said. “We’re just continuing to grow and expand our horizons throughout the state and beyond. We’ll continue offering good services to our clients and just focus on what we do best.”  To continue the tradition of passing the torch through the generations, Swiger also plans to pass that torch along.  “I hope to carry it for another 20 or 25 years and pass it off to some of the younger folks who are here to carry on the legacy of the firm,” he said.