Untitled design-286
Untitled design-286

Tulsa-based GH2 Architects Marks 50 years

By Michael Dekker - Tulsa World Business Writer

(Tulsa, Okla.) September 17, 2023 – To see the mark of a Tulsa design firm, only a short drive, or even a walk, is all that’s required.

“It’s amazing. To drive down the street and be bale to look, left and right, and everywhere you go and think ‘We designed that,” said GH2 Architects Principal Steve Jaggers.

“But not only did we design that, it’s exactly what the client wanted. It met their budget, it met their goals. The vernacular matches what they really perceived as a very great project.” 

GH2 recently marked its 50th anniversary, with more than 20 years headquartered at 320 S. Boston Ave. in downtown Tulsa. 

The firm, which began in Oklahoma City in 1973, now has 100 employees. It has designed more than 3,500 new projects and renovations in 48 states and 13 countries. 

They include everything from government buildings, hotels, event centers, schools, and churches to mixed-use commercial and residential structures.

Among its clients are the State of Oklahoma (state Capitol complex renovations), municipalities, many state and out-of-state universities, school districts, commercial entities, and nonprofits. 

But designing a new or refurbishing an existing structure is anything but standard, several GH2 principals said during a recent interview with the Tulsa World. 

Some projects – such as federal or city structures – are very specific with mandated specifications and other factors, while others are much more fluid, they said, depending on the client and purpose. 

And even if the purpose of a structure is clear for a client, there may be different versions of what it should look like. 

“Some of our clients are essentially boards of directors,” said Principal Cara Hall. “And you do get a lot of different opinions about how to get to achieving their goal. We work through that process with them to create consensus and help them understand what options are available and (help them) come to an agreement on what they want,” she said. 

“at the same time, we do have clients who come in and say ‘I want this, but I don’t really know what it looks like or how big it is’ or anything like that, and we help define that with them,” Hall said. 

Technology also helps with allowing clients to see a project beforehand and more easily make changes at the design level.

“To some degree, the technology really is there, where clients can experience that beforehand,” said Principal Reid Burton. 

“Having that technology available, where they can experience the space and feel the textures and raw materials at the time, really cuts down on all the changes,” Burton said. 

Principal Chris Seat added: “One of the things we do, too, is bring different options.”

“We don’t just go away and bring just one option back to them. We bring multiple options…sometimes it’s a mesh of several different options to create their project,” Seat said. 

GH2 also has a strategic plan, something many would not necessarily associate with an architecture firm. 

“To be successful, we have to take care of our clients, do a great job on their project, and take care of our team,” said Principal Michael Hall. 

“The strategic planning just sort of lets us formalize all the day-to-day things that we have to do to continue doing a great job for our clients, who demand the very best service and high level of design. And we want to hire and retain the very best people in our industry, and this sort of pulls all from those things together for us, with actionable steps,” he said. 

In addition to Tulsa, GH2 has offices in Oklahoma City and Mesa, Arizona (phoenix metro).

It began as Gralla Architects after being established by Stan Gralla. It later changed names to GH2. It has won multiple awards over the years, including American Institute of Architects Eastern Oklahoma Firm of they Year in 2021,2017, and 1992. 

it was listed in the Top 5000 fastest growing firms by Inc. Magazine in 2010. 

“I think one of the things that sets us aside as a firm – different than other firms in the area – is our culture and our people. We have a staff that has been here for a very long time,” Jaggers said. The tenure is pretty phenomenal as you look across the board,” he said. 

“As we grow, we continue to have new people join, but our principal level – our associate principal level – many of them started right out of school or very early in their career and have planted seeds here and continue decades later to work for GH2, “ Jaggers said. 

“So I think that not only speaks to our culture and our work and lifestyle – very family-oriented – which is easy to say, and you hear that a lot, but it really is true here,” he said. 

“There’s no good data out there that sort of charts the lifespan of the average architectural firm,” Michaele Hall said. “But 50 years, especially 50 years with consistent, internal ownership transition, without a large, national firm coming in and purchasing us, is really a special thing in our industry and we’re really, really proud of that.”