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in Bronx, New York, that will provide much needed safe and secure patient and treatment space veterans, work areas for healthcare professionals, and common areas for guests and family. After much research and collaboration with stakeholder groups, ThinkForm developed a design that integrates a “central park” theme in its plan, organization, texture, and material while accommodating very stringent Veterans Mental Health Design Guidelines. In addition, ThinkForm designed the Center for Innovation, Health, and Wellness at the VAMC in East Orange, New Jersey, which supported a cultural transformation to promote health, wellness, prevention, and healing. At the completion of this project, I had a chance encounter with a veteran and his healthcare provider who had just entered the interior corridor from a ThinkForm designed exterior courtyard with a water feature, plantings, and patterned landscape. Not knowing I was involved in its design, he told me he had just had his best session in the outdoor space. He suggested I go into the courtyard. His response validated our purpose and commitment to health and wellness. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? RD: If failure is a great teacher, it’s also one of my mentors. It’s not so much complete failure as achieving less than one hundred percent of goals. Throughout my life and career, from military service to architecture, I’ve been more inspired than deterred by those who told me, “You can’t, you’ll never, you should reconsider your choices.” The biggest lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that business ownership is very different than being just an architect. From finance to staff labor law, learn to partner with talented consultants with expertise outside of your own. TZL: Where do you see ThinkForm in the next five years? What are your top goals? RD: To continue our growth geographically while obtaining larger projects across all market sectors and continue to enhance the ThinkForm brand. ThinkForm’s top goals include expanding our C-suite, acquiring and retaining top talent, and expanding our services. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? RD: ThinkForm is an equal opportunity employer and participant in the U.S. Federal E-Verify program. We welcome all qualified individuals. Most important, our statistics reinforce ThinkForm’s diversity in that our team is 40 percent female, 40 percent minority, and 30 percent military veterans. ThinkForm’s key decision makers are 30 percent female, 30 percent minority, and 50 percent military veterans. Last month, LaShaun Key, an architect at ThinkForm, was recognized by the Charleston Area Black Caucus as one of 40 “Pros to Know.” Like myself, LaShaun is a service-disabled veteran and licensed architect passionate about design and the business of architecture. As one of our top priorities for 2023 is to grow our staff and our C-suite, we will strive to seek candidates from diverse resources, including historically underrepresented universities in which we’re currently building relationships.


RD: Without family support, my career wouldn’t be possible. I’m grateful for my great-grandparents who immigrated to the United States with the vision of providing a better life for their descendants. Their bravery and courage alone serves as my daily inspiration to continue their vision for those who come after me. While no family members are employed by ThinkForm, my career, and theirs, often overlap because architecture, art, and design started, for me, as a dream and passion that, today, is inherent in my lifestyle. When my children were younger, there were times when the family would accompany “dad” on an architectural “treasure hunt” to see a newly opened building not necessarily designed by me or the firm. My children were both born shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Upon the 2014 completion of the Freedom Tower and 9/11 memorial in New York City, I had the opportunity to “bring my child to work” by taking the day with them in Manhattan and to those sites to explain the significance of architecture, and not only why someone would target architecture, but why, as a society, we rebuild. “While we’ve had the opportunity to design for commercial, hospitality, government, multi-family, education, and healthcare, it’s been a great honor and privilege to create healing environments for my fellow service- disabled veterans.” TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? RD: These are similar to my tips for managing growth – listening, leadership, and decision making. A mentor once pointed out to me that, “There are those who are happy to be called president of any company whose revenue is one dollar a year, year after year, and those who are vested to growing a successful brand that will outlast them with care for their product, staff, clients, and society. Beware of the former.” This comment was made in reference to a potential employer, but also applies to potential partners, consultants, and clients. It’s a bit of a skill to navigate between the former and the latter, all the while creating cash flow to be the brand one truly wants to be. Starting out, I wish I would have known the AEC industry is a marathon while running a sprint. TZL: Designing healing environments seems to be something you’re passionate about. Can you give me a recent example of a project that accomplished this goal? RD: ThinkForm strives to create environments that support health and wellness regardless of market sector. We want to create places that make people feel good and ultimately smile. While we’ve had the opportunity to design for commercial, hospitality, government, multi-family, education, and healthcare, it’s been a great honor and privilege to create healing environments for my fellow service-disabled veterans. Soon to open is a 20,000-square-foot in-patient mental health department at the Veterans Administration Medical Center

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