Q&A with Job Gutierrez, Partner at Wold Architects and Engineers

Job Gutierrez, Wold Architects and Engineers.

Job Gutierrez serves as a partner of the Colorado office of Wold Architects and Engineers, a full-service planning, architecture and engineering firm in Denver and one of the top 10 architecture and engineering firms in the state. Over the last decade, the Denver office has experienced significant growth, gaining 30 local architects, engineers and planners specializing in education and government design. This growth has allowed the team to help both metro and rural districts.

Throughout his 20-year career, Job has remained committed to the highest level of service that makes Wold’s projects successful. In his role, he helps lead the strategic thinking, assessment, coordination and milestone tracking. His expertise ranges from architectural project design and management from programming, planning, and design, through production, bidding and construction administration across the educational landscape.

1. What inspired you to become an architect?

I was born and raised in Mexico in a very artistic and musical family and studied the piano, guitar, and accordion, which my dad also played. I also had the opportunity to take painting lessons with local artists that marked my youth.

On the other side of my education, but also at the center of architecture as a profession, I had an affinity for the sciences — biology and physics were always my favorite classes in school. I believe architecture is the perfect marriage of the arts and sciences. During my early high school years, I was greatly influenced by my mom who worked in real estate, and I quickly discovered I wanted to be an architect.

2. Tell us about your specialization/area of expertise.

I started working at Wold right after graduating from the ​​Tecnológico de Monterrey in Nuevo León, Mexico and was given the opportunity to work on many different building types early in my career. Through this, I gained design experience on fire stations, detention centers, office buildings, courts, schools and more.

In 2009, I moved to Denver following a huge opportunity to take on a leadership role at Wold and help guide their Colorado office. With my new position and the move to a new city, I explored the broad market for beneficial opportunities for the firm and became strong leader for our office in the education sector.

An early mentor reminded me that in business development, you need to focus on one thing: where you find your passion. In all the project experiences I’ve had in my career, I felt the most passion for education as there are many ways to learn and endless opportunities to make an impact on our future generations. My mentor was a retired superintendent of schools and often stated: “We are a family.” My focus on school planning and design started that day, and I was determined to be “adopted” by that family in the education sector and follow my passion.

3. What’s something people might not know about this area of design?

School design is an ever-evolving field. In my opinion, the speed of this evolution is different than any other building type and there is great implied responsibility to “get it right.” If you don’t keep up with the evolution of education trends and the rapid changes in society, you simply won’t be able to hit the target.

4. How do you gain a clear understanding of each client’s needs and wants?

I try to understand our client’s needs by listening to their goals before jumping to solutions. By devoting time to this first step, I’m able to better understand their goals and thus fully incorporate the client’s vision into the design. Architects are taught in school to be creators, but listening attentively and deeply before starting to draw is key. Working for the public, we have learned that designing for communities requires patience and active listening.

We need to capture the broad-based goals of a community or a school district before offering potential solutions and together can formulate a set of guiding principles that will guide the design of the school. Though it takes extra time, the more energy spent at the front end helps the project move forward with a very clear vision that achieves the client’s goals and helps minimize re-design later.

5. How would you describe your design approach? How does your personal experience influence the planning and design of education environments?

My design approach is client focused. Every client is different, and we must clearly understand their organizational structure, aspirations and ultimately the community they serve to be able to craft the ideal design solutions that make sense for them.

Regarding previous personal experience, there is a library of experiences that builds up over time and colors subsequent layouts and spaces, but I believe that drawing from the past too much hinders innovation. For me, staying curious and exploring the unique aspects of every challenge is what makes each project exciting and new.

6. What is the biggest challenge you face in the education design space? How do you address this challenge?

The biggest challenge facing the education space is adapting to the pace of the individual learner. Not every student learns at the same speed or in the same way, therefore, we must design spaces that accommodate a wider variety of learners. Classrooms are a unique form of design and are evolving at a rapid pace because of both changing technology and students being native to that technology. My team and I work to design spaces that are flexible and easily adaptable as technology continues to advance and evolve our educational spaces to ensure impactful learning.

7. What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on recently or are currently working on?

We’ve recently been working on the addition and renovation of Jeffco Public Schools’ Alameda International Junior/Senior High School, an International Baccalaureate school, which is a major transformation of a building built in 1961 and a priority in the last bond election. After a year of planning and a few years of phased construction, this transformation is now underway.
What we were able to plan together with the Alameda school community was a very special experience and filled me with joy knowing we were about to make a big impact. Susie, the school principal, used to say that people driving around would never imagine the great education students were receiving inside the old, tired walls. Now, being close to completion, the site more closely matches what happens inside!

Additionally, the Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy in Aurora Public Schools, a new magnet school, is another unique project we are actively working on. This summer will see the second phase of remodels leading to a full build-out in a few years to fully integrate the new educational program planned for this PK-8 school site. The long-term nature of this planning effort and the opportunity to work with very passionate educators has been a unique and fun experience. Dedicating the school to Clara
Brown, a former slave turned entrepreneur, community leader and philanthropist was the cherry on top at the end of the first year of planning as it gave the entire project clearer direction and purpose.

8. What are some industry trends you’re noticing that are worth talking about?

One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is that technology is no longer restricted to only the retrieval of information. Today, technology allows people to do things at a wider pace than before and is now about creating, researching and enhancing information, whether through hardware, software or AI. This allows students to work faster and create at a pace that
hasn’t been possible before. How we integrate this advancement into our design and planning is critical.

9. If you weren’t an architect, what would you be doing?

My passion is to serve the communities in which I belong, whether that’s by creating educational environments or by some other means. If I was not able to be an Architect, I would either own a small construction company that specialized in detailed, quality work, follow my passion for music as a violin player for some philharmonic orchestra or become a tomato farmer in northern Mexico.

10. What do you find most rewarding about your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is helping entire communities realize their vision of a better future and seeing the impact the built environment has on people’s lives.

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