SmithGroup, ranked 7th among A/E firms in BD+C's Giants listing, announced recently it has merged with Chicago-based AREA Design, Ltd, a commercial interiors firm headed by architect Angie Lee, FAIA, IIDA.
The move will help grow SmithGroup’s Chicago office by expanding its studio dedicated to serving the needs of corporate and commercial workplace clients, while strengthening the firm’s national workplace practice.
Lee is a 25-year industry veteran who established AREA Design in 2005 to provide high quality professional services in interior architecture and design to corporate and commercial clients. With the joining of the two firms, AREA Design’s seven-person staff will expand the workplace studio at SmithGroup’s Chicago, IL office, with Lee taking the role as a SmithGroup vice president.
“Angie is a proven leader who quickly led AREA Design to become one of Chicago’s fastest growing designers of innovative, workplace environments,” said Andy Vazzano, FAIA, managing director of SmithGroup’s Chicago office. “Her strong personal presence and analytical style has built key relationships with Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, trading firms, pharmaceutical companies and professional services firms, so we’re confident Angie is the professional to help accelerate our success in the Chicago market,” Vazzano added.
Several of AREA Design’s 20 active clients in Chicago, including Exelon Corporation, The HON Company, Astellas U.S., LLC, and the Harrington College of Design, are positive about the merger with SmithGroup.
“The value of this merger comes in the form of access to SmithGroup’s nationally recognized experts in innovative, client-focused, inspiring workplace design,” Lee said. “Simultaneously, AREA Design clients will benefit from the invaluable resources of SmithGroup, a large, multi-discipline firm.”
Lee founded AREA Design to provide clients with creative solutions for office environments. The firm’s roster of seven employees will join SmithGroup, moving from AREA Design’s downtown Chicago offices at One East Wacker Drive to SmithGroup’s offices on the 22nd floor of the historic Jeweler’s building, located at 35 E. Wacker Drive.
The merger between the two firms will also allow many of SmithGroup’s national workplace clients an enhanced level of service, according to Rebecca Nolan, IIDA, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, who leads SmithGroup’s national practice for the workplace sector,
“Angie is an accomplished, recognized leader in workplace design. We are delighted that we will have the opportunity to work with her and her staff’s significant talent and experience in the Chicago market -- where many of our national clients have large offices or even headquarters locations,” Nolan said.
The creation of AREA Design followed Lee’s 12 years as leader of the interiors and then corporate practices at Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm OWP/P.
Lee joined OWP/P in 1992, first leading the firm’s interior architecture practice. Over the next three years, she grew the practice from six to 34 interior architects and designers and won four design awards. A series of promotions at OWP/P led her in 1999 to become the firm’s Director of Corporate Practice and by 2002 she generated an all-time high of $10 million in revenue. Lee resigned from OWP/P in 2005 and with a business partner established her own company, AREA Design Ltd.
Lee, a licensed architect, was elevated to the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2004 in recognition of her significant contributions to architecture and society and achievement of excellence in the profession. She is currently serving as the 2007 president of the Illinois chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and is also active with Chicago Real Estate Executive Women (CREW). Lee is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she earned a bachelor of architecture with honors.