Delawie Celebrates 60 Years!

In 1961 Homer Delawie founded his firm in Old Town, now Delawie is one of the largest firms in San Diego.

The Q&A below was originally published by The Registry on June 28, 2021.

Q&A: San Diego Architecture Firm Delawie Celebrates 60 Years

By Catherine Sweeney

Delawie, one of San Diego’s oldest architecture and planning firms, is celebrating 60 years of design and innovation in Southern California. The Registry recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Paul Schroeder, an associate principal with Delawie, and learn more about the firm, its rich history in San Diego as well as where Delawie is headed in the future.

Generally speaking, can you tell me a little bit about Delawie? What areas does the firm specialize in?

A: Delawie has learned over the last 60 years that diversity is the name of the architectural game for our practice. We do not specialize in any one specific market sector/project type, but instead purposely have become skilled in multiple project types within multiple market sectors. These include Civic & Defense, Education, Life Science, Hospitality & Entertainment, Mixed-Use, and Technology & Corporate. As the economy changes we are positioned to have a more steady workload of projects, especially during downturns in the economy.

Can you tell me a little about Delawie’s history and how the firm got its start?

A: Homer Delawie was the founder of Delawie back in 1961. Homer started his practice like many sole practitioners do by designing single family residences. However, he was one of the first architects in San Diego to focus on a modern design vernacular for his homes which are now considered to be mid-century modern jewels sprinkled throughout the San Diego landscape. What broke Homer out of the residential market was a commission he was awarded to design an addition to the City of Coronado Public Library. His vision for this project took the modern elements he had been incorporating into his home designs (post and beam construction with large expanses of glass) and translated them into a civic project by using concrete and glass in a similar fashion. The success of this project led to other commissions such as bachelor enlisted quarters for the Navy. As the firm grew larger, other market sectors were explored including education and retail. So the idea of becoming an architectural firm with diverse project type experience was ingrained in the firm nearly from the beginning.

Delawie has been in existence for 60 years. As one of the oldest architecture firms in San Diego, how has it grown and/or changed over the years?

A: Part of the answer to this question was revealed in the previous response, but I’m happy to expand. The firm has been a pioneer in San Diego over the years being the first take on new industry challenges. Examples of this include doing the first penguin exhibit at SeaWorld that had a transparent wall that allowed exhibit goers to view the penguins underwater, designing the some of the first Life Science Lab buildings in San Diego on the Torrey Pines Mesa at the beginning of the Biotech industry, and designing the first LEED Gold certified project in San Diego County. This history of exploring new project types and unique design solutions has continued at Delawie as we were early leaders in the Indian Gaming and Hotel design arena expanding that experience into a burgeoning Hotel and Hospitality resume. Moving beyond our 60 years we continue to look for opportunities to expand our market sectors to grow our diverse portfolio of projects and strengthen our firm’s health and longevity.

How does Delawie set itself apart from other local architecture firms?

A: We believe Delawie is unique in the sense that all the principals are actively involved in their projects from start to finish and are one of the main contact points with our clients throughout the life of the project, rather than handing the job completely over to the project manager. We hear stories from clients that many other architects in town bring their principals out to win the project and they don’t see or hear from them again until the ribbon cutting. All of Delawie’s principals still enjoy doing design and being engaged on their projects on a day-to-day basis.

What has Delawie learned from the last 60 years, and how will those lessons influence future design projects?

A: Probably the overriding lesson we have learned at Delawie over the years is to listen, engage and collaborate with the client to give them their project vision through our design expertise. We do not impose a design style or force a design solution because we think we know better what their building needs are just because we are architects! This means all of our designs are unique to the client and project, and doesn’t follow a stock design formula or style.

Are there any projects from over the years that you would like to highlight? Any that Delawie is currently working on?

A: Looking back over the 60 year history of Delawie, projects that stand out in my mind that have impacted Delawie’s growth and design presence in San Diego include the following: 1) Coronado Library Expansion, 2) JR Mills Trolley Station Building, 3) San Diego Police Headquarters building, 4) Old Ferry Landing Retail Project in Coronado, 5) Multiple Bachelor Enlisted Quarters on Coronado and on the Camp Pendleton Base, 6) Qualcomm’s Headquarters building, 7) Pechanga Hotel & Casino projects (spanning 25+ years), 8) SDSU Student Health Services Building, 9) UCSD Muir College – Tamarack Apartments, 10) Mesa College Math & Sciences building, & 11) Biolegend Life Science building that recently won an Orchid Award. Projects that are currently being worked on by Delawie that are notable include USD’s Knauss Center for Business Education that is under construction and Kona Village which is a new high-end luxury hotel located in Kona, Hawaii, also under construction. Finally, our Hospitality team just finished construction administration on two large hotels we designed located in the City of Oceanside. This is the Oceanside Beach Resort project. As you can see, we have major projects representing all of our market sectors!

How do these projects fit into Delawie’s vision/mission?

A: If I had pictures to show you of these projects, they are very unique as they reflect the client’s design vision. They also are representative of our design expertise in many market sectors.

Looking ahead, what goals does Delawie have for the future? How does the firm plan to continue its growth and development?

A: We want to continue Homer’s legacy of being a leading architecture firm in San Diego, so our main goal right now is to find our next group of leaders in the firm that will perpetuate Delawie for many years to come. We will also continue to position ourselves in new and emerging market sectors to expand our diversity that has helped sustain Delawie over our current 60-year run!