WLC Feature: A Moment with George
A Moment with George
On the last official day of his tenure here at WLC Architects, I was granted an interview with one of the pillars of the firm: Mr. George Wiens. For me, this was quite an opportunity to connect with one of the longest-standing members of WLC of 38 years – especially since my time at WLC could be counted in days. On one hand.
With boxes already packed on his desk and his studio work space tidied up, I watched from a distance as he worked. I saw the pencil block he used as a young architect in the firm. He welcomed my interruption and we stole away to a nearby conference room with coffee in hand for a candid interview.
Q: Over the past 38 years, how have you changed during your time here at WLC, as a person and as a professional?
George: “Probably not much. I don’t know that I’ve changed much my entire life! I do things naturally. I don’t try to be anybody or anything. I just react and live. That’s the way I’ve always been. I have no major goals. I’m not trying to be the best, or the worst, or anything else at anything. I see what’s in front of me and take advantage of it. That’s exactly what I do.
I talk a lot less than I listen. I try to pay more attention and try to ask for less attention. I don’t want the spotlight – so I think that’s helped me be successful in my life and just kind of following that path.
I believe in doing what you say, and say what you do. If you do that every day – always do what you say, and say what you do – people will believe in you and you’ll get trust and respect.”
"If you always do what you say, and say what you do - people will believe in you and you'll get trust and respect."
Q: In your own words, what is it that makes WLC a special place?
George: “I think the way the group of people here work together. I think we’ve been blessed with good overall leadership. It’s a complex firm in that there have been up to nine different teams over the years. In a lot of ways, it’s always been six, seven, eight, nine little firms within a firm. They’ve loosely done their own thing, but they’ve sort of stayed within with boundaries of the firm itself, I think. Give them their limits of what they’re supposed to do in terms of design, and profitability, and realizing what the important components are of what we do, architecturally.
I think it’s the flexibility that has been very important – our ability to react within a market that we have no control over. And also our ability to be conservative and generous at the same time, if that makes sense.”
Q: For a new person coming into WLC for the first time, what advice would you give them as they start their journey?
George: “In this business, I’d say learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Pay attention to everything around you and the complexity of this business. A lot of our success depends upon us understanding our clients’ needs, their desires, and what they want. If you’re not able to listen and try to understand what they want, you’re not going to be successful in the long run.
Pay attention to the senior technical people here in the firm. They have a lot to offer. Just absorb everything you can. That was key for my success. I just tried to absorb it all the time and it’s really important to do that.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. My belief is that for anybody who is at the top of their profession, they do it with great sacrifice. The sacrifice is often the rest of the humans around them. That’s not my path. My advice to people is don’t go there. Don’t sacrifice the rest of your life and the humanity around you just to make yourself the best.”
"In this business, I'd say learn as much as you can as fast as you can."
Q: As you look back at the experience that you had and the body of work that you’ve helped produce, what do you feel you’ve contributed to the story here at WLC?
George: “I’m most proud about the success of the firm. That’s a great achievement for me. It’s just the success of everybody else in the department, what they’ve done, and their ability to work as a team. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Before I left his studio I paused for one more look. It seemed to me that he was convinced to work on his craft until the very last moment – signing construction documents and speaking with other designers. I had a glimpse of George in his element.
Thank you George for being open to sharing your life and experience with WLC. The impact you have made on the lives of your clients, co-workers, and friends is immeasurable.