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Business Profile

ALSC Architects

For every big scene in life, there is a setting: the physical spaces where we learn, work, gather and play. Walking across the stage to receive that diploma; entering a well-decorated rooftop terrace for senior prom; taking the kids to the season’s must-see concert or sporting event.

In the Inland Northwest, many of the built environments that serve as backdrops for these moments were crafted by ALSC Architects. But they didn’t do it alone.

Founded in 1948, with a portfolio of high-profile projects that include Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center, The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, and Expo ‘74, ALSC insists on a process of deep collaboration with clients and the broader community. The goal is to bring clients’ stories to life.

“First and foremost, it’s about forming a real working relationship,” says Dave Huotari, one of ALSC’s principal architects. “We go through a principle-based design process that includes listening, learning, observing, and exploring the client’s goals and dreams for the space.”

Huotari insists that this relational, story-focused pre-design stage is critical, though often glossed over in the industry. “Only after that can we go down the design path, creating a few different options for how a building can fit into that ongoing story for the client and the people they serve. And we refer back to the story and principles all the way through construction.”

Sitting high above Auntie’s Bookstore in the Liberty Building downtown, Huotari can simply gesture out the window to display exhibits A, B, and C of this process in action. There’s the Arena as a multi-faceted space with the capacity for Spokane to host sports and entertainment events in style. There’s the recent Spokane Convention Center expansion, which embraces the Spokane River more than ever before, and offers new terrace and rooftop spaces for unforgettable events. And further upriver, there’s the toughest place in the country for a visiting college basketball team to get a win.

The most well-known features of the McCarthey Athletic Center were born out of the pre-design process. “Working with Mike Roth and the rest of Gonzaga’s Athletic Department, the story is all about the student experience: for both athletes and fans,” Huotari recalls. “Gonzaga wanted the venue to be relatively small, so it is intimate and sold out forever, with fans right on top of the action and a student section right at center court—not pushed off behind the backboard.”

During the winter months, one can tune into ESPN on a weekly basis to see that this particular client’s story has certainly come to life.

Aside from these hyper-visible examples, the process is scalable, and works just as well for thinking through an office remodel with a local business, designing new INB locations, or creating an elementary school that is set up for student learning in the 21st century.

Walking around the company’s large, open workspace, one can feel the buzz of activity as team members collaborate on new projects. Though they’ve been around since shortly after World War II, they are not resting on their laurels. The architects and staff at ALSC are energetic in their work. A recent United Way Philanthropy Award reflects a deep commitment to engaging in the community as well.

“I like to say ‘we’re the oldest young firm in town,’” Huotari concludes, with a smile.