What do P.F. Chang’s in Dubai and School District 49 in Colorado Springs have in common? David Riggs, AIA.
Originally from the Chicago-area, Riggs was surrounded by hallmark architecture at an early age, which solidified his career plans. In fact, his first job as an architect was at Aria Group Architects, which was located next to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park—a place Riggs often frequented during lunch breaks.
Based in Illinois, Riggs spent fourteen years working on hospitality and entertainment building types around the world. He embraced the challenges that came with designing restaurants, each with unique restrictions and cultural considerations.
“We completed a lot of P.F. Chang’s restaurants, which evolved over time, so the design of each location was unique,” said Riggs. “It was not cookie cutter. Each one had either different materials or a different design concept. We even had to design a P.F. Chang’s underneath a theater, which had unique acoustic and mechanical equipment restrictions.”
Riggs also had to adapt the designs to best serve the local community. For example, in Dubai, they could not use P.F. Chang’s’ iconic statues due to the religious beliefs of the country.
All of this, said Riggs, kept the job interesting. During that time, he also worked on Dave & Buster’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. Riggs enjoyed the challenges that designing these spaces offered, as well as being able to later visit the restaurants he designed, where he could enjoy it as a patron as well as learn from his past work.
But in 2015, Riggs moved to Colorado Springs to be closer to his family and his now-fiancé and began working at TK-Architecture doing work on military and VA projects. Riggs made another switch in his designs when he joined DLR Group, where he now mostly works on K-12 education projects.
At a time when the architecture profession is getting more specialized, Riggs has been able to hone his skillset on a multitude of building types.
“The ultimate goal [of architecture] is meeting the needs of the client, so the key is listening to them and providing a great design solution for their projects,” Riggs said. “The program, spaces and terminology are different in each typology, but at the end of the day, you are still dealing with codes and the same process for finding design solutions.”
Riggs is currently charged with meeting the needs of school boards—and more importantly, students—through his work in School District 49, which is expected to double in size in a relatively short time-span. They already have more than 20,000 students.
“It’s amazing to see how fast Colorado Springs is growing. It’s exciting to be a part of it and that the schools trust us to provide designs that meet the needs of current and future facilities,” Riggs explained.
A transformation in K-12 education is also changing the way architects design schools. Riggs is working on a high school addition, which will be a Career Technical Education Lab, where students can learn to weld, design and install landscape irrigation systems, 3-D print in a print shop and even gain hands-on experience working in healthcare.
The new elementary school Riggs is designing will place an emphasis on arts education. The pods of classrooms will be centered around a stage and performance area, there will be breakout spaces for small group interactions and even a maker space where kids will exercise their creativity.
“Architecture has the opportunity to really enrich the human experience in how someone interacts with the building,” Riggs said. “The colors on the wall or the materials on the floor change how someone feels within the space. We [as architects] are deciding how people will interact with the space.”
His experience in designing places that serve the current and future needs of people, and his passion for giving back to the profession, make Riggs an ideal voice to contribute the Southern Colorado perspective on the AIA Colorado Board of Directors.
“I joined the board because I want to give back to the profession and organization that has given to me— the AIA has advocated on my behalf, protected and strengthened my license and provided resources and educational opportunities,” said Riggs.
During his term on the board, Riggs hopes to build on the successes of 2017, like continuing hard hat tours, the small group mentorship program and other continuing education programs that help architects navigate the profession. He also encourages AIA Colorado members in Southern Colorado to get involved with and help guide their community by providing feedback to the Regional Building Department and joining local boards and commissions.
Despite his relatively short time in Colorado, Riggs is already making an impact within the Colorado architecture community and is a champion for architects in the southern part of the state.