Some may have known these two firms independently as DDG (Development Design Group) and BCT Architects, but they have now formally announced the creation of BCT Design Group. Here, RLI sits down with key members of the BCT Design Group to discuss the story behind the company.
For most of its fifty-year history, BCT provided award-winning architecture, design, placemaking and planning services predominately in the eastern half of the US, while DDG primarily worked internationally and in the mid-western US, planning and designing some very influential large-scale horizontal mixed-use centres across the mid-western US such as Town Square Las Vegas and Easton Town Center. The union of these two firms made sense as both design firms specialise in the planning and design of commercially-driven mixed-use developments that often include multi-family, senior living, hospitality, and entertainment uses. Additionally, many of the firm’s principals and senior leaders have worked with both firms, which has enabled a smoother than usual transition.
Today BCT Design Group is active around the globe with a diverse portfolio of projects indicative of the times. There has been a major focus on redevelopment work, as clients are looking to reposition and transform existing retail centres into mixed-use destinations, in addition to the diversification of large scale residential master-planned communities.
BCT Design Group is currently repositioning mall properties in Europe, Russia and the US by surgically adding leisure, local food, and lots of multi-family residential elements. The recently expanded firm is also planning large mixed-use communities and urban infill developments.
The business successfully intertwines street level intrigue and common-sense development practices with architecture that inspires a diverse group of patrons. DDG’s experience with creating outdoor pedestrian areas and al fresco dining at shopping malls such as Istinye Park in Istanbul and others led to additional outdoor focused mixed-use experiences. DDG and BCT collaborated at National Harbor in Washington with a very large mixed-use development that celebrates the street. Even more recent projects such as King of Prussia Town Center in Philadelphia and Anatolium Marmara (best European high rise 2018) in Istanbul further made the transition to outdoor public commercial spaces.
Fifty years ago, BCT was established in the Baltimore/Washington region, when two designers left The Rouse Company (one of the innovators of the modern shopping mall and festival retail centres) to form a new design agency. Growing from a two-man outfit to a fifty plus multi-disciplinary firm BCT had found a stable workflow that allowed the firm to succeed no matter the worlds’ economic outlook. Inversely, DDG was formed in 1990 when Principals Roy Higgs and John Clark purchased the Baltimore office of Design International; having been DI’s largest office at the time. Having the ability to hit the ground running as a seventy-person firm from day one, DDG quickly began to set its sights on further expanding their global reach, specifically focusing on the emerging markets of the time such as China, South East Asia, Latin Americas, and Eastern Europe.
DDG has built a global practice during the past forty years, and the firm increased its international business via satellite offices in Jakarta, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Paris in order to continue to develop business interests globally. BCT Design Group still maintains its presence in Istanbul and has increased its presence in Paris. DDG has developed a reputation for creatively handling a wide range of international projects while master-planning thousands of hectares to create new cities, towns and waterfront communities. DDG’s style was ‘big-picture ideation,’ leading projects to a Design Development stage and collaborating with local architecture partners, who are well versed in local building codes and entitlement processes.
DDG is credited for designing the first modern shopping destinations in Indonesia, creating dynamic alternatives to traditional shopping in the Middle East and Europe, and promoting environmentally, and fiscally responsible developments in emerging nations.
BCT President Bryce Turner was a senior member of both firms and engineered BCT’s acquisition of DDG in 2017. In addition to Turner, many of BCT Design Group’s senior staff members started their careers at DDG before joining BCT. Some of these individuals include, Bob Gehrman, Bob Northfield, and Craig Purcell just to name a few. The firms’ shared project history, multiple successful collaborations, and shared personnel over the last twenty years, only further reinforced the logic in the firms combining their efforts more than three years ago.
Both firms have always believed planning, architecture, and all forms of design are ultimately about people. “We are passionate about building or expanding communities, no matter the scale. We strive for elegant solutions while prioritizing functionality in order to create walkable, viable, and healthy places that set the stage for the human experience and resonate with their surroundings,” explains Bryce Turner, President of BCT Design Group.
Today, BCT Design Group’s five studios specialise in building typologies from senior living, multi-family and affordable housing to mixed-use and food & beverage experiences. The studios’ professional services include architecture, planning, branding, graphic design and interior design. Through the use of an in-house “Design Collaborative” process, team members from each specialised studio offer a varied and objective perspective to ensure a well-balanced and fiscally stable product. This collaborative and unique process allows BCT Design Group to successfully fuse market-segment and mixed-use thinking into any scale of project.
“Today’s world requires a new approach that focuses on flexibility and an understanding of the lifestyle trends that evolve quickly. Our firm loves to ‘blur the line’ between indoors and out; between storefronts and the street’, and create the environment where people enjoy their proximity to great products and services, and one another,” says Bob Northfield, Principal of BCT Design Group.
Tony Van Vliet, Studio Director, International ends the interview by saying: “BCT Design Group exists today because of the hard work, passion and commitment of many accomplished individuals over the years. The result is a multi-disciplinary firm with a broad spectrum of services and talents.”
Their clients say these combined capabilities are essential in the major redevelopments taking place around the world as we all strive to “future proof” our cities and communities. Today, the world is more and more focused on sustainable living, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the demand for environments that foster financial, physical and emotional wellness. BCT Design Group, with its emphasis on redevelopment and ground-up environmental and financial sustainability will continue to be an asset to the real estate development industry and the cities and communities that want to live and work in thriving mixed-use places and spaces.”