LRS Architects Becomes Largest Women-owned Architecture Firm in the Pacific Northwest

May 04, 2021 - by commARCH
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LRS Architects Becomes Largest Women-owned Architecture Firm in the Pacific Northwest

LRS Architects’ new owner group (L to R): Michelle Startt, Dan Purgiel, Trish Nixon, Paul Boundy, and Janice Sanada (Photo: Carlos Rafael)

LRS Architects recently announced that the firm has become the largest women-owned architecture and interior design firm in the Pacific Northwest with the recent addition of Janice Sanada and Michelle Startt to the majority ownership group. Sanada and Startt join current majority owners Trish Nixon, Dan Purgiel, and Paul Boundy.

More About the Firm

Founded in 1976 by Bill Ruff and Steve Lee, LRS was established on client-centered solutions and a commitment to providing excellent service. Today, the award-winning firm takes pride in designing projects that positively shape human experience through the physical environment and address the needs of everyday life: the spaces and places where we live, work, and go about our lives. “We have an incredible team of individuals,” notes Startt, “to carry forward the firm’s design mission. All of our work is derived from our shared sense of mutual respect, our commitment to firm culture, and in doing the best work possible for our clients.”

What is the firm known for?

The firm — recognized for marrying great design with an efficient, collaborative process — has significant work across a broad range of project types, including: senior living and multi-family housing, commercial office and workplace, retail and auto, civic buildings, and industrial projects. Recent Portland area senior housing and multi-family work includes the 256-unit, resort-style Touchmark in the West Hills senior living development, and Grant Park Village II, a multi-family development that helps transform a former industrial site into a thriving community. Notable commercial and retail projects include: the $15 million, mountaintop Sahale Lodge at Mt. Hood, Oregon; the rebranding and expansion of over a dozen New Seasons grocery stores at various locations in Oregon; as well as more than 80 auto dealership projects located throughout Oregon and Washington. With dozens of commercial buildings and over 15 million square feet of workplace tenant improvements completed within the past several years, commercial and workplace projects constitute a significant portion of the firm’s work. Several recent examples include the 35,000-square-foot corporate headquarters for Vetsource, the adaptive reuse conversion of the Towne Storage building into creative office space and the new 12th & Morrison office building, all in Portland. The firm’s civic work includes the recently completed Wingspan Conference and Event Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Why is this latest change significant to the firm?

With the change, Sanada notes, “We look forward to continue building upon the foundation of strong design, client service and our culture of respect, inclusivity and transparency, while growing more flexible as we plan for the future.” Startt adds, “When I started at LRS Architects over twenty years ago, the industry was very male-dominated. I was one of only four women on the architectural staff. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, and I’m proud to say that LRS Architects is now almost fifty percent female.”

“Empathy is at the heart of our design process,” notes Nixon. “Regardless of project type, understanding the needs of users and creating a process that fosters the exploration of ideas is essential to ensuring that our collaborative designs are flexible and function as intended.”

Owner Biographies

Trish Nixon, AIA, LEED AP, Managing Principal, President

Nixon joined LRS in 1996 and was named Principal in 2003. Nixon leads the firm’s multi-family and affordable housing studio. She is passionate about sustainability and is the founding principal of the LRS Justice Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which works to create a more diverse and inclusive industry.


Michelle Startt, Managing Principal

Startt joined LRS in 1999 and was named Principal 2014. She is principal of the Interiors Department and Office + Workplace Studio, where she guides a talented group of designers through projects in commercial and public market sectors. Startt’s combination of collaborative leadership, forward-thinking, and innovative marketing strategies has contributed to the continued recognition of the firm.

Janice Sanada, LEED AP, Managing Principal

Sanada joined LRS in 2003 and was named Principal in 2013. As a principal of the Senior Living Studio, her passion lies in creating homes that respect and honor the elderly. Sanada’s insightful leadership, excellent client relationships, and strong commitment to firm culture have contributed to the continued success of the firm.

Paul Boundy, Managing Principal

Boundy joined LRS in 1994 and was named Principal in 1998. He leads the Civic Studio, where he directs a variety of large, technically complex projects. Boundy’s ability to command a project from a strategic concept to the smallest detail has proven a strong benefit for public clients and stakeholders, and his analytical approach and connection with staff have made him a strong firm leader.

Dan Purgiel, AIA, Managing Principal

Purgiel joined LRS in 1995 and was named Principal 2003. He is a principal of the Senior Living Studio. An expert in Senior Living regulatory development, coordination, and compliance, he has presented at numerous industry conferences and consulted in numerous states.

About LRS Architects

LRS Architects is a forward-thinking architecture and interior design firm based in Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1976, the award-winning practice is driven by a passion for good design that goes beyond aesthetics to create vibrant communities and spaces that support the wellbeing of those who inhabit them. With 120 design professionals, the firm is committed to partnering collaboratively with clients to positively shape the human experience through the physical environment. The diversity of the firm’s project experience provides a broad perspective and proven expertise in design, problem-solving, documentation, and project delivery methods. The firm’s work, while centered in the Pacific Northwest, is found throughout the United States in over 30 states, as well as in China, Canada, and Nicaragua. Recognized with dozens of awards, the practice’s work has been featured in hundreds of publications, including Architect, Fast Company, ENR, and Office Snapshots, among many others. 
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