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Still public architecture, still teams, still a design shop

In early August 1977, David Webster and Lyndon Keck drove up to Portland, found places to live, and set up a studio called Portland Design Team.

On August 4th, they moved a truckload of DIY office furniture into a rented space on Exchange Street in Portland, Maine. College roommates who had gravitated to Boston after graduation, they had specific ideas about the firm they were opening. They wanted to do community-based architecture—rooted in community ideals and responsive to the landscape and local architecture. They wanted that way of working to shape the way the firm functioned—they hired people with strong collaboration skills and organized them in project teams. And they wanted to concentrate on modern design—of its time and place.

For the first few years, they alternated paying the bills, which they kept in a shoebox. They kept the receipts in a coffee can.

On August 4, 2017, the firm they founded, now called PDT Architects, and a major presence in Maine architecture, celebrates its 40th anniversary. The tools have changed, the chairs are much more comfortable, the shoebox is gone, and there are 25 people working here, but the ideas persist.

Our vision in 1977 was to create a high-quality, collaborative design firm that stressed innovation grounded in careful listening to our clients' functional needs. In the spirit of that vision, on September 30, 2017, we became aligned with CHA Consulting, Inc., a multi-disciplined engineering consultant, sharing in a new aspiration to responsibly improve the world we live in. Now part of the CHA family, and supported by nearly 1,000 technical professionals throughout the United States and Canada, we have a much larger platform to combine art and science to rethink, refine and reshape the built environment.

Lyndon and David, the founding architects, are still leading teams and designing buildings. We still do community-based architecture. We still work in teams. We still place a high value on design.

There are four more practice leaders now—Brian Curley, now the president, Alan Kuniholm, Ann Fontaine-Fisher, and Matthew Pitzer. PDT’s first employee, interior designer Suzanne Morin, still works here. And there are practical, well-designed, community-based PDT buildings and renovations in dozens of Maine and New England towns and cities.