LSW Architects sees positive leadership changes

LSW has spent the past three years in a season of deep strategic planning, focused investment in staff

LSW team
LSW leadership team celebrating the winners of their firm's 2022 Internal Design Awards. Pictured left to right: Ralph Willson (Principal Emeritus), Max Ault, Shara Wokal, Esther Liu, Stefani Randall, Farleigh Winters (Associate Principal), Chris Spurgin (Associate Principal), Spencer Anderson (Associate Principal), Casey Wyckoff, Jason Olson and Brent Young.

Founded in 1955, LSW Architects in Vancouver employs more than 40 architectural and interior design, urban planning, economic development and public relations professionals serving a dynamic number of clients across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and Montana.

Empowered by a multigenerational team, LSW is a firm that celebrates and draws inspiration from the strength of a collective staff that brings a diverse cross-section of perspectives, lived experiences, creative talent and deep technical skills. Max Ault, LSW executive vice president and chief strategy officer, said the firm models and cultivates an approach to design that strengthens the foundational and authentic relationship between people, community and the environment.

Building on an almost 70-year legacy of design leadership and impact, Ault said that LSW has spent the past three years in a season of deep strategic planning and focused investment in staff to integrate key value-add services that drive design innovation and overall project impact for clients and partners. This focused and intentional planning effort has manifested through some exciting leadership changes focused directly on maximizing the firm’s capabilities, value and impact for the clients and communities LSW serves.

Leading LSW as the firm’s chief executive, Esther Liu recently assumed the role of both president and CEO, responsible for championing design leadership, mentorship and overall direction of LSW’s future planning efforts and growth. Building on her deep skills as a leader in the architectural field, Liu brings a unique combination of skills as a business and design leader to ensure long-term success and LSW as a legacy Pacific Northwest design studio.

Continuing the investment in and expansion of LSW’s innovative design culture, Casey Wyckoff has transitioned from CEO to Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), a role that will see him more actively involved in supporting critical design elements of LSW’s education portfolio, pre-bond and planning efforts support public school districts, staff mentorship, and the firm’s entrepreneurial efforts related to expanded service offerings supporting the growing communities, land development and critical community infrastructure. Both Liu and Wyckoff remain as LSW’s two owners.

Dedicated to a culture of inclusivity, empowerment, and service, Ault said LSW is now in the process of transitioning to a women-owned business and pursuing formal certification as a Minority Women Business Enterprise (MWBE).

Alongside Liu and Wyckoff, Principals Stefani Randall, Brent Young and Jason Olson represent an expanded leadership structure that provides oversight, direction and support of LSW’s diverse portfolio of project types and growing geographic focus. The three have more than 70 years of combined design expertise and project leadership between them, and they will continue to drive the delivery of industry-defining design services to partners and clients while supporting the firm’s investment in professional development ranging from accredited DBIA professionals, Living Futures Associates, LEED, Passive Housing and more.

The firm also saw key changes for Ault, who assumed his role of executive vice president and chief strategy officer. Building on his responsibilities leading LSW’s integrated economic and community development offerings, market and demographic research, public relations, stakeholder strategy, and capital access, and business development offerings, Ault will work closely with firm ownership and principal leadership in leading LSW’s day-to-day business operations and organizational planning efforts, in addition to new market development for the firm and expanded services supporting clients and partners in Central Oregon and Montana.

Alongside Ault, LSW’s Chief Financial Officer Shara Wokal concurrently assumed the additional role of chief human resources officer, expanding her integrated leadership supporting the firm’s financial health to empowering staff development, project performance and long-range planning for the organization.

As LSW’s new president and CEO, Liu said she is excited for the firm’s future as integrated design and community development studio.

“Approaching almost seven decades of loving, serving and providing opportunity to our communities across Southwest Washington, we have an incredible legacy on which to build to redefine the foundational value and impact a design studio can bring to growing communities,” Liu said. “With increased population demands, dynamic economic conditions and an imperative to lead sustainable design, LSW is well positioned to nurture a culture of design excellence that results in a future built environment that is all at once nurturing, resilient and generative.”

Joanna Yorke-Payne
Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start


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