In conversation with: Scott Lee, President & Principal, SB Architects

SB Architects has announced its merger with international brands 10 Design and Egis. We caught up with Scott Lee, President and Principal of SB Architects to find out more about the merger and the path forward…

portrait Scott Lee principal at SB Architects

A full-service global architecture firm, SB Architects is a name that has become synonymous with international hotel and hospitality design for almost 60 years. With impressive pipelines, and a list of clients and projects that reads like a luxury hotel bucket list, from immersive escapes in Costa Rica, to ambitious snow clad ski resorts in North America, the firm has now taken a decisive step into a future, that is all about collaboration, and strengthening an already impressive global offering.

aerial view of Conrad Punta de Mital resort by SB Architects

Image credit: SB Architects

Hotel Designs: What prompted the merger? Why now?

Scott Lee: Over the last 20 years, SB Architects has done an incredible job at expanding the brand – with multiple offices, across multiple countries – but this merger offered us the opportunity to grow at a scale that would take us a long time to achieve organically. With Egis and 10 Design, the potential to accomplish our goals, and evolve SB Architects has been accelerated. We can expand, increase the quantity and quality of our design, and successfully compete on a global stage with the large-scale, big players in the design world.

HD: What sort of opportunities does the merger present to SB Architects for its next phase of growth?

SL: So many opportunities – more resources, more support, and ultimately, growth.

10 Design has excellent design talent across its various global offices and a complimentary portfolio of award-winning work. In terms of growth, we’re instantly becoming part of a team of over 280 incredibly talented people, and without the merger, that’s not something we could achieve organically any time soon. With a global footprint, 10 Design currently has a solid presence in regions where we’ve had some success, but no huge surge, such as Asia and the Middle East. It’s been incremental, as opposed to exponential, but this merger provides us with the opportunity to soar.

10 Design is an exceptional firm, with a coveted portfolio, but, if we look at this on a human level, the reason this opportunity was attractive to us at face value was the people. They’re great people. When we first began this process, we were vetting the tangible aspects, of course, but also the intangibles. I flew to Paris to meet the team and knew it would be a short conversation if it wasn’t a good fit, but instantly, we could imagine ourselves working side-by-side with the team.

Dorado Beach designed by SB Architects

Image credit: SB Architects

HD: Why have you chosen to merge over a succession plan?

SL: We approached our transition from an organic viewpoint, making our best, homegrown talent, owners. Each owner was folded into the conversation regarding a merger, and it was discussed as a team prior to making any final decisions. This merger was supported 100% by our entire ownership team, which made it much more meaningful and allowed us to present the next chapter of SB Architects to the wider team with full support. Merging has, and will, allow us to increase our talent, our reach, and our portfolio. It was the absolute best decision for SB Architects.

HD: Will SB Architects grow into other markets with Egis?

SL: We will look for opportunities to bring our hospitality expertise to projects that make sense as we continue to develop a synergistic relationship with all practices under the Egis Group. We’ve become part of Egis specifically to help build its premium architecture line. Hospitality is our sweet spot and moving too far away from that will only dilute our brand and confuse the market and our clients.

HD: Is there a hospitality synergy between SB and 10 Design?

SL: There are, 10 Design has designed and delivered numerous large-scale mixed-use projects, which comprise hospitality as well as other development components including retail, entertainment, office, and more, across Asia and the Middle East. With SB Architects’ in-depth market knowledge in the US, we can bring 10 Design’s expertise into the region and collaborate jointly on mixed-use hotel opportunities. Likewise, with 10 Design’s strong presence in Asia and the Middle East, they can reciprocate by opening doors for SB Architects to get into the hospitality sector in those regions.

HD: Will the leadership change? What are the opportunities for the next generation of leaders in SB Architects?

SL: No, the leadership team will remain the same. I will remain the President, and we will still have the same Principals, Associate Principals, and senior team members. The only difference is that there is more opportunity for growth in the larger collective of firms.

Opportunity-wise, there is so much room for growth now, not just in their careers, but geographically. We’re now part of a bigger firm, with multiple offices across the globe, in regions where we may not have had a chance to fully explore. It opens the prospect of travel for our team. If they wanted to go and work from Edinburgh, Singapore, or Hong Kong, they can, and they can do it whilst staying with us and continuing their career.

HD: Will SB Architects retain its presence as a hospitality design leader?

SL: Yes, we will absolutely retain our presence as a hospitality design leader, but now, that presence will be enhanced. I know this because we chose to merge as SB Architects was on a steep uphill trajectory, we were already on the rise in terms of market penetration, global presence, and recognition, and that will continue with the merger acting as an accelerant.

Calistoga Ranch, design by SB Architects

Image credit: SB Architects

HD: How does this affect current goals, projects, and partnerships?

SL: It actually helped solidify our goals. During the due diligence process, Egis and 10 Design asked us some hard questions, and we took a hard look at our goals, taking time to define and refine, and we found that the answers to the questions around growth and expansion, aligned perfectly with theirs.

When thinking about current projects and partnerships, we’re still doing exactly what we were doing a few months ago, the only difference is, now, we’re doing it with the support of a larger company. Our partnerships and client base are still the same. Coincidentally, a lot of our contacts are familiar with 10 Design and the fantastic reputation they hold in the industry.

HD: Moving forward with the merger is there anything else to add in conclusion?

SL: Yes, this merger is different from others that have happened in the industry. We’ve taken a deliberate, people-first approach to reassure our employees, clients, and collaborators, that the firm’s talent, culture, identity, and core values remain intact. We were lucky to be approached by a firm with similar principles. Egis and 10 Design are forward-thinking, people-first organizations that focus on acquiring and merging with bespoke brands and helping them grow, whilst maintaining their character, culture, and identity. They want us to stay bespoke because they understand that it’s one of the big reasons our clients come to us, and ultimately, why we’re successful.

Finally, we’ve interacted with so many incredible people and companies across the globe during this process, with whom we’re thrilled to start collaborating regularly, particularly WWP (Weston Williamson + Partners); Director of Architecture Line at Egis, David Pringle; CEO of 10 Design, Ross Milne; Design Principal at 10 Design, Ted Givens; Deputy CEO – Sustainable Cities at Egis, Mickael Pinto; Executive Director Buildings at Egis, Thomas Salvant, and, CEO of Egis, Laurent Germain who is personally very passionate about us as a firm – where we’ve been, and most importantly, where we’re going!

Main image credit: SB Architects