We Make What We Value

Date: Dec 21, 2023 5:00:00 PM

By: Laura Pirie

Change is hard. It shakes the ground under our feet. But…maybe change is not the issue. Perhaps the issue is what change promises: the unknown.

It takes courage to walk through change not knowing what’s on the other side, and yet, we ask our clients to do this all the time!  


As designers of the built environment, Pirie Associates’ work is change. Done well, change can be transformational. But here’s the thing: transformation is always change, but change is not always transformational.  For change to be transformational, it must create an impactful, lasting shift in perspective – so, transformation is fundamentally about people. A transformational shift in perspective can be provoked through experiences of awe and “ah-ha!” moments.


Awe is an experience that blows our minds. It momentarily displaces us in relation to everything we know. It usually causes us to feel tiny in the scale of everything that is…like seeing galaxies in the universe or cells in the body. An experience of awe, accommodated well, can make us feel energized and connected to something greater than ourselves – a forest, a community, the entire living system. An experience of awe, accommodated poorly, can provoke fear, causing retreat and contraction. Awesome or awful, psychologists recognize that experiences of awe, accommodated well, are necessary for humanity to grow, evolve, and change.

powersof10Image © Eames Office | 1977 Powers of Ten (movie)

Ah-ha! moments – connecting the dots where they have not been connected before – can also provoke a shift in perspective. Potentializing ah-ha! moments when collaborating with clients is a powerful opportunity. At Pirie Associates, we ground and mine the impact of ah-ha! moments to personalize the design process for clients, moving the design solutions from the abstract to tangible, from “ours” to ‘theirs”. In this way, what exists at the other end of change isn’t the unknown, but is their place, which holds their values, actively helping them achieve their goals.  



Image © Eugenia Loli | Zimbardo

Why + How We Make Matters

Pirie Associates began our journey 22 years ago with the intention of designing impactful and beautiful built environments to help each client live their best life and create their best work. Our value-added approach is expressed our tag line – Why + How We Make Matters. What does this mean? It means we begin each effort with the WHY – defining the purpose of project, and work toward the HOW – designing the solution informed by the purpose. This MATTERS because everything we make inherently expresses the values of those that created it. If we value sustainability, then we create places for life to thrive both now and well into the future. If we value durability, then we make places that last. If we value equity, then we create places that are accessible, welcoming, and safe for all.

Eames Diagram

Image © 1969 Charles Eames | The Process of Design

Thank you for making with us for the past 21 years.  Year in and year out, without you - our collaborators, our partners, our clients - we could not learn and grow and share as we do.


As we move through our 22nd year in 2024, we will be sharing more details about our work through the themes of DISCOVER, PROGRAM, CRAFT, AND INHABIT. Also be on the look out for opportunities to explore these themes together in person and virtually…


Onward into 2024!


Header Image © American Comics Group | "Adventures into the Unknown"

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