On Friday, December 12, 2018, Steve Guest received news that his last completed project ICE Block 1 had won a coveted WoodWorks design award. Friday, December 12 was also the final day of Steve’s full time career in architecture. The Managing Principal of RMW’s Sacramento Studio since its inception in 1990, Steve has, as he would say, done two tours with RMW. The first, from 1980 to 1984 in San Francisco, the second after a three year stint in North Carolina with his new wife, fellow RMW alum Claire and their first daughter.
Steve initially joined the firm to help founding partners, David Robinson and David Williams develop the master plan and the first phase the Gateway Center in South San Francisco. His next project, the new head quarters for the Carpenter’s Pension Trust Fund revealed his ability to leverage the design capabilities of an under-utilized existing structure. The design transformed two decaying 1940s warehouses into a source of pride by punctuating the tough exterior with sculptural metal panels and bands of glass. At the interior, a new inserted courtyard garden through the roof in the middle of each structure provided views and natural ventilation accessed via large sliding doors. Carpenters have remained RMW clients to date.
After leaving for NC, Steve partnered with Whisler Patri to design the San Francisco Center, an opportunity that accelerated his return to the Bay Area and three years consulting on tenant coordination for the project’s developer while co-managing RMW’s San Francisco retail studio. By 1990, the firm had grown to offices in San Jose and Santa Rosa. Sacramento was the untapped market for interiors and tenant services, so Steve again relocated from the Bay Area.
Sacramento seemed the ideal location to raise two young daughters and lead RMW’s new chapter. Local market opportunities strengthened Steve’s connection to his inner craftsman and broadened his exploration of construction materials and building types. His approach consistently highlighted the builder’s perspective and focused on how materials connect and engage each other, an understanding that was clearly visible in some of Steve’s most memorable projects including Gold River Buildings 6 and 7, Ceronix Headquarters, Agilent Technologies in Santa Rosa, Meridian Center in Denver.
On April 1, 1992, Steve became a Managing Partner of the firm and assumed responsibility for the financial, professional and cultural health of the eight person team. Under his leadership, RMW Sacramento thrived, firmly establishing itself as a leader in the Central Valley architectural and interior design market, providing a full spectrum of services to developers, corporate facilities groups, landlords and tenants.
The last decade focused on downtown commercial infill projects. MARRS, The Railyards and Ice Block 1 would transform the Capital City’s landscape and propel the reputation of Steve and RMW Sacramento to the game changing developer’s go-to firm. Succession, however, was not far from mind. As fellow Principal Jeff Leonhardt and the studio’s interiors group designed transformative spaces including McCarthy Creek industrial park and the Sacramento Kings’ corporate office, Steve maintained the balance of studio management, client management, project design, and mentorship while gradually being more vocal about his plans to retire.
When asked how he felt about leaving the daily demands of architecture, Steve responded, “I will miss the collaborative creative process of working with smart people. Architects live vicariously through our clients as we shadow them for a period of time to learn what’s important to them. I have always defined successful design as giving clear form to my client’s values and aspirations. I’ve worked with some crazy people who have made it fun.”