DWL Architects names new president

DWL Architects + Planners, Inc. announced that its board of directors has appointed Sandra Kukla, AIA, as President of the firm. Kukla succeeds Steve Rao, who will remain with the firm as Executive Vice President.

“It is a good feeling to know that DWL is in capable hands. I am a firm believer that the best way to ensure success is to have someone who is smarter and more talented take the reins,” said Rao.

Sandra Kukla

After 30 years with DWL and 11 years serving as the firm’s president, Steve is proud to transition leadership to the next generation, saying, “Sandra is passionate, talented, dedicated and always looking for a way to improve things, whether it be project designs or office amenities for our staff. The future for DWL is bright.”

DWL is one of the oldest architecture firms in the region, recently celebrating their 70th Anniversary. They have a long history of partnering with many exceptional clients including Midwestern University, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Valleywise Health, Tucson International Airport, John Glenn Columbus International Airport, Valley Metro, Arizona Indian communities, ASU, NAU, Scottsdale Airport, several airlines, and the Cities of Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Sandra is eager to support all DWL’s long-term and newer clients within the firm’s various market sectors.

Throughout her 20 years at the firm, Sandra has led several significant projects such as the recently completed Terminal 3 Modernization at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and projects at LAX, Detroit Metro and Sacramento International Airports. “I have been one of those fortunate people that gets to do what I love – designing airport facilities. It’s a building type that touches so many people in our community. I am proud to lead teams of diverse perspectives in order to create the best possible architecture,” said Kukla. With nearly 50 long-time staff with an average 16-year tenure at DWL, Sandra says, “Our staff is absolutely amazing – dedicated, experienced and caring. We have been and will continue to be a truly collaborative design firm.”

Sandra grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where her interest in aviation began with her help in building the family’s aerobatic biplane. She moved to the Southwest to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of New Mexico. Since joining the company in 1999, Sandra spearheaded operational efficiencies and firm culture, becoming DWL’s first female Vice President. She was also instrumental in establishing the firm’s presence in the Midwest and Southeast, recently celebrating their new Columbus office.

Sandra says, “I am so thankful for the support I received from past presidents who recognized my potential and championed my growth in the firm. I am proud to be President of a firm with such a rich history and look forward to an even stronger future.”

DLR Group announces firm appointments

DLR Group, a 100 percent employee-owned integrated design firm, has appointed one senior principal and five principals in Arizona. The firm recognizes the commitment and achievement of its employee-owners annually.

“Each year DLR Group rewards leaders who proactively and positively carry the firm forward to significant new levels of design achievement,” said DLR Group CEO Griff Davenport, FAIA. “As we grow, and our clients take us to more locations around the world, the leadership of our new principals will be instrumental in fulfilling our brand promise to elevate the human experience through design.”

The following individuals were recently appointed as DLR Group principals in Arizona.

Senior Principal 

Prem Sundharam, AIA, WELL AP (Phoenix), Architecture
Sundharam is DLR Group’s Global Sustainability Leader and a member of the firm’s Research & Development Studio. He works with design teams to develop sustainable strategies that deliver environmentally responsible design solutions for clients around the globe.


Richard Beach, AIA (Tucson, Arizona), Architecture

Beach specializes in healthcare design and has worked extensively with user groups to define their facility needs and to develop alternative approaches to their planning challenges.

Dennis Bree, AIA, LEED AP (Phoenix), Architecture

Bree leads design for cultural and performing arts facilities across the country. He also is a faculty associate at the Design School at Arizona State University, where he has taught undergraduate design studios in architecture.

Matt Brehmer, AIA, (Phoenix), Architecture

Brehmer is a designer whose experience spans across the globe, including civic and education facility types. He maintains a client’s vision from first concept to final punch list, ensuring that the project story intimately and uniquely communicates through design.

Michael Rudolph, AIA, (Phoenix), Architecture

Rudolph specializes in the design of cultural and performing arts facilities in communities across the southwest, including the recently completed University Arts Building at the University of Nevada Reno, and the Sacramento Community Center Theater Transformation.

Tim Thielke, AIA, LEED AP (Phoenix), Architecture

Thielke leads the Workplace Studio in Phoenix and is experienced in the design and project management of large-scale office, retail, and mixed-use developments in the metropolitan area.

Snell & Wilmer partner appointed chair of ABA Center for Innovation

Snell & Wilmer announced that Phoenix Partner Don Bivens was appointed Chair of the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation by ABA President Judy Perry Martinez. 

The ABA’s Center for Innovation convenes lawyers, courts, and leads tech companies to develop cutting-edge innovations to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of civil legal services in America. On February 17, Bivens led the passage by the ABA House of Delegates of a groundbreaking Resolution encouraging all U.S. jurisdictions to consider regulatory innovations to improve access to justice for the many Americans who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.  

Bivens is a recent chair of the Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association, and past president of the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Bar Association. He serves on the Arizona Judicial Council advising the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice in the administration of all courts. Bivens recently chaired the Arizona Supreme Court’s Commission on Civil Justice Reform. He handles complex litigation of all types. He has tried cases involving securities fraud, patent infringement, trade secrets, lender liability, environmental liability, professional negligence, officer and director liability, products liability, employment discrimination, immigration, real estate and construction matters, significant estate disputes, business torts, and class actions. 

Bivens has led, partnered and formed some of the most notable legal organizations and committees in Arizona. He is the founding president of the Thurgood Marshall Inn of Court and long-time member of the American Law institute from Arizona. He served as co-chair of the Arizona Equal Justice Campaign, assisting in raising $5 million to help legal aid in Arizona. Bivens served as State Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party from 2007-11. Among other positions, Bivens currently serves as the Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

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