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A tribute to Robert (Bob) Spaetgens on the occasion of his retirement

July 20, 2021
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Today, we raise a glass to Bob, who twenty-eight years ago, founded what is now S2 Architecture. Today, Bob retires from this firm that he grew and evolved, to enter a new phase of his life that will undoubtedly involve art, music, nature, philosophical musings, spending time with his grandson, and inevitably, fine red wine.

In 1993, Bob opened up shop in his basement, incorporating as Robert Spaetgens Architect Ltd. His longtime friend, classmate and college roommate David Symons soon joined him, along with Bill Evans, and the firm changed names to Spaetgens Symons Evans Architects (1994). They leased an office space and moved out of the basement – progress! In those early days, the trio networked and cold called their way to projects. Bob, showcasing his tenacity and work ethic, knew that starting on small, unglamorous jobs was the way to build credibility that would eventually lead to larger and more profitable projects. This philosophy, together with the partners’ commitment to service, relationship building, and quality work, established Spaetgen Symons Evans Architects with a solid reputation that propelled their growth. In 1997 the firm had a staff of thirty-one and moved to larger office space.

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Bob loves having a good time and instilled a culture of “work hard, play hard” in the firm. An annual golf tournament was started which continues to this day. Socializing with staff and hosting Christmas parties in the mountains was another way that Bob showed his appreciation for the hard work of his employees. This “family-like” culture can be seen by the many long-term employees the firm has retained over the years.

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The firm continued to grow and evolve, creating an interior design group in 2001, changing its name to S2 Architecture in 2004, and moving to an even larger office in Calgary’s Beltline in 2005. New partners were added: James McLaughlin, Craig Bowd, and Peter Bradshaw in 2006, Linus Murphy in 2007, and Brian Corkum in 2013, both of whom remain principals of the firm today. S2 had branched out from Calgary and was doing a lot of work in Edmonton and surrounding area, so it was a natural progression to start thinking about an Edmonton office, which opened in 2012. It is a testament to Bob that the Edmonton studio continues to grow, and in fact recently moved to a trendy new space in Edmonton’s Brewery District, with Peter Streith as managing partner of the Edmonton studio (joining S2 in 2018).

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Bob always had vision to create a firm that focused on continuous improvement and learning. To further this, he spearheaded initiatives for education, office culture, mentorship, and succession planning. He was, and is, an ardent supporter of employee development and hiring from within. A prime example is Calgary’s current managing partner, Genevieve Giguere, who started at S2 in 2000 as a junior architect and joined S2’s partnership in 2016. Bob is also a huge supporter of the architecture industry and believes in giving back to this profession. He has held posts with the AAA (Alberta Association of Architects) and was one of the founding counsellors of the CAA (Consulting Architects of Alberta).

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Bob was especially proud of S2’s twenty-fifth anniversary and celebrated this milestone with one of his favourite things – a client party. Yes, Bob loves to socialize and have a good time. One of Bob’s passions is music and he played in a band, Four Stories High for a number of years and was the feature band at many S2 Christmas parties. Perhaps in retirement he will start up again.

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The same year as S2’s twenty-fifth anniversary, an opportunity came up to merge with Assembly Architecture in Vancouver; providing the firm “boots on the ground” in British Columbia, where S2 was already doing quite a bit of work. From this merger, Robert Lange joined the S2 partnership. In 2019, the Vancouver studio expanded into a cool heritage building in Gastown.

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At twenty-eight years old, S2 Architecture can be considered a legacy firm, and employees today and in the future can thank Bob for providing this legacy. It’s a legacy of entrepreneurial thinking, relationship-building, and a commitment to improving the world we live in, sprinkled with laughter, friendship, and fun.

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Bob, thank you for having the courage to start this firm twenty-eight years ago. You went after your dream, which took flight and grew into something that to this day is making an impact on so many people.

See you soon, Bob.