Can we create a small & agile design studio within a large global firm?

Designing without limits – How Yazdani Studio operates as an independent design studio within CannonDesign’s global practice. Can such a unique model fuel new levels of creative design and innovation?

Two decades later, I am thrilled to report the answer is yes. The Yazdani Studio’s novel operating structure within CannonDesign has allowed us to pursue design projects, research, and products that we simply wouldn’t have achieved without our hybrid existence. 

One day, our team is helping the University of Utah create a paradigm-shifting student housing and entrepreneurship building, the next we’re teaming with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to create intimate exhibit spaces. In between, we’re shaping large hospitals in California, design competitions, city towers in Dubai, or academic medical centers. Our unique structure helps us design and deliver work unbound by geography, scale, or market.

The Yazdani Studio has grown into an engine for design excellence we’re proud to have part of our firm,” explains David Polzin, CannonDesign’s executive director of design. “The commitment it has taken to make this model a success, and the work that’s been delivered is inspiring. The studio nourishes CannonDesign and vice versa in powerful ways.

Yazdani Studio - Team Working
Yazdani Studio operates as an independent design studio within CannonDesign’s global practice

Creating the Yazdani Studio

In the waning years of the last century, I saw important trends emerging: rapid advancements in design technology and new market demands around high-level market expertise. These shifts left my colleagues and I at our then mid-sized firm believing that we would struggle to make the investments on either front to keep up with competitors.

We were not alone in our experiences. The design industry realized a period of mergers and consolidation around the turn of the century. The design world became flatter and flatter, making it harder for smaller firms to compete but also cannibalizing unique creative teams. It wasn’t that creative people stopped being creative, it’s just that mergers are hard. It takes time and often, functional team cultures are lost within the process.

This was when we posted the idea for the Yazdani Studio: a practice within a practice that unites the best attributes of a small, hands-on, agile and experimental studio with the expertise, talent, market acumen and geographic reach and resources of a large firm. This reality would allow clients to work with a single firm offering the best attributes of each. Now, two decades later, the studio has grown into a 25-person team working on projects all over the world within CannonDesign’s 1,000+ global network.

Yazdani Studio - Mehrdad with Yazdani Studio team
CannonDesign and Yazdani Studio’s unique structure helps them design and deliver work unbound by geography, scale, or market

What makes it work

Other firms have tried to forge similar relationships to the Yazdani Studio, but not with lasting success. I believe our homegrown nature makes success possible. There’s nothing forced about the studio and its connection to CannonDesign. I am fortunate to direct the studio and also serve as a Principal at CannonDesign with overlapping responsibilities. 

From day one, we defined the relationship, sought people who appreciated the distinct opportunity and have never wavered. We know our work and teams are better together. We embrace that reality and have built something special accordingly.

While the studio is based in Los-Angeles, we operate as a separate platform and truly monitor our performance independently. We’re responsible for acquiring our own projects and executing them around the world, helping to strengthen the larger firm and vice versa.

Thanks to CannonDesign’s Single-FIrm, Multi-Office (SFMO) approach, we are able to form teams that combine Yazdani Studio members with talented architects and subject matter experts from across the firm’s network of offices to best respond to any clients’ unique challenges and opportunities.

Yazdani Studio - Utah Lassonde Studios Exterior
Yazdani Studio helped create a paradigm-shifting student housing and entrepreneurship building for the Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah

What has the relationship achieved?

The Yazdani Studio’s portfolio has translated to over 100 national and international design awards and publications in essentially every major design media along with mainstream publications from the New York Times to Wired. The Yazdani Studio has been key to CannonDesign being named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Firms in the World twice in the past four years and a World Changing Company.

We’ve most recently been awarded the opportunity to design new projects including Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Resource Center and a new School of Business Impact, Health and Development at the University of Utah. Here’s a look at a few other recent and current projects.

Yazdani Studio - KP School of Medicine
Yazdani Studio’s project for the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine

The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine is a breakthrough medical education facility. The building will be where Kaiser Permanente trains a new era of medical professionals ready to shape innovative and equitable care for patients and communities.

Our team designed exhibitions and a public garden for the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem to create space for public engagement that fosters learning and understanding around the dynamics of racism and prejudice throughout history.

Yazdani Studio - Philadelphia Neurosciences Institute
Yazdani Studio’s project for the the Philadelphia Neuroscience Institute (PNI) is devoid of departments, creating a space that allows staff to bring care to patients in unprecedented ways

Multiple tower projects in Dubai designed by our studio team will complete this year including two at Address at Dubai Opera and others at Address Harbor Point.

The Philadelphia Neuroscience Institute (PNI) is a first-of-its-kind, patient-centric freestanding health facility. Devoid of departments, the space allows staff to bring care to patients in unprecedented ways.

The Kaleida Health Gates Vascular Institute is a groundbreaking academic medical center that stacks a translational research center atop a world-renowned clinical vascular institute and connects them via a dynamic collaborative core. The building unites doctors, researchers, students and business leaders to accelerate medical discoveries.

Yazdani Studio - Gates Vascular Institute
For the Kaleida Health Gates Vascular Institute, Yazdani Studio created a building that unites doctors, researchers, students and business leaders to accelerate medical discoveries

Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah connects 400 student residences and a 20,000 sf innovation hangar where students can live, learn and launch companies. The building is where the university and its students redefine entrepreneurial education.

Jacobs Medical Center is designed as three hospitals in one with a focus on women’s and children’s, cancer, and specialty surgery. The building’s tower is a cornerstone of a new campus identity focused on the future of health and patient experience.

Conceived as “The Only One,” CJ Blossom Park is a world-class R&D headquarters that repositions the company’s operations into a new interdisciplinary format to increase efficiency and forge a culture of integration innovation.

Send this to a friend