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Employee News

DWL Names New President


DWL Architects + Planners, Inc. is pleased to announce 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.

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.

Having served on the board of the Arizona Airports Association (AzAA), Sandra received the President’s Award twice, and was recognized as Corporate Member of the Year at the 2018 AzAA Spring Conference for her continued initiative and involvement in the organization. She also serves as a volunteer in various community and professional organizations, such as the AIA’s Women’s Principal Group (WPG), Support Sky Harbor and the Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SWAAAE). Her architectural career is balanced with a wonderful, supportive family – her husband, Rob, and son, Hadley.

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.”

About DWL Architects + Planners, Inc.
DWL Architects + Planners, Inc. brings expertise and strategies from a range of industries including aviation, higher education, community infrastructure and healthcare. They have a legacy of creating people places within communities – and since 1949, when the firm planted its roots in Phoenix as Weaver & Drover, DWL Architects has recognizably shaped the western region’s urban fabric. Led by seven principals, DWL’s team of 50 employees, focuses on high-performance design with expert knowledge – forging a synergy of design and its environment.

DWL team members are not just designers and architects to their clients, they are partners and trusted advisors. For seven decades, DWL Architects has been leading the industry with their approach to collaborative design. They are champions of an integrated team – coupling technical and creative visionaries with different perspectives to bolster and strengthen their design solutions.


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