Another factor is the balance between Arizona work and regional work. "There is a lot of open land between here and Albuquerque or Las Vegas," Medici says. "That has forced us to always have our toe in the regional pool." Prior to the recession, the studio saw 70% of its work coming from Arizona and 70% privately funded. Last year, this flipped to 70% out of state and 70% publicly funded. Flexibility of resources and staff has enabled the firm to quickly adjust to the prevailing market conditions.

The firm is already starting to see market conditions improve locally. "There are some terrific opportunities out there," Medici says.

SmithGroupJJR's $25-million Central Arizona College New Maricopa Campus broke ground at the end of last year in Maricopa, Ariz. The ground-up satellite campus, located on 217 acres of former agricultural land, will eventually serve 20,000 students. The design centers on shaded, highly sustainable buildings made of natural, low-maintenance materials to create a brand new identity for the campus and the town of Maricopa, which is simultaneously building a new downtown area adjacent to the school.

SmithGroupJJR also designed a 45,000-sq-ft office building for NAU Foundation, located on the Flagstaff, Ariz., campus of Northern Arizona University. The three-story building is being built by design-build partner Mortenson Construction, Phoenix, and features an insulated metal panel system and exposed structural elements. The team was given one year to design and construct the project, which wraps up in September.

With his first museum design, Roddy says the 45,000-sq-ft Yavapai Indian Cultural Center is one of the more satisfying projects that he's worked on. Located in Prescott, Ariz., the striking building is meant to communicate the tribe's heritage and culture so their young people can sustain the community's future. "That's a pretty heavy load for us to carry as architects," Roddy says. "It's a lot of pressure to do the right thing and not fail them in creating this project that's going to honor their culture and history."

SmithGroupJJR also involves itself in the local community through pro bono work and encouraging employees to become involved in at least one charitable or community organization.

"We have a larger responsibility to the community, and that is an integral part of our [company] culture and our profession," Kranz says.