The concept of Northworks began where most great ideas start—with your best friend in your college dorm room. Founding partners, Bill Bickford and Austin DePree, met at Trinity College and became quick friends, bonding over their admiration and passion for architecture. Over the years, the two formulated how to build a successful architecture business that centered on the well-being of their clients and themselves. After they graduated in ’97, Bill pursued a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and Austin the same degree from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Bill and Austin spent several years tuning their vision while working at other architecture firms. With one foot still in other offices, Bill and Austin started to team up and excitedly take on small projects on the weekends—bathroom renovations and updating kitchens. Their first office took refuge in 200-sqft. retired ice cream shop on Eugene St. in Chicago’s Old Town. From here Bill and Austin’s work started to gain momentum. The two fostered an adventurous and persistent work-ethic that allowed them to venture out from single family homes into the Chicago restaurant scene. In 2005, The two were asked to renovate the grounds and chapel at Graceland Cemetery–commonly known as ‘the Architects’ Cemetery’. It is the burial site for legends such as Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. From here, Northworks had its official start and Bill and Austin were ready to expand their team. Several of Northworks’ earliest employees, namely John Zeien, Keith Labutta, Nate Lielasus, Kevianda Huggins, Robert Berner, Rachel Thompson, and Garrett Harabedian remain with the firm through 2022, all of which goes to show that culture is the champion component of a work environment.
Chicago’s geographic centrality and iconic architectural foundation lent itself to flexibility for clients and left the door open for a diversity of project types. Bill and Austin’s ‘yes’-attitude made way for a range of architectural dialects including but not limited to Arts & Crafts Style, International Modernism, American Colonial, and Mountain Modern. With increasing demand and more team members, Northworks grew into multiple offices: first in Jackson Hole, WY (est. 2017) and then Philadelphia (est. 2018). By 2022, Northworks has settled into 7 offices across the country with projects in 23 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Baja Peninsula, the Bahamas, and Quebec.
Over the years, Northworks has built a variety of project types from custom homes and commercial offices to Mid-Rise multifamily structures with dozens of returning clients. So it goes, a business built on a friendship lent itself towards a community sodden with creativity, compassion, and support.