The History of WDM Architects

December 13, 2013


We started our practice 40 years ago with a goal to do more in the way of personal service and collaboration with local design clients. Now, our reach has expanded beyond the region to tackle larger issues that affect society as a whole: stewardship of the environment, conservation of wildlife, creating sustainable buildings, and restoration of our national heritage.

Dan Wilson and Wes Darnell started their careers at a prominent architectural firm in Wichita, but became weary of the corporate rigidness that the practice of architecture had at the time. They wanted to work shoulder-to-shoulder with clients and have long-standing business relationships. They wanted to challenge themselves professionally, while making a difference in the lives of clients.

So, in 1980, after 10 years of working for someone else, they decided to start their own firm called Wilson Darnell Associates. Early success was fed by collaboration: Dan designed it; Wes made it work.

The first offices were inconspicuously situated in the attic of a three-story building, which was previously the Wichita Historical Museum. The fledgling company started with residential projects and even some commercial construction assignments. After the first six months, it was time for another change. Wilson Darnell moved into larger offices in a house on N. Oliver Street. Business was growing and the duo hired Les Mock and John Brewer, both talented and forward-thinking architects who would help the company enter the digital age.

In the 1990’s, the firm expanded into new markets of Healthcare Architecture, Senior Living and Historical Renovation. Other community-focused practiced developed as well including Financial Institutions and Churches.

In 1993, after over a decade of continual growth, Wilson Darnell Associates relocated into our current location in Old Town, in what used to be the W.A. Dye Chili Factory. The new location opened up exciting new opportunities for WDM. A year later, with the help of H. Stewart Mann (Stu), the company forged ahead into its new identity. Stu had his own Landscape Architecture firm and knew how to promote the newly merged company “WDM” to new clients. More commercial projects started rolling in that benefited the community, and within 12 months WDM doubled in growth while developing a new persona. Mann’s firm also afforded WDM the ability to expand into a new field, Zoological Architecture with its first project occurring in 1994.

In 2007, Wilson Darnell Mann changed its name to WDM Architects, signifying the eventual change of leadership. Currently, three principals lead the firm: Matt Schindler, Scott Ramser and Stan Landwehr. What hasn’t changed is the firm’s underlying dedication to client-centered collaborative design.