In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are showcasing one of our strongest district relationships, one that began over 25 years ago.
Jennifer Thong is the co-founder of Eidos Architects, a full-service architectural firm based in Greenwood Village. Jennifer is of Chinese descent and emigrated from Malaysia – first to Canada, and then to the United States, where she eventually settled in Denver, and built her business beginning in 2002.
The Eidos team posing during their annual Backpack Drive
Eidos Architects has an impressive resume, ranging from golf courses and amphitheaters, to religious structures, wastewater treatment facilities, and medical offices.
At DPS, we know Eidos for their passionate dedication to education, and their extensive history of building quality learning environments. Their vision helps create exceptional spaces, spaces that serve as integral pieces of the puzzle that make up a first-rate education for the Whole Child.
We asked Jennifer some questions about what makes her tick, what she is currently dreaming about doing, where she has been, and where she is going. Read on to learn more about her journey…
What do you love about living in Denver?
One of the things I love about the Denver area is that you have all that a big city has to offer adjacent to the mountains which offer wonderful outdoor opportunities. My family and I love to go skiing in the winter so it’s great to have the best of both worlds!
When did you decide to build Eidos, and what led you to that decision?
Myself and two other individuals started Eidos in 2002. We had all worked together since 1989 and owned and operated the Denver office of a regional architecture firm. When we decided to start Eidos together in 2002, we wanted to start a firm that would be a great place for ALL people to work at. One that celebrated people’s differences, language, religion, heritage, culture etc. We believe the diversity of our experiences make our design approaches richer and that it resonates with our diverse clientele.
It was important to us that the focus of our firm be projects that positively impact the community and so we chose to focus on K-12 education, faith-based projects, affordable housing and municipal work.
What does AAPI Heritage month symbolize to you? Is it significant to you?
I think it symbolizes a celebration of a wonderfully diverse group of people. To be of Asian or Pacific Islander descent can mean many things, each very culturally rich. I am Chinese from Malaysia, and originally came to Canada for College, then to Iowa State and then to CU Denver, eventually settling here. My experience has been unique to me, as I am sure is true for many individuals of AAPI heritage. I think this month means that we are celebrating everyone’s unique pathway and opportunity for success, that you can chart your own course.
What does being a woman, a woman of AAPI Heritage, and a business owner mean to you?
When I was in school, there were very few women in the College of Architecture. It has been exciting to see opportunities for women of all walks of life be expanded over the years. Eidos is currently a WBE (Women Business Enterprise) and over half of our staff is women, which is very different from when I started in the profession.
How many projects has Eidos worked on in collaboration with Denver Public Schools?
I have been working with DPS for over 25 years and DPS has been a tremendously important client. We have probably done over 50 projects with them ranging from renovations, to additions and new schools. One of the very first projects we worked on for DPS was essentially to put 30 or so ‘equipment sheds’ of various sizes and construction for the schools throughout the district.
Now having been a part of projects like DSST: Byers, the Regis F. Groff Campus and to be currently working on the new Montbello HS project, it is exciting and humbling many years later to always remember that our current opportunities are the result of many years of hard work that all started with some small equipment sheds.
I have admired Denver Public Schools’ commitment to creating opportunities for minorities, women, the disadvantaged, and small businesses throughout my 25+ years of working with them.
What is your dream project?
To be able to work on a built environment from the Master Planning Phase through completion, that celebrates all people and allows them to thrive in a personalized setting that is healthy, sustainable, beautiful, and safe.
What has been your favorite DPS collaboration thus far?
There is something that you learn on EVERY project and we are appreciative for EVERY opportunity but a few that stand out in my mind from years past that are not current projects are:
- The Regis Groff project, where we designed a new high school to be built in fast-tracked phases and be the home for two Charter Schools, KIPP and STRIVE. It was exciting to create individual spaces that enabled each school to deliver their unique curriculum, while at the same time creating effective shared spaces.
- The Byers Junior High School conversion into the new DSST: Byers was also a really special project in that it had so many critical components from the historic preservation aspect and respecting the heritage of the community to sustainable design and student involvement. It was really important to everyone that this building was not ‘thrown away’ – we took a 100-year-old building that was no longer at its best and worked as a team with DPS and DSST so that it can serve students in the Denver community for the NEXT 100 years.
- The SPED Life skills classroom projects in various schools which were special to be a part of because we knew it would help provide better learning environments for some very deserving students and give them the opportunity to be more independent when they graduate from high school so they have a better quality of life for their WHOLE life.
- The work at Morey Middle School, we have been involved in several projects at this school and to have the opportunity to see the building transform over the years has been very fulfilling.
What do you hope other architects and business owners can learn from you and your experience?
To keep trying new things and know that hard work and perseverance can be challenging some days, but the results are indescribably rewarding.
I hope to pass on the importance of welcoming new ideas, being comfortable outside your comfort zone, collaboration, respect, and trust.
I’ve heard that Eidos has played an important role in our Business Diversity’s Office “Reverse Trade Fair”. Can you explain why this event is important to you and your business?
DPS’ Reverse Trade Fair gives us the opportunity to network with other firms and individuals to help ‘pay it forward’ and try to give opportunities to the next generation of industry leaders that DPS gave to us many years ago.