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Heritage Businesses in WNY / Cannon Design

Beyond buildings

Vintage images of hand sketching at Cannon

Contemporary photos by kc kratt


2170 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island




How old: 114 years

Size: 20 offices worldwide

How many employees: 1,000 plus


Over a hundred years ago, Will Cannon Sr. founded an architecture business in the booming city of Niagara Falls. Today, CannonDesign employs more than one thousand staff members in twenty offices across the globe with locations as diverse as Mumbai, Dallas, Toronto, and San Francisco, as well as its initial home base on Grand Island.


The projects CannonDesign works on are diverse and so is the support and expertise the team lends. Architecture, engineering, interior, and lighting design, as well as strategy for technology, equipment, and the workplace, are a few of the key services Cannon offers to a wide range of industries, including hospitality, health, and sports and recreation.


Cannon principal Michael Tunkey


“We leverage a Single-Firm Multi-Office methodology that allows us to build teams strategically with the best talent from across our network for each individual client,” says Michael Tunkey, principal. “This means our designers may be asked to help with healthcare projects in Boston, commercial projects in Los Angeles, or education projects in India, based on their skills and the clients’ needs.”


For those unfamiliar with CannonDesign’s portfolio, the design of the Olympic Oval for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and Montreal’s CHUM Hospital are bright spots. Significant local projects include the Guaranty Building restoration, Hauptman-Woodward Research Institute, and the Buffalo airport. When asked to pinpoint notable shifts in the successful scaling of the business, Tunkey points to the company’s growth from a regional practice to a global firm “through a series of strategic mergers in Boston, New York, LA, Canada, St. Louis, and Chicago.”


Vintage images of drafting tables and hand sketching at Cannon


How has a long history in Western New York affected the firm or contributed to its success? “Each of our offices has its own distinct regional characteristics,” Tunkey says. “As the location of our first CannonDesign office, I think the general spirit of Buffalo has had deep and reverberating influences on the culture of our firm. Buffalo is resilient, hard-working, and honest, but it’s also innovative, cultured, and ambitious. That balance of pragmatism and idealism has become part of our DNA. Working in our oldest office means that many of us are connected directly to the first and second generation of CannonDesigners. They were our mentors and they set a high bar for what we can aspire to both locally and globally.”


Tunkey also points to the appointment of Brad Lukanic to CEO two years ago: “His leadership has been dynamic since day one. We’ve executed three strategic mergers or acquisitions, launched the Buffalo Urban Futures Forum, established Amp (an in-house incubator for new services and products), and been named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list.”


Cannon’s current headquarters


What can we anticipate CannonDesgn to look like a generation from now? “CannonDesign’s vision has evolved from wanting to be a firm that creates great buildings to one that wants to design a better world,” Tunkey says. “I think that the people who will be leading our firm then is the group just joining us now. This generation faces enormous challenges, but it’s also the smartest, most connected, most inclusive and empathetic group of designers I’ve had the opportunity to work with. From my perspective, the future is very bright.”


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