Our Mission Is In Our DNA

WJW’s founders started with a desire to create research-based design solutions that foster true accessibility for all, a mission that seeded our firm with a consistent focus on iteration and exploration and a desire to learn from the people who use our buildings every day. From the beginning, we took those big ideas to heart and ran with them — and we continue the journey.

  • WWA

    A recession had the business world reeling, but architect Bill Worn and design industry entrepreneur Diane Baker had the vision to create a new architectural firm, William Worn Architecture, with both lofty and down-to-earth goals: creating architectural solutions that would advance design for accessibility — and creating opportunities for employees to meet their own goals.

  • All Plans Are Politics

    “All Plans Are Politics,” an exhibit and symposium on architectural approaches to social issues, was organized by Bill, then serving as chair of the AIA Chicago Government Affairs Committee, to bring attention to design thinking around societal problems such as the future of public housing and shelter for populations including those affected by AIDS/HIV and homelessness. The exhibit also solidified the young firm’s bent toward advocacy. “Serious designers,” Bill told Architecture magazine, “are looking at social problems both from an economic and design point of view.”

    Mike Jerabek, still a relatively recent graduate working through the economic downturn, became one of a long line of young architects to gain mentoring, opportunities to explore big ideas and real-world experience at the firm. His greatest interest was in multi-family housing design, and he hoped to find a way to advance that expertise.

  • Renovation

    Obtaining the opportunity to be the architect for the Prairie Avenue Apartments total renovation project was an ambitious leap for a firm still in its early formative years. The project brought WWA into the realm of affordable housing, a move that planted the seeds of strong, productive client partnerships that are still flourishing today. Prairie Ave. also represented the expansion of the firm’s mission to focus on a wide range of underserved populations, creating accessibility, dignity, community and a place to call home.

  • Cabrini Green Competition

    WWA, partnering with residents of Cabrini Green, took honorable mention in the 1993 Chicago Tribune Architecture competition, aimed at redevelopment and innovation of the famous Chicago development built in the 1940-60's.

    Noted Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin said at the time: ""A Hungry Man Is Not a Free Man," shouts the text of this design, prepared by William Worn Architects of Chicago with a committee of Cabrini-Green residents. "Bludgeoning of the People, by the People For the People." "The Rich Have Power and the Poor Man is Deprived of It."" Thus began a long history of architecture as activism for the firm


  • NFPs

    Long hoping to forge a relationship in the not-for-profit world, WWA met Ada S. McKinley Community Services to discuss collaboration. The first project with them was an ADA audit of all their buildings, followed by a series of small projects including Block Grant projects for new insulation, new windows, new parking lot, etc. These projects led to the design of their first HUD 811 group homes and eventually to the design of their flagship building on Wabash, pictured here.

    With Ada S McKinley, WWA began work with a series of NFPs and clients with similar values, helping to make positive changes in the lives of the most underserved populations.

  • Adaptive Reuse

    Loft conversions were on the rise, and The Beacon Lofts represented the firm’s first foray into this complex project type, with an eye for creative adaptive reuse and reconfiguration that transformed the former Chicago American newspaper warehouse into beautifully finished condominiums, and foreshadowed the city’s West Loop boom.

  • SLFs

    Tracking a move by the state of Illinois to create affordable assisted living facilities for seniors through the Supportive Living Program, the firm developed a deep understanding of the new SLF program requirements, designing Churchview Supportive Living and Eagle Ridge of Decatur, two projects which led to the eventual design of over 25 affordable assisted living developments across Illinois and Indiana.

  • Green Homes for Chicago

    WWA was named a winner of the international Green Homes for Chicago competition, which solicited sustainable, affordable single-family home designs, solidifying the firm as a leader in sustainable practice as the movement toward sustainable design took hold.

  • TW

    Bill began teaching at UIC, working with architects in training, deepening his knowledge base in sustainability, building science and design for healthcare — and creating additional support for his continuing design work on behalf of non-profit organizations.

    Todd Wiltse joined the firm at the end of 2000, with a skill set that included sustainable practice (he was also a winner in the Green Homes competition, with another firm!) and experience with housing (both affordable and high-end), institutional, and commercial design.

  • Park Lawn

    Park Lawn, an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled, allowed the firm to define a distinct approach to healthcare design that creates a human-centric, residential environment within a strict regulatory framework.

  • WJA

    Mike, who had entrepreneurial ambitions of his own, chose to stay and help advance the design quality and growth of the firm, becoming a partner and prompting a name change, to Worn Jerabek Architects.

  • Prairie Crossing

    After being selected as project architects via a highly competitive selection process centered on a design visioning charette, WJW celebrated the design of the Prairie Crossing Station Square project. This multi-building, mixed-use project at large scale refined the firm’s skills in the realm of transit oriented development and sustainable design.

    Project Manager on the Prairie Crossing project, Todd was named Associate Partner in 2004.

  • Opera Lofts

    WJA undertook design to turn the long-empty structure housing the Lyric Opera’s design workshop for more than 75 years into the residences known as Opera Lofts.

    Work included major reconfiguration of interior spaces, the insertion of over 70,000 square feet of new floor and support structure, footing reinforcement, new construction addition on top of one building, and internal connection of the three buildings, which ranged in height from 2 to 7 stories.

  • HD(W)

    Heidi Dahle (now Wang) joined the firm, bringing a penchant for deep research and a desire to design environments that improve life for vulnerable populations to the firm of her UIC professor and mentor, Bill Worn.

  • PSH

    Permanent supportive housing became part of the practice with projects such as Hope Manor Apartments, a community for veterans experiencing homelessness or near-homelessness. The project opened the door to work that continues to support specialized populations, including people with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, addiction recovery, and developmental disabilities.

  • LEED

    Fountain View becomes the firm's first LEED accredited building, forecasting our ongoing commitment to sustainability in the field of architecture.

    The project was not only the firm’s first LEED-certified project, but one of the first mixed-use residential projects in the city to gain LEED status.

  • The Legacy

    The culmination of years of research, The Legacy was the firm’s first memory care project, and put into practice a series of 7 principles of design for memory care developed in-house. The project helped advance and define design for memory care, and delineated an area of constantly growing expertise for the firm, feeding a firm culture of continuous learning, iteration and exploration.

  • Country Health

    Country Health Nursing Center was center stage in the WJW portfolio, the first large skilled nursing project for the firm with a focus on short-term rehab stays.

  • Expansion

    Building on success in multiple project types and knowledge of financing and regulatory environments, the firm’s projects began expanding beyond Illinois, eventually growing to include work in Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

  • Jackson Renaissance

    The Jackson Renaissance in Davenport, Iowa, becomes the firm's first Historic Tax Credit adaptive reuse project completed, the first of many to come

  • WJW

    Reflecting the firm’s rapid growth, diversification and need for additional client-facing leadership, Todd was named partner, adding his name to the door, which now read Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects.

  • Evergreen Place of Chillicothe

    With Evergreen Place of Chillicothe, the firm extended its expertise in senior living environments into a market-rate assisted living community, adapting research-based insights from work on affordable assisted living projects into the market-rate sector.

  • HMII

    Hope Manor II, a community for veterans with families, marked a significant expansion of the firm’s work on housing for veterans and the beginning of a long relationship with redevelopment in the Englewood neighborhood, which to date encompasses four major projects.

  • Indiana

    Silver Birch of Hammond became the firm's first new construction building in Indiana, which began a string of affordable RCFs for multiple clients throughout the state.

  • St. Clara's

    As the state of Illinois’ first all-new-construction skilled nursing facility to open in many years, St. Clara’s Rehab and Senior Care marked not only a new era in the state but significant advances in research-informed, state-of-the-art design for seniors.

  • WJWx2

    Reflecting her contributions to the firm and to advancing the field of design for seniors, Heidi was named partner, shortly after a personal milestone (becoming a mother!) placing her in rare company among the 17% of partners in U.S. architectural firms who are women.

  • Memory Care

    WJW was tapped to design 15 of the State of Illinois Affordable Memory Care Supportive Living Facility licenses awarded this year, bringing the firm’s growth and expertise in this project type into clear focus.

  • 100

    Construction wrapped on Martin Avenue Apartments, marking a WJW milestone: 100 projects financed with low income housing tax credits, completed and ready for residents.

  • The New WJW Architects

    Having weathered a global pandemic, a couple of recessions and many personal milestones, WJW is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new name that reflects both a proud heritage and a forward focus. WJW Architects — ready to write the next chapter.

  • WJW