Texas Tech University

Exploring What's Possible

Lucy Greenberg

June 8, 2023

Texas Tech alumnus David Hart is taking the values he learned in West Texas and using them to change both architecture and architects alike.

David Hart is a Texas Tech University alumnus who certainly took the idea of “strive for honor” and ran with it. Now CEO and president of Steinberg Hart, an international architecture firm, Hart has not only designed incredible buildings around the world but also become an expert at building up people and culture. 

This is why the firm won the 2023 AIA California Firm Award, one of the most prestigious awards in architecture. 

Hart traces these values back to his time as a Red Raider.

“One thing that always struck me about Texas Tech, and still does, is how entrepreneurial its programs are,” Hart said. “Texas Tech is a place you go if you're an innovator, if you want to explore what's possible.”

That thinking has followed Hart over the past 30 years.

After graduating from Huckabee College of Architecture in 1992, Hart moved to California. He worked at firms such as HKS and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer before landing at Steinberg Hart (just Steinberg at the time) in 2002.

Crested Butte
A Steinberg Hart design in Crested Butte.

“Goodwin Steinberg started the firm in 1953 in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Hart said. “He did custom homes and then eventually started taking on some community and commercial projects. When his son Rob Steinberg took over the company in the mid-1990s, he expanded the firm within the Bay Area and expanded to Los Angeles.”

Under Hart's leadership, the firm has expanded to seven locations across the world, including offices in Shanghai, New York and now Austin.

“When I came on in 2002, the firm was wanting to become a leader in higher education design,” Hart said. “That was my passion, so it was a great fit.” From the time Hart was in college, he knew he wanted to help design great universities that inspired students.

As Hart continued to expand the firm, taking the higher education practice national was a high priority. To do this he teamed up with his old Texas Tech classmate and longtime friend, Doug Moss, who's firm Holzman Moss Bottino designed Texas Tech's Student Union Building addition that was completed in 2006.

Steinberg Hart continues to work with Texas Tech today.

Maedgen Theatre
Texas Tech's newly renovated Maedgen Theatre

Texas Tech's School of Theatre & Dance just unveiled its newly renovated Maedgen Theatre last month, designed by Steinberg Hart. Apparently, you can take the architect out of West Texas, but you can't take West Texas out the architect.

“West Texas has a way of sticking with you,” he said. “One of the great things about studying architecture in Lubbock is you're not overly influenced by other architects. When I studied there, we did not have the internet. So, we were out there experimenting and exploring our own ideas.”

The dean of the college at the time was Dudley Thompson, whom Hart credits with his decision to come to Texas Tech. Thompson was the very first dean of the newly formed college in the late 1980s.

“Dudley had a hands-on approach to learning and instilled that in faculty and students,” Hart recalled. “That was very different from other programs I'd looked at, so that's what sold me on Texas Tech.”

Today, hands-on learning is an integral part of the DNA at Steinberg Hart. According to Hart, architects can lose their sense of innovation and exploration after being on the job for a while. And for some firms, a highly structured approach might be appropriate, but not at Steinberg Hart.

“We want to create an environment where people can explore and see what they're capable of doing,” Hart said of his firm. “Because of that, we end up with design solutions that are unexpected.”

Miro Towers was designed by Steinberg Hart and won a 2022 Texas Tech DLA award.

The unexpected can put you ahead, and in this case, it certainly has.

“We're thrilled to have been the recipient of the AIA California Firm Award,” Hart said. “Considering how many incredible architecture firms there are in California, this recognition means a lot.”

The award recognizes practices that have consistently produced distinguished architecture for a period of at least 10 years. Firms also must demonstrate achievements in mentoring, continued collaboration among individuals, and significant contributions to the areas of design, research, planning technology, practice and innovation.

In addition to the firm's work in design quality and community impact, it also was recognized because of its entrepreneurial company culture that is as unique as its employees.

The firm is made up of 47% women with more than half of staff identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). The evidence of Steinberg Hart's dedication to advancing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) was an area the jury was particularly impressed by, praising the firm for its emphasis at all levels of the organization.

“You cannot have true collaboration without diversity,” Hart said. “When you get people of different age, gender, race and cultures around one table, then you get authentic collaboration. Some companies see diversity as a statistical body count, but if you're not creating forums for each of those voices to be heard, then you're only diverse optically.”

Hart attributes the firm's quality of work to the fact employees have a stake in design, decisions and delivery.

“We want this culture to permeate into the companies we do business with as well,” he said. “We ask ourselves how we can take this culture to our clients and into our communities.”

Hart recently paid his alma mater a visit and was excited to see a similar focus on community engagement.

“I went back to Texas Tech (in El Paso) last fall because our firm won two awards from the Huckabee College of Architecture's Design Leadership Alliance design awards,” he said. “I was reconnecting with other alumni and seeing what the college was doing. In that time, I got to visit the school in El Paso and was blown away by the research and innovation happening there.”

Hart believes the El Paso program is just the beginning of what the next 100 years might look like for Huckabee College.

Hart is so bought into the vision of Huckabee College's future, that he'll be investing his time next year as president of the college's alumni group, the Design Leadership Alliance (DLA).

“Serving as president is my way of giving back and reconnecting with the college to raise awareness for the program and raise scholarship money for students.

“Hopefully, we'll see a continued expansion through the Texas Tech University System,” he said. “There is something about the legacy of Texas Tech and how it grows not only up, but out. West Texas has always been a place you go to try hard things and envision new ideas.”

Ideas that many people now benefit from under Hart's leadership.