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Cannon Design Business Information, Profile, and History

2170 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, New York 14072

Company Perspectives:

Our mission is to plan and design buildings that enhance the quality of life and contribute value to the built environment. We believe good design is the physical expression of sound ideas, imagination and creativity. We strive to create buildings that are a thoughtful response to their program mission, physical settings and functional purpose. We seek to add value through innovation and creativity, aligning ourselves with our clients' goals, delivering services that meet their quality, schedule and cost objectives.

History of Cannon Design

In half a century, Cannon Design has become an international leader in the field of architectural planning. Its award-winning designs grace more than a dozen countries and well-known landmarks dot the American landscape, from innovative commerce centers and sports facilities to medical complexes and schools at all levels of education, both public and private. Cannon is a recognized leader not only for its architectural designs, but for the preservation and renovation of historic buildings as well. Cannon has nine U.S. offices and one in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia) to serve its growing roster of worldwide clients.

Beginnings: 1940s-80s

Members of the Cannon family had been involved with engineering and architecture as far back as the early 1900s. The family did not come to prominence in the Buffalo area until several decades later when John D. Cannon founded Cannon Corporation in 1945. The Grand Island business was staffed by Cannon family members and the firm landed commercial contracts in the growing Buffalo/Niagara metropolitan area.

Cannon had earned a reputation for excellence by the 1970s with its design work, primarily in the corporate and educational sectors. The firm received widespread recognition when its work at the University of California at Davis was considered for national merit in the planning/design of sports facilities. When the business climate began weakening Cannon segued into the medical industry, designing hospitals and research facilities.

By the next decade Cannon Corp. was considered the Buffalo area's top design firm, ranked by employees and its growing reputation throughout the United States. In the 1980s Cannon had successfully bid on projects in more than half of the 50 states, as well as work overseas. The firm won contracts in Canada, Germany, and Israel, and had gained prominence for its designs of medical and research complexes. In 1989 Cannon Corp. had reached sales of over $32.9 million with offices in St. Louis, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

End of the Century: 1990s

In 1990 Cannon completed an expansion of its headquarters, adding 20,000 square feet to its Grand Island offices. With 115 employees in Grand Island and another 185 nationwide, the company had become the 12th largest architectural firm in the United States according to Building Design and Construction and the 27th largest privately owned firm in the Buffalo area according to Buffalo Business First. Cannon finished 1990 with billings just shy of $31.4 million, a healthy showing despite recessionary factors. By this time in its 46-year history, three quarters of the company's commissions came from the healthcare sector, and business was booming.

For the remainder of the decade Cannon hoped to grow both domestically and internationally. The firm parlayed its solid reputation in the medical architecture field into bids for contracts in Belgium, China, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey. On U.S. soil, Cannon was thriving with numerous commissions, including Erie Community College's field house, construction of several area primary and secondary schools, the downtown convention center, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and the HSBC Bank Atrium Center (Buffalo); research facilities for the National Institute of Health (Bethesda, Maryland), Cedars Sinai Hospital (Los Angeles), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Huntington, West Virginia); a research center and educational buildings for Boston University (Boston); a redesign of Zippo Manufacturing Company's corporate headquarters (Bradford, Pennsylvania); and numerous college and university expansions throughout the nation.

Testament to Cannon's design and architectural excellence was an array of awards, both local and national, for such projects as the education center at Washington University in St. Louis; sports facilities at the University of California, University of Miami, and University of Georgia; and the prestigious Energy Star Label from the EPA for its work on Buffalo's Occidental Chemical Center for its energy-saving features.

Despite a turndown in healthcare construction in the late 1990s, Cannon held its own with smaller projects and an upswing in educational and sports-related commissions. By 1999 billings totaled over $47 million, of which an estimated 15 percent was from international contracts. Cannon's workforce had reached 500 worldwide, with eight U.S. offices and ongoing or completed projects in more than a dozen countries.

The New Millennium: 2000s

In 2000, to better reflect the scope of its operations, Cannon Corporation became Cannon Design. Though many had already referred to the company as Cannon Design, the name change made it official by mid-year. Another name conversion came later the same year, when Dworsky Associates was merged into Cannon's West Coast operations. The well established Dworsky, a prominent Los Angeles architectural firm for 47 years, moved from its Wilshire Boulevard offices into shared space with its Cannon counterpart in late 2000. The merged businesses were christened CannonDworsky and took up residence in offices on Avenue of the Stars.

Cannon's first award in the new century came in December 2000 at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. In attendance at the ceremony were President and Mrs. Clinton, as Cannon principals received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence, the only federal award recognizing architectural merit. Cannon received the award for its work on the U.S. Port of Entry station buildings on the border of Calexio, California, and Mexico. Cannon's design was one of nine projects throughout the nation to be so recognized.

Cannon continued to win high profile projects and create landmarks rather than simply construct buildings or plazas. Some of the stellar work in 2001 receiving attention included the $95 million Lloyd P. George Federal Building and Courthouse in Las Vegas (awarded General Service Administration honors from the federal government); the Peace Bridge project in Buffalo; the Shaw Park Plaza project in Clayton, Missouri; and a slew of athletic facilities throughout the country--five dozen in all--underway.

Some of the colleges and universities in line to receive Cannon-designed facilities included Texas Christian University (student recreation center); Rochester Institute of Technology, Ersinus College, and the National Cathedral School (field houses); George Washington University (indoor/outdoor soccer and softball fields); Union College and the University of South Florida (sports complexes); the University of New Hampshire (football stadium); and Boston University (a basketball/hockey arena as well as dorms and a computer lab). Cannon also designed sports-related facilities for municipalities and park districts in many states, including Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, and Virginia.

Cannon Design not only set standards in architecture and design, but had an eye on the future of its discipline as well. The firm had established scholarships for secondary school students in a partnership with the Buffalo City Honors School back in 1993, but initiated a new scholarship program in 2001 with the University of Buffalo's School of Architecture and Design to help talented design students cover the costs of graduate level courses.

While 2001 was a year most would never forget due to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the events did not devastate the architecture and design industry. Few projects were canceled, though some commissions were slowed and costs reconsidered. Cannon, however, did exceedingly well, ending the year with sales totaling $47.5 million and a seemingly endless roster of projects in the works.

In early 2002 Cannon merged with Johnston Sport Architecture Inc. of Victoria, British Columbia. The Canadian arm of the business was renamed Cannon Johnston Sport Architecture. Gary Miller, Cannon's CEO, commented to Buffalo Business First, "Expanding our international presence is consistent with Cannon Design's vision for the future and with our objective to be a prominent, well-respected force in every geography and market we serve." Johnston, which was established in 1985, was well known throughout Canada for its athletic and recreational design services.

The year also marked an important milestone: the opening of Turkey's Sabanci University after three years of design and construction. The campus, which included over two dozen buildings and nearly two million square feet, was a major accomplishment for Cannon. Sabanci University was a marvel and earned the company much respect in the international architectural community; it was sited as one of the major reasons Cannon was awarded the $230 million design/build commission of Ave Maria University in Florida. The new Catholic liberal arts college, located by Naples, Florida, was expected to open in 2006. Sales for 2002 were a robust $74.4 million.

By 2003 Cannon Design had received over 200 honors and awards from local, regional, and national organizations. The company continued to lead the design and architecture field in western New York and was considered one of the industry's finest in the United States and abroad. In 2003 and 2004, like the preceding years, Cannon had dozens of high profile projects underway and commissions encompassing the firm's growing scope of design/build expertise. In addition to designing and constructing new facilities in the healthcare, educational, and commercial sectors, Cannon was also renovating and restoring historic landmarks, providing landscape and horticultural design packages, and even dabbling in interior design and furnishings. For Cannon Design its name change in 2000 was truly representative of the firm's new attitude: to embrace all facets of its craft, though only with the highest demands of excellence.

Principal Subsidiaries: CannonDworsky; Cannon Johnston Sport Architecture.

Principal Competitors: Bechtel Group, Inc.; H+M Company, Inc.; Halliburton Company; Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.; Parsons Corporation; Washington Group International, Inc.


  • Key Dates:
  • 1945: Cannon Corporation is founded by John D. Cannon.
  • 1989: Sales reach $32.9 million with five Cannon offices nationwide.
  • 1990: Cannon is ranked the 12th largest U.S. architectural firm according to Building Design and Construction.
  • 1993: Cannon begins offering scholarships to Buffalo City Honors School students.
  • 1999: Sales top $47 million as Cannon's workforce grows to 500.
  • 2000: Company is renamed Cannon Design and merges with the Los Angeles-based Dworsky Associates.
  • 2001: Cannon partners with the University of Buffalo's School of Architecture and Design to offer graduate study scholarships.
  • 2002: The firm merges with Johnston Sport Architecture Inc. of British Columbia.
  • 2004: Cannon is awarded the design contract for Florida's new Ave Maria University.

Additional topics

Company HistoryArchitects, Architectural Firms

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