Turning Point Moment- David Fridlund


What do drums, office assistants & Hong Kong have in common?

They tell a great story of Turning Point Moments in David Fridlund’s path of development. David has over 40 years of experience in the design and architecture profession with multiple client types throughout the US and internationally. Please join us in welcoming David as President of our chapter in July!

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Dave found himself aspiring to be a professional drummer in high school. Conventional wisdom told him to find another career instead of setting himself up for a long road of a starving artist. Since Architecture has been called “frozen music”, he decided to go to architecture school and pursue a more “sensible” degree in architecture at Arizona State University. Little did he know upon graduation, he was faced with one of the biggest recessions.

As a fresh graduate in 1976, after selling his 1964 Ford Mustang convertible to pay the rent, in desperation he took a job as an office assistant- filing, mailing packages, and running prints at a tiny firm that few people know about… Gensler. In hindsight, he says it’s the best starting position in the company, because “you really get to know everyone in the firm and when the right time comes, you know who you want to work with.” After 6 months, David transitioned to the boards at Gensler. While he left his office assistant responsibilities behind, he took away a foundational lesson in business that continues to open doors in his career today- Building a good relationship is a two-way street. Know what you can do to help others, even before they sense a need.

Once David moved onto the design side, he was like a fish in water and quickly given career advancement and project opportunities such as Korn Ferry Int’l in San Francisco, BankAmerica Int’l, Lowe’s Lincoln Square, New York and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Culver City to name a few. His work took him across the US in multiple offices. He dedicated himself to building a diverse project portfolio, and a thriving office culture of openness and mentoring to the younger staff in different office locations. He was working so much that he finally decided to take a vacation from work in Hong Kong- which would alter the rest of his life shortly after.

Can you guess it?! Hint, it’s a good thing that most of us looks for in life. 🙂

He fell in love.

Despite of what conventional wisdom tells us about falling in love overseas, this experience awakens a deep recognition that there is so much more in life than work. He chose to leave everything he’s built in the US to follow his heart, relocating to Hong Kong to start a new office there and work with clients throughout Southeast Asia, which ultimately led him back to the US.

When I asked his about what he would say to his younger self, he smiled and says, “Embrace diversity and embrace change on your path. Don’t hesitate to jump off the cliff when your heart tells you to jump. And, yes, keep playing the drums!”

Christina Huang
Vice President of Professional Development IIDA SoCal Chapter
Allsteel Architect + Design Manager Los Angeles

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