Vertical Harvest, the vertical greenhouse designed by Nona Yehia/GYDE Architects. Photo: Lance Koudele

JACKSON, WY — When Nona Yehia and Peg Gilday begin a project, they first try to break it down to its most basic element: the essence.

Their architecture is about much more than what color paint to use, or even what materials to build with. Before they can know any of that, they first have to know how the space they’re creating is supposed to make their client feel. And that, they said, is what design can do.

“Our tagline is ‘design in everything,” Yehia said. “Both Peggy and I live and breathe design. It’s evolved in the way we’ve practiced, but it’s always driven by design.”

Design is so engrained in the business, it’s part of the name. Yehia and Gilday joined forces to create GYDE (Gilday-Yehia Design) Architects three years ago. Their backgrounds are similar — both are New York-educated, moved to Jackson for the mountains, and have practiced here for years. But they also fill in each other’s gaps, Gilday said. “Nona’s probably more of a visionary, and I’m more pragmatic.” Gilday bolsters Yehia’s big ideas, and Yehia leans on Gilday’s business chops.

It’s fitting that their name and their business were born from collaboration because collaboration is also what drives their success. Design is a process. A process must have room to evolve. Evolution requires communication.

Photo: David Agnello

A case study: a client approached them to design a home. The client had a range of imagery and inspiration, but more importantly, she wanted to focus on the emotional feelings she desired to experience in each part of her home. “So we read into the attributes of that. How do we take how she feels and put it into architecture?” At every step, they asked the client what, exactly, she liked about specific things. What feeling was she trying to evoke? Together, they found the essence of their client’s home.

“That’s what we pride ourselves in. Collaboration requires a lot of clear communication. We try to give [each project] something it otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Gilday said. “We try to bring it to a level that is unexpected and even exciting.”

Gilday and Yehia’s favorite projects are the ones that break tradition — ones people might not even think are “traditionally architecture,” Yehia said. The first project they worked on together was a cell phone tower, standing tall and proud next to a church like a bell tower. They designed the boulder park at the base of Snow King. Yehia is the creative mind behind Vertical Harvest, the vertical greenhouse attached to the parking garage in town.

But their more “traditional” architectural work is everywhere, too, though there’s hardly anything common about it. Each project has its own life and its own personality. GYDE is behind the new Persephone West and updated Belle Cose in the Aspens. They designed Roadhouse Brewing’s new pub on the Town Square. They designed Basecamp in Wilson. That was an interesting one, Gilday said, because it was as much a branding project as it was an architecture project.

“Yes, it’s an architecture project, but along with it went the branding, the graphics, everything. They’re not separate silos. They’re intersected.”

“We wanted to honor the customers that frequented the [old] station,” Yehia said, while also breathing new life into the space and making room for a more refined dining experience at Rations Eats. “There are two different programs at play.”

Each project is different because each client is different. Gilday and Yehia don’t believe in “style,” per se. They believe in character. And just as every business and every person has a character, so too should the building that houses it.

So every project begins with an essence. That essence can evolve and it can grow, but it is their guiding light. It makes the process more “honest,” Yehia said. More connected.

“You either love it or you don’t,” Gilday said about her work. “But what I love is that it strikes some emotion.” As long as it has done that, GYDE architects have done their jobs.