Back in 2001, Tom Lawrence, ’02, and Greg Hofbauer, ’04, envisioned a company imbued “with the intent of building media-rich immersive experiences” for a wide variety of institutions. This dream manifested as GroundWork Design, which was honored in June with one of web development’s most prestigious awards, The Webby. 

In the past, the company has received several smaller accolades, including eight Adobe Site of the Day awards, but this is their most significant and visible recognition to date.

Accepted in conjunction with their partners at CampusTours for their work on The Architect's Virtual Capitol, Lawrence describes The Webby as “the” web award.

“There’s not really any other batch of them that I know that people can point to and say ‘That’s the one,’” he says. And as this project is representative of the larger work that he and his team have been doing, it is a win with grander implications.

With GroundWork’s offices located just a few miles from the University of Richmond campus, Lawrence has fostered an active personal and professional relationship with his alma mater. From 2001–10, GroundWork Design worked on maintaining the University’s virtual tour through various technical upgrades and panoramic images of new and renovated facilities, as well as other ongoing projects.

“We’ve worked with [University president] Dr. Ayers a couple of times, first on a project called Voting America right before the 2008 presidential election,” he says. The interactive map lets users configure election data dating back to 1840 to explore history through metrics such as voter turnout, party strength and voter race as closely as at the county level.

Lawrence also stays involved by serving as co-chair of the Greater Richmond Spiders. “We work with the Office of Alumni and Career Services to figure out what they’re trying to do with alumni chapters... and that keeps me coming on campus every week or two,” he says. “I’ll do mock interviews on campus and help out the CDC wherever and however they choose to use me, say through a panel or a speaking engagement.”

Lawrence and GroundWork Design as a whole have a rich history of taking on interns and employees from the University, including their intern this summer, Sissi Jiang, ’13. “The fact that there’s a shared experience gives me a lot more comfort," Lawrence says. "I feel as though there can be a little bit of a less guarded attitude and a better ability to work together simply because there’s an institutional connection.”

This ease of collaboration has a long life ahead of it, as Tom and his team continue to try to anticipate the next big thing. “We're about to hire a new position — Alternate Markets Architect — where we exclusively looked at Class of 2011 UR grads,” he says.