Oculus - Spring 2012 - (Page 30)
Small Size, Big Thinking
Ingenuity and adaptability are helping three young architecture ﬁrms to thrive B Y RIC H A RD S TA U B
The rewards of “analysis and attention”
ontrary to common wisdom, a recession can be a fertile time to develop a practice. Three young architecture firms – one of which has occasionally been a one-man shop – are finding their own ways to grow during challenging times by being nimble and innovative.
Just give it a glow
The oldest, relatively speaking, is Andre Kikoski Architect (AKA), a sevenperson, downtown Manhattan practice that opened its doors in 2001. Already featured in the New York Times, numerous design publications, and the book New York Dozen: Gen X Architects, the firm has designed several residences, restaurants, and other projects that have a high-end aura. By contrast, the Wyckoff Exchange is a very cost-conscious adaptive reuse project in the scruffy but increasingly trendy arts neighborhood, Bushwick, Brooklyn. What AKA had to work with were two aging warehouses that developer Cayuga Capital Management wished to convert to retail use. “We wanted to create an iconic venue for the neighborhood,” says AKA founder Andre Kikoski, AIA, LEED AP. “The buildings’ 10,000 square feet were to become a series of generic, white-box spaces that could be combined as desired, so we made the façade the primary design element and took our inspiration from the materials, textures, and forms of nearby industrial structures.” AKA introduced an 18-foot-tall wall of textured Corten steel with five motorized warehouse-style security doors 18 inches in front of the standard glass façades. During the day, the doors fold up to create an awning over each unit and announce that the establishments are open for business. In the evening they descend to protect the storefronts. The doors actually have two layers: burnt-orange Corten on the outside and light-gauge stainless steel on the inside, with a layer of LED fixtures between them. The light glows invitingly through rows of holes cut at various angles into the Corten. The design is hardly standard industrial fare. At the conclusion of the project, the client told AKA that he was able to lease at a price that far exceeded the going rate.
30 Oculus Spring 2012
The recently completed Civic Building for University Place, WA, by Soluri Architecture (SA) offers a classic example of how a small, eager firm can work like a much larger one. The break came for founder Andre Soluri, AIA, when he was working for the developer Outside the Big Box as an ad hoc owner’s advisor on the $250-million, 10-lot Town Center development in University Place. Believing the project’s international architecture and planning firm was unresponsive and too expensive, the developer put together a younger, less expensive, more agile team that included SA. Soluri’s participation in that project, including his design for an office building, resulted in his firm being recommended for a 2007 invited competition of eight firms to submit for the Civic Building project. Soluri suspects that flush times explain why only three of the eight firms – most of them based in Seattle – actually submitted proposals. “Developing our entry presented a steep learning curve because I had never worked on a project of that size,” says Soluri. “City officials told us we won the project because our level of analysis and attention went far beyond what our larger competitors offered.” The 60,000-square-foot building includes city offices, a library, the police department, and commercial tenants. The six-year-old firm has also completed a 12,000-square-foot retail center just outside Seattle; Rab Lighting’s 17,000-square-foot headquarters renovation in Northvale, NJ, is under construction. SA is also designing a master plan for Mango Cross Studios, a major motion picture and TV production studio complex in Bethlehem, PA.
Small Firms Doing Big Things
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2012
Letter from the President: Invitation to the Future
A Word from the Editor - Small is the New Big
Center for Achitecture - Center Highlights
Museum Mile Makeover
Opener: Small, Agile Firms Succeed in Lean Times
Public Projects, Small Firms, Targeted Tactics
Small Firm Workplace: The Whole Wide World
Small Size, Big Thinking
Launch Pad to Success
The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age
Last Words - Smaller than a Breadbox
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2012