Bringing Design Home

4-8 Downing Street | Barrett Design | Alex Barrett | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer

In the Winter of 2017, Design Develop Construct (DDC) Journal spoke to Architect & Developer Alex Barrett of Barrett Design in Brooklyn, NY. They spoke about Alex’s frustrations with the typical architecture role and how he has taken more initiative in developing his own work, as well as the latest projects that Alex is working on. See more information about Barrett Design at barrettdesign.com. See more articles about Alex including my extensive interview with him {here}. See the original article ddcjournal.com.

Alex started Barrett Design in 2005 after speaking with a number of other architects who were exploring the ideas of combining real estate development and architecture. The architect as developer model was still very young compared to the number of architects developing today. “It’s still a relatively rare business model, which kind of surprises us, ” Alex adds.

4-8 Downing Street | Barrett Design | Alex Barrett | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
4-8 Downing Street facades by Barrett Design.

What was frustrating Alex with the traditional role was the lack of agency that the architect had in the process. “Value really gets added to a property through the design work,” Barrett says. “In the traditional development structure, where the architect is just a third-party consultant, they are not getting fairly compensated for the value they are creating.” Alex decided to take matters into his own hands and purchased a brownstone in Brooklyn to renovate. It was his first step to becoming a developer, and there was no way he was going back.

By acting as an Architect & Developer, Alex not only has full agency in his designs, he has better control. Instead of being pitted against each other, the developer and architect are working in concert to create a product faster and with less need for communication and presentations. “It makes the process of designing and developing real estate a lot more efficient,” Barrett says. “It forces us to be a lot more rigorous and a lot more disciplined because we know that whenever we draw a line that represents something that is going to get built, we have to pay for it.”

202 President Street | Barrett Design | Alex Barrett | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
202 President Street

Alex argues that the dual-nature of his company allows him to create a higher caliber product than his developer competitors who hire architects independently. “We really love it and think it produces a great finished product at the end of the day,” he says. “We like that we are developers who are designers first and foremost.” Many projects in real estate seem to be a race to the bottom as developers try to cut costs to maximize profits.

When Alex is competing with these developers, his work really stands out. It allows the products he develops to sell faster and at a higher premium. “When a buyer walks into one of our projects as opposed to a comparable project by another developer that is not architect-led, they will feel something in our project that’s missing in others—a strong focus on quality design,” Alex says.

8 St Marks Place | Barrett Design | Alex Barrett | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
Rendering of 8 St. Marks Place by Barrett Design.

Alex has been developing an average of one project per year since starting in 2005. Most of these projects are within walking distance to each other near his office in Brooklyn. That will change soon as Alex makes his first foray into Manhattan with a six-story development at 3 East 3rd Street. “It’s in the Bowery, which has a really mixed and rich history,” Barrett says. “It’s very gritty, and has been kind of rough-and-tumble at times.” The firm drew design inspiration from the area’s compelling past.

Alex has several other projects currently in design or construction. He recently completed 4 and 8 Downing Street in Brooklyn and scaling up to Eight St. Mark’s Place. He is also currently designing his first single-family townhouses in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. By acting as the developer for his work, Alex is able to decide what he wants to design and how that fits into the larger picture of his architecture studio. See more information about Barrett Design at barrettdesign.com.

See more articles about Alex including my extensive interview with him {here}.

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