In August 2017, I sat down with John Patrick Winberry, Adam J. Wanaselja, and Jeffrey Ramierez of the Architect & Developer firm, The Up Studio in Queens, New York. See more information about The UP Studio at their website. Also checkout the website for their first development, West Beech, here.
John Patrick Winberry: We were five or six years out, and we had seen other firms doing development: Jonathon Segal, and Onion Flats. We knew someone who worked there [at Onion Flats], so we drove down to Philadelphia and talked to those guys. They were super engaging and really interesting to talk to. I think for a young studio, we were trying to figure out a way to create sustainable income and a way to keep the machine running so we could pick and choose and really select the projects that we could dive into. Development was a way to create that financial stability.
Jeffrey Ramirez: And design freedom. To eliminate the client, you get to take more risk and try more things.
Adam J. Wanaselja: If we do development well, it will lead us to a little more financial stability which will allow us to be more strategic and judicious in how we choose jobs, and what jobs we choose going forward.
JPW: Which is the case in any young studio. You take anything you can. Bring it all in and figure out how to execute it.
James Petty: Why did you start off with a beach house?
AJW: I had lived in Long Beach, NY about eight years. It sounds silly, but the building department is also easier to work with. It is smaller than New York, and there is a quicker approval process. In terms of community, it also fits into the kind of place that we want to be in. It is a walkable downtown. It is a vibrant, young, artistic community. It has proximity to the train station to get into the city. So all of those things played into it.
JR: It is also a neighborhood that we felt like we could make a splash. It is somewhere that we could make a reputation. Hopefully, a good reputation.
AJW: Yeah, there is not a lot of really well executed modern there. So we thought if we could do a really well executed modern house, that it could get people’s attention.
JPW: And it has worked. Just by doing that one project, we have another one in construction. A client had hired us midway through the West Beech house construction to do a house for them just down the street. Then we got a second one that we just filed the plans for, and now we are talking with two more people. So the project is acting as a billboard to do the architecture that we want to do and to the clients that are interested in that type of design. Everyone thought that was going to happen, but maybe not to the extent that it was going to happen so quickly and that we would sign up so much work just from that one project.
JP: A lot of young firms are stuck in the kitchen remodels or interior jobs here.
JPW: Yeah a ground up is always tricky to get a handle on. Just getting your foot in the door and convincing someone that you can execute it is difficult.
For more on The UP Studio, see upcoming book Architect & Developer: A Guide to Self-Initiating Projects.