At Open Atelier Architects we emphasize Creativity, Innovation, and Research on critical architectural and sustainable issues in building and urban design with inventiveness, originality and vision. Issues such as healthy material selection and good quality lighting are important factors in fostering creativity, productivity and resourcefulness. This thoughtful, analytical, yet innovative design process is our signature. The firm is currently registered in 6 states including NY, NJ, CT, MA, PA, DE, RI and CA.
Open Atelier Architects
Visionary Architects Bring Creativity, Innovation & Research to Architectural Projects
by Anthony M. Catsimatides, AIA
October 21, 2010
Open Atelier Architects purchased, renovated and moved into its present location on South Warren Street in Syracuse, NY in January of 2010. The neighborhood is known as ‘Cathedral Square’ after the plaza located in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that is located just behind us on Onondaga Street. One of the biggest attractions to this neighborhood is that it has been in the midst of urban revitalization over the past few years. And as such, one of the biggest draws to being downtown is the neighborhood itself.
“This particular neighborhood has plenty of opportunities for studying transformations in urban design, and how we as architects can do a better job at designing buildings to enhance the quality of life in an urban setting”. This is why when asked to design a building, OA considers not only the building’s design, but also takes into consideration the impact that it has on the immediate environment. Inversely, we look at what forces around the site impact a building design, or what kind of a relationship the design may have with pedestrians. Seemingly unrelated to the immediate architectural program, yet inherently defined within the dna of the subcontext of what we do.
By the time we arrived in our newly renovated award winning office, we had already conducted a number of experimental research projects relating to energy efficient building design technology as well as neighborhood revitalization ideas. Most of our recent urban studies have been focused around the Syracuse downtown core area and the Cathedral Square neighborhood; which made moving into the heart of the neighborhood a perfect fit. In this sense, downtown Syracuse serves as our laboratory to explore ideas of how urban design revitalization can impact the city as a whole.
OA was founded as a visionary architectural design firm conducting progressive research and development in the field of design. We provide high end quality service for custom projects in a broad range of building types. The firm mixes a unique blend of research, and traditional design service delivery. It is a balancing act delivering traditional services for our clients, and reinvesting in creative research type work to challenge us to look at things from different angles. We study everything from architectural technology to housing and good urban design practices. As Industry and Collaboration partners with the Syracuse Center of Excellence, CoE, we have received grants to conduct some of our research work. Best of all, being in downtown Syracuse has provided us with an urban laboratory right outside our office.
It was important that we understand, as an initial response, how to create a sense of place for the neighborhood. South Warren Street and the surrounding areas have some great buildings and urban spaces, but their usage has been limited by a number of factors. Over the years, population decreased and the economy moved to the suburbs or out of the region, leaving a void in the downtown area. This also left quite a few vacant buildings in a state of decay, that for one reason or another have not been reutilized. But this too is changing.
Where at one time the only option open to a building owner was to tear down a building and put in a parking lot, the climate today has changed and there are incentives available for downtown reinvestment. In many cases buildings have active storefront retail operations, but vacant floors above. Just around the corner are several grand buildings that have sat vacant for years, including the Mizpah and an old convent associated with the Catholic Diocese which is being revitalized for office use. Herein is the greatest redevelopment potential in downtown. With so much stock to choose from, it seems natural for an architectural firm with a creative edge seeking to expand its portfolio to be downtown.
Upon investing and moving downtown, I shared our vision of the neighborhood with some of the neighbors, who invited me to join the Cathedral Square Neighborhood Association. Subsequently I was asked to be its President. A better opportunity to revitalize a city center was nowhere more accessible than in this immediate central location of Syracuse. My employees are thrilled to be part of a firm that cares about social responsibility and towards being good civic minded designers. As it turns out, it is a big reason why people want to work with OA or even just be downtown at all. I often hear people talk about memories of how Syracuse used to be, and for them it would be comforting to know that with the right attitude, we can bring excitement and vibrancy downtown again and into the twenty-first century.
In our definition of what makes a neighborhood great, it’s not just the buildings, but the quality of life that occurs in between the buildings. Good urban design yields more positive attitudes towards a community and yields better attributes that foster and support the growth of a city. Syracuse has the potential to be a vibrant and exciting place to live, work, learn and play, and Open Atelier is in it for the long haul, steadfastly nudging along the way.