year two: rick hauser, aia and ali yapicioglu, associate aia
in site: architecture
staff: 3 (two principals, intern architect)
years in business: 2
projected revenue for 2003: $100,000
projects on the boards: 20
completed projects: 8
project types: residential, religious, institutional, commercial, adaptive reuse, historic preservation, site design
awards: two Design for Excellence Awards, AIA Rochester; New York Library Association Building of the Year 2002
experience: Doran Yarrington Architects, Rochester, N.Y. (Hauser). Rockhill and Associates, Lecompton, Kan.; Berry Langford Architect, Albuquerque, N.M.; Doran Yarrington Architects, Rochester, N.Y. (Yapicioglu)
education: Cornell University, B.S. in Landscape Architecture 1992; University of Virginia, M.Arch. 1995 (Hauser). University of Yildiz, Istanbul, B.Arch. 1988; University of Kansas, B.Arch. 1992, M.Arch. 1995 (Yapicioglu)
When Rick Hauser, AIA, graduated from the University of Virginia, he saw his classmates accept positions with high-profile firms in major cities. He, meanwhile, was surveying the architectural prospects of very rural, western New York state. He had a promise to keep to his wife, Meghan, who followed him to U.Va. and a fellowship in England. It was his turn to follow her to her family's dairy farm in Perry, N.Y.
To be sure, Perry was no hub of high design. In fact, there wasn't a single working architect in the area. "I had some trepidation about that initially," the 32-year-old architect recalls, "but I soon realized it offered a phenomenal opportunity that would never be available to my colleagues in other places." Apparently, Perry sorely needed a resident architect. Within a day of his moving there, Hauser landed a job designing the local library. Shortly thereafter, he found a full-time position with Doran Yarrington Architects in Rochester, N.Y. Before the year was up, he had also secured a teaching job at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.
Four years and his licensure later, Hauser felt grounded enough to launch his own firm, In Site: Architecture. The name, he says, implies a firm based in ideas rather than driven by personality, and it underlines a commitment to site-responsive design (Hauser's undergraduate degree is in landscape architecture). "It is the lens through which we approach design," he explains.
Several months after founding In Site, Hauser invited Ali Yapicioglu, 36, a friend from Doran Yarrington and a fellow teacher at Hobart and William Smith, to become his partner. The two men bring different strengths to the table. Yapicioglu was a stonemason in his native Cyprus, and he worked at the ultra-hands-on design/build firm that Dan Rockhill runs in Lecompton, Kan. Hauser brings his training in site planning from his fellowship days. From the beginning, the partners decided they'd only accept the kinds of projects they wanted to be doing in the long run. Their teaching positions enabled them to pick and choose with great liberty. "A young firm has to gain experience first and get the projects that will lead to all the other projects," Hauser says. "The teaching has been important in allowing us that flexibility."
More than 50 percent of the partners' work is residential. They have a strong base of referrals, and they also generate interest from a Web site designed by one of Hauser's former students. Western New York state is a latecomer to the building boom, but the area is finally experiencing a healthy diversity of business opportunities, which has translated into steady work for the firm. Projects range in complexity from a bathroom renovation to a 100,000-square-foot adaptive reuse building.
With business better than they expected, the partners and their intern architect barely keep their heads above water. They log long hours, especially when school's out for the summer. "Working for yourself, there is no 8-to-5," Yapicioglu says. "I like the flexibility of working for my own firm, because I can get up in the middle of the night if I don't feel like sleeping and do some sketches." As work increases, the men talk constantly about the direction of the firm. "It's very hard to find a balance between too much and not enough," Hauser explains. "Too much can become not enough very quickly."
verbatim: rick hauser and ali yapicioglu
Did you set out to do residential work or did it come to you?
RH It's a little bit of both. Residential work, in general, is the province of younger firms for a number of reasons. The work comes to us as much as we have sought it out.
What's your biggest hope for the future?
RH Our name points toward architecture that's rooted in site.
What do you like about residential design work?
RH It allows us to demonstrate and experiment with site-responsive and contemporary design in a variety of settings with sympathetic clients. So, as a result, we're able to experiment and develop a vocabulary that addresses all the different needs of upstate New York--the social, the cultural, and the climatological.
What's your biggest fear?
RH We have to guard against mediocrity. It's a lot to deal with, and there is certainly the tendency to streamline the process. That's a fear. We retain a passion for architecture. And as long as we maintain the passion toward taking each project and carrying it out to our fullest intentions, I don't think that fear will ever come to pass.
How much bigger do you want the firm to grow?
AY I think our balance is good right now. And for our three- to four-year plan, I would be happy if we had another person and we can keep up the quality of the work. The most important thing for us is how we can balance all the jobs and keep the integrity of the design.
Do you have a hard time getting paid?
RH No. I've been amazed at how wonderful our clients have been. That's not a problem. But, how much one gets paid relative to how much work one puts in--well, that's the eternal problem.
Was starting your own firm a good decision?
RH Yes. I have no regrets. It's actually hard to imagine it being any other way than it is right now. Everything has gone better than we could have imagined, in terms of meeting our goals for having a practice--in doing the kinds of work we want to do and in the size and complexity of projects we take on.
What have you done right?
AY From the get-go, we had a reputation for our good relationship with clients. We hear good things from them about how responsive we are and how well our approach meets their needs. We want to continue that.
Do you have regrets?
AY No. The hours that you put into your work and your own business are all happy hours. When I'm working on a design on my own time, late at night, I never say, "What am I doing at 12 in the morning?"
How has your young family affected your practice?
RH Before I started my practice, my life was dis-integrated--literally and figuratively. I was living in Perry, working as an architect in Rochester, which is an hour's commute, and I was teaching in Geneva, which is about an hour and a quarter from here. I spent a lot time driving and listening to books on tape. It was a little too much. So my life is much more integrated now. I can walk to my office from my house; my wife and children pop in and visit. I can work at home, and it's much more of a natural thing.
Do you feel your business is under control at this point?
RH We are holding on to the reins tightly. I think it's in control, but only as long as both of us are constantly talking about our direction--otherwise this horse will definitely run wild. You can feel it, because we have a lot of work coming in and we have all of the growing pains that small firms can appreciate.