Launch Slideshow

Tysen/Hunter Residences, Brisbane, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

word on the street, redux

last year's "lowdown on the downturn" firms revisited.

word on the street, redux

last year's "lowdown on the downturn" firms revisited.

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

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    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

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    Reader & Swartz Architects

    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

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    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

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    Reader & Swartz Architects

    Lake Holiday House, Cross Junction, Va., by Reader & Swartz Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Diversion Lake Camp, Medina, Texas, by Michael G. Imber Architects

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    Diversion Lake Camp, Medina, Texas, by Michael G. Imber Architects

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    Michael G. Imber Architects

    Diversion Lake Camp, Medina, Texas, by Michael G. Imber Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Turnberry Way Library, San Antonio, by Michael G. Imber Architects

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    Turnberry Way Library, San Antonio, by Michael G. Imber Architects

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    Michael G. Imber Architects

    Turnberry Way Library, San Antonio, by Michael G. Imber Architects
  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Vermont Cabin, Jamaica, Vt., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

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    Vermont Cabin, Jamaica, Vt., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

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    Resolution: 4 Architecture

    Vermont Cabin, Jamaica, Vt., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Long Beach Cottage, Long Beach, N.Y., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

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    Long Beach Cottage, Long Beach, N.Y., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

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    Resolution: 4 Architecture

    Long Beach Cottage, Long Beach, N.Y., by Resolution: 4 Architecture

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Barboro Flats, Memphis, Tenn., by Looney Ricks Kiss

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    Barboro Flats, Memphis, Tenn., by Looney Ricks Kiss

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    Looney Ricks Kiss Architects

    Barboro Flats, Memphis, Tenn., by Looney Ricks Kiss Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Lugar Tower Apartments, Indianapolis, by Looney Ricks Kiss

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    Lugar Tower Apartments, Indianapolis, by Looney Ricks Kiss

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    Looney Ricks Kiss Architects

    Lugar Tower Apartments, Indianapolis, by Looney Ricks Kiss Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Private Residence, Grand Rapids, Mich., by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

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    Private Residence, Grand Rapids, Mich., by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

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    Albertsson Hansen Architecture

    Private Residence, Grand Rapids, Mich., by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Guest Cabin, Michigan, by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

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    Guest Cabin, Michigan, by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

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    Albertsson Hansen Architecture

    Guest Cabin, Michigan, by Albertsson Hansen Architecture

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    UC Davis West Village Square Mixed-Use, Davis, Calif., by Studio E Architects

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    UC Davis West Village Square Mixed-Use, Davis, Calif., by Studio E Architects

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    Studio E Architects

    UC Davis West Village Square Mixed-Use, Davis, Calif., by Studio E Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    90 Archer Affordable Housing, San Jose, Calif, by Studio E Architects

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    90 Archer Affordable Housing, San Jose, Calif, by Studio E Architects

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    Studio E Architects

    90 Archer Affordable Housing, San Jose, Calif., by Studio E Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    South Lincoln/10th and Osage Redevelopment, Denver, by Mithun

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    South Lincoln/10th and Osage Redevelopment, Denver, by Mithun

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    Mithun

    South Lincoln/10th and Osage Redevelopment, Denver, by Mithun

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Cabaña at Roanti Orchards and Vineyards, Glen Ellen, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

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    Cabaña at Roanti Orchards and Vineyards, Glen Ellen, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

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    Edward Caldwell Photography

    Cabaña at Roanti Orchards and Vineyards, Glen Ellen, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Tysen/Hunter Residences, Brisbane, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

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    Tysen/Hunter Residences, Brisbane, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

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    Arkin Tilt Architects

    Tysen/Hunter Residences, Brisbane, Calif., by Arkin Tilt Architects

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    South Gilpin Townhomes, Denver, by Sprocket Design-Build

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    South Gilpin Townhomes, Denver, by Sprocket Design-Build

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    Portal Imageworks

    South Gilpin Townhomes, Denver, by Sprocket Design-Build

  • "Word on the Street" Architects' Recent Work

    Single-Family Residence, Chicago

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    Single-Family Residence, Chicago

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    Studio Dwell Architects

    Single-Family Residence, Chicago, by Studio Dwell Architects

  • Michael G. Imber, FAIA, principal of Michael G. Imber Architects

    Credit: Michael G. Imber Architects

    Michael G. Imber, FAIA, principal of Michael G. Imber Architects

michael g. imber, faia
michael g. imber architects, san antonio

www.michaelgimber.com

age of firm: 18 years
firm specialty: High-end residential and traditional neighborhood design
staff: 13 (2005); 17 (2008); 13 (2009); 16 to 17 (2010, projected)
total revenue: Withheld
completed projects: 5 (2005); 4 (2008); 5 (2009); 4 (2010, projected)

With U.S. credit markets on the dole last year, Michael G. Imber, FAIA, fully expected his connections from previous international projects to carry the day. He was wrong. “We hoped our geographical diversity would help, but it didn’t whatsoever,” he says. “This was more of a global recession than anyone anticipated.” In 2009, the firm subsisted primarily on high-end custom homes for clients who didn’t need financing. And only one of two commercial projects on the docket—a value-engineered country-club building—went forward.

Remedial measures included four staff cuts, and Imber monitors cash flow relentlessly. “When you’re trimmed down to a streamlined staff, every hour a person is working has to go toward covering overhead,” he says. “In times like these it becomes a science, because if you miss a billable target, you miss paying your overhead.” Old assumptions are overturned as he seeks creative ways to make services more affordable. “We’re no longer in the mode of using the standard AIA percentage-of-construction-fee structure,” he says. “We’re constantly asking ourselves whether we should take on less risk for construction administration and focus on design. Because we’re offering clients different services than we typically do, we’re getting into a different spectrum of work, like master planning for private schools, which have a long-term vision.”

Imber is optimistic about 2010. The phone’s been ringing in Texas, he says, and there is pent-up energy among clients across the spectrum, from luxury homes to campus planning and institutional work. But there’s no telling when—or if—developers can get money to build their projects. For now, that means more waiting.