A few years ago, Michael G. Imber, FAIA, was approached about working on a large development. His firm designs primarily high-end custom residential and has since its inception in 1992, so Imber thought carefully before accepting the offer. “We had this opportunity to get involved with New Urbanism and we ultimately felt it wouldn't diminish our design quality,” he says. “Custom work is still the mainstay of our business, but this job helped diversify the scope of projects we design.”

That initial collaboration led to other offers. The firm's portfolio now includes custom and production residential, urban planning, civic, and commercial buildings in such locations as Colorado, Costa Rica, Maine, Mississippi, Scotland, and Spain. It's that range of project size, type, and location that Imber believes will carry them through this recession. He also expanded by launching an interior design division in 2003. Mohon–Imber Interiors “is the busiest it's ever been,” he says.

While several custom clients have put projects on hold, others are taking advantage of the lull to build now, while talented people are available. “As for our development work, our partners are continuing more slowly or laying the groundwork for projects planned for two or three years from now,” Imber explains. He adds that “internationally, our projects don't seem to be impacted, but everyone is more cautious.”

The firm is still cutting back as a precaution. Imber says he's always had a conservative approach to spending and a solid cache of reserves, but recently the office instituted a hiring freeze and canceled the annual staff retreat. “We never expected the entire country to suffer like this,” Imber says, “but we hope our diversity will carry us through.”

Michael G. Imber, FAIA
Michael G. Imber Architects Michael G. Imber, FAIA

  age of firm: 17 years
firm specialty: High-end residential and traditional neighborhood design
staff: 13 (2005); 17 (2008); 17 (2009, projected)
total revenue: Withheld
completed projects: 5 (2005); 4 (2008); 7 (2009, projected)