On the last morning of Reinvention, attendees gathered to hear three successful firms talk about their unusual practice models. First up were Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano, RA, LEED AP, of Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, residential architect's 2008 Rising Star winner. The dynamic couple from Tucson, Ariz., detailed the evolution of their sister development company, Dreamspace, which they run along with designer/builder Page Repp Jr. and former clients Jerry and Desi Winter. "We are fascinated by the ability architecture has to define the world around us," Ibarra said. "For us, architecture is about inhabiting time more than space."

The enterprising Chris Krager, AIA, of KRDB followed Ibarra and Rosano. He explained the way his business background informed the setup of his design/build firm in Austin, Texas. Krager said he takes a "macro" view of sustainability, emphasizing urban infill because of its inherent environmental benefits. He described the diverse range of project types KRDB does, from spec houses to developer commissions to custom homes for clients, not to mention modular and not-for-profit work. And he explained his smart, pragmatic approach of working with progressive government and nonprofit groups to get projects built.

After Krager came F. Cecil Baker, AIA, residential architect's 2008 Hall of Fame winner. Baker regaled the audience with tales of his development work during recessions, starting in the 1970s. His story of revamping Philadelphia's Candy Factory Court and other later projects, mixed with his conviction that he's always been an architect who sometimes develops, rather than the other way around, left attendees feeling inspired about the possibilities present in lean economic times. "As architects, we have two eyes that see things most people do not see," he said. "We are what developers pay for."