Mark Hutker is racking up his frequent nautical miles with regular commutes to his firm’s three offices spread throughout Cape Cod, Mass. Several years ago, Hutker and his family moved from Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the Cape Cod coast where Hutker Architects’ flagship office opened 27 years ago, to Falmouth, Mass., to grow his mainland business and be close to better schools. Late in 2010, Hutker joined forces with Nantucket, Mass.-based architect Lyman Perry, which allowed the 72-year-old Perry to ease out of a managerial role and for Hutker to launch his presence on the island. Now Hutker makes weekly trips to Martha’s Vineyard and goes out to Nantucket every two weeks. He also makes bimonthly pilgrimages to Boston, where the architect is expanding his design comfort zone to include urban architectural interiors. “I’m focused on establishing these new markets,” Hutker says. “I see that as my job to look down the road and focus on where we’re going—to look for those logical next steps.”

Looking toward the future with accurate intuition is exactly how Hutker kept business thriving throughout the slowdown. One of the hardest hit residential sectors, the second-home market is the firm’s mainstay, yet Hutker Architects continued to grow and turn out award-winning residences during the past five years. Hutker attributes that accomplishment to finding the sweet spot between market expansions and limiting the size of each office.  “The Vineyard and Falmouth offices are around 18 people each and Nantucket is much smaller,” Hutker estimates. Besides himself, there are two other principals who have each been with the firm for 20-plus years. And many associates have been there 10 years or more. Hutker says the number of employees plus the mix of tenured leaders with new blood creates a great office balance. “We still maintain a collaborative studio environment,” he explains, “but are big enough to allow us to mentor some of the younger associates and let people be involved in different projects.”

Hutker also is generating more work away from his coastal and island outposts. Boston, Marblehead, Weston, and Lincoln are just some of the inland locales where the firm has ongoing projects. Multiple offices, new project types, a growing client list, and construction sites located further afield are all great for business, but they present a challenge for keeping everyone on the same page architecturally. Hutker frequently found himself describing his ardent design philosophies and priorities to staff as well as clients. In an effort to quickly share the firm’s guiding principles, he recently illustrated them in what he calls his “design value wheel.”
“I came up with this graphic as a way to make sure that in terms of project goals, our values align with those of prospective clients,” Hutker explains, “but everybody in the firm also has it on their wall.” Hutker believes that if his employees don’t completely embrace and live these design values, then they won’t be able to genuinely convey them to clients. The value wheel comes into play when talking with clients about what ideas and desires they have for their custom house. It also keeps the design team on track when blending those requests with artistic vision and turning those pieces into great architecture.

The words on the wheel are in a specific order that alludes to the firm’s process as well. After initially discussing clients’ needs in terms of lifestyle and program—or in wheel terms purpose, meaning, and sociology—next come the concepts of responsible architecture. “When you build something you’re making an investment in the community,” Hutker says. “We have to determine the balance of giving and taking from that community in terms of cultural content, land stewardship, energy conservation, technology, and sustainability with each home.” Finally, artistic values held by the design team come into play with cost or value alignment, which Hutker describes as what level of design the clients choose to afford. Hutker Architects has long been known and recognized for its outstanding commitment to craftsmanship. Three words on the wheel relate to those firm-wide standards—material ethics, craft, and beauty.

Hutker already has changed terminology on the wheel and probably will continue to tinker with it, but he’s happy to have a visual presentation of these design values. In fact, he’ll use the wheel in a presentation to the AIA’s Custom Residential Architects Network at a symposium in Newport, R.I., in the fall. No matter how often the exact wording changes, the wheel has become a great tool for bringing together the geographically spread-out firm. “It shows us how to be consistent with the work we’re trying to do and gets everybody going in the same direction,” Hutker says. “It will also help remind us that we’re doing something important and let us judge how well we’re doing it.”

Hutker Architects Retrospective

  • Hutker Architects Brings the Outdoors Inside In This Master Bath

    A Weston, Mass., master bath by Hutker Architects brings the outdoors inside.

  • Sugar Mill, Chilmark, Mass.

    This cedar-and-teak dwelling is at home on its hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and coastal ponds while also paying playful homage to the sugar mills of the West Indies, where the clients vacation.

  • Lagoon Pond Pavilion, Vineyard Haven, Mass.

    Like Cinderella's glass slippers, these glass stairs and balcony suggest something “incredibly magical,” said a judge.

  • Saving Space

    Why add another bedroom to an already packed program when it's only going to be used a few days per year?

  • Storied Summers

    Decades from now, tales of this Martha's Vineyard, Mass., vacation home will draw peals of laughter from the people who spent childhood summers there.

  • Edgartown, Mass., Residence

    A cool contemporary kitchen is the big surprise at the heart of this vacation home.

  • Aquinnah, Mass., Residence

    With its flat roofs, Modernist massing, and contemporary details, this vacation home has its own look.

  • Falmouth, Mass., Residence

    Designing for his family of four, Mark Hutker made the kitchen the focal point of their new house.

  • West Tisbury, Mass., Art Studio

    A small horse barn was the basis for this art studio conversion, which provides a bright, functional, and inspiring workspace replete with reminders of its former life.

  • Rooms in View

    Creating an inviting outdoor room isn't that different from planning interior spaces.

  • Natural Attraction

    Landscape architect Kris Horiuchi is most proud of what she didn't do to the 15 acres surrounding this Martha's Vineyard, Mass., compound.

  • Clean Fun

    An outdoor shower is a sanctuary, a place where one can experience the effects of sunshine, rain, moonshine, darkness, cold—all of Mother Nature's wondrous gifts.

  • Sea Catch

    When you look at something beautiful every day, it's easy to forget how extraordinary it is.

  • Oak Bluffs, Mass., Residence

    The Custom Home Design Awards do not include a standing category for outstanding workmanship, but our judges insisted that this Martha's Vineyard, Mass., home deserved special recognition on that score.

  • Built-in Beds

    A built-in bed takes optimum advantage of a frequently used piece of furniture by incorporating efficient features.

  • Bunk Mate

    “Stealth architecture,” is how Mark Hutker depicts the transformation of an open 8-by-8-foot hallway alcove into a guest bedroom.