I LOVE MY ARCHITECT is happy to interview Architect
Arnie Untoria, principal of USA Architects.
I once introduced Arnie as “my second favorite Architect” where he retorted, “who is your first, Frank Cunha?” Of course, I responded “Yes!”
1) When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
Always had an inclination but not until my freshman year at JSSC when I met my cousins boyfriend that was attending Pratt, that kidding around I ask him for an application, which he took serious, that I transferred and began studies.
2) What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
Well, I always wanted to be my own boss, therefore I did achieved my dream, I had no idea it was going to be a combination of dream and nightmare (haha).
3) Any memorable clients or project highlights?
Many thru the years, my Beth projects: Warren Developmental Center, it was a gem of design.
My favorite client: Elizabeth Board of Ed, they are friendly, knowledgeable and practical.
4) How do you balance design with your family life?
My wife has been fighting cancer for over 3 year, how do I balance? Adrenaline and necessity.
5) How does your family support what you do?
My wife loves the idea of me being an architect, my kids brag about local projects we have completed. It’s good.
6) How do Architects measure success?
I cannot speak for all, but I measure success by three simple things, quality of design, relationship with the client and getting paid!
7) What matters most to you in design?
That the objective is accomplish to my and the client’s satisfaction.
8) What are the challenges you face realizing your vision?
Most of the time comes down to money, enough fee? Client’s realistic expectation and things like that.
9) How do you translate the clients vision to meet your own design expectations?
That is easy, is what architecture is all about, I try to put myself in the clients/ user shoes and learn as much as possible about the way the building should work and look, if I’m happy with it, 99% of the time the client will also be happy.
10) What do you hope to achieve over the next 20-30 years?
I’m 57 therefore in architecture I may have another dozen and then I will like to slow down and just be a mentor or an advisor to my peers.
11) Who is your favorite Architect? Why?
12) What is your favorite historic and modern project? Why?
Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain, it fascinates me what degree of civilization was achieved while Europe was in the dark ages. Modern? Not a big fan of any, architecture has lost a lot of its art.
13) Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?
Unless we can have a big change in another direction, architecture, at least in the States, have been going down in quality and respect for decades now and I see no end in sight.
14) Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?
I cannot point to any particular architect or project but I am partial to the philosophy that form follows function.
15) Which building type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?
A Hospital, it is a very complicated building type. Having spent so much time in hospitals since my wife’s illness, I am fascinated by its complications.
16) How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?
Not sure, in a way I’m already doing it with the younger generation in my office but not realizing the details.
17) What does Architecture mean to you?
It is my life for almost 40 years, I don’t know anything else.
18) What is your design process?
Listen to the client, educate the client and then try as best I can to translate the realities of the client’s dream into an affordable building solution.
19) If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?
A baseball player, hence way I’m an architect!
20) What is your dream project?
To be able to design some type of relevant project in my native Cuba one day.
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Frank Cunha III
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P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
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