Yost Grube Hall Architecture
Specialty: Planning, architecture and interior design services
John Blumthal, principal of Portland’s Yost Grube Hall Architecture, said he is optimistic that the volatility of the current market is short term. But he said short-term uncertainty could still have a long-term impact on the industry.
“We did have a phone call today with a client who is basically saying the uncertainty right now is so great that we have to wait and see,” Blumthal said. “Our average project is moving ahead steadily, but it’s cause for some caution and uncertainty.”
A year ago, Blumthal said the firm expected it would grow this year. Instead, he said, they are holding steady.
In addition to market diversity, the firm has a six-person interiors group that has kept a very consistent project load, and international work has also helped the firm, he said. For the past year, the firm has been on the approved architects list for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, which is in charge of U.S. State Department projects overseas.
Blumthal said that work has been strong since the firm got approved, with about six to eight people of YGH’s 60 staff working on bureau projects.
YGH also is working on some preliminary and feasibility studies for projects in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Recently, the firm updated the master plan for the University of Botswana and submitted a design-build proposal for an entire campus for a new technical university in Botswana.
The firm does a lot of higher-education projects. Blumthal said that even as state funding for college, university and community college projects has slowed, higher-education projects in nursing and health care are still getting a “ton of support.”
The firm is working on a wing remodel at Oregon Health Sciences University, a nursing school at Boise State University and just completed a project for Clackamas Community College that included space for the nursing program.
Blumthal said collaboration on higher-education projects has helped the firm get more jobs in that area. He said many schools are looking for an architect that has expertise in higher-education design, but also want a local designer that understands the community and area. YGH collaborated with Rice Fergus Miller Architecture and Planning of Bremerton on a project at Olympic College in Bremerton, for example, and with LKV Architects of Boise on the Boise State building.
Blumthal said a lot of local firms grew too fast over the past few years and weren’t diversified enough. The firm has not had any layoffs, but has seen other Portland architecture firms have to cut staff. “We’re optimistic that our diversity of project types and geographic diversity are going to help us through this period, but that’s really the product of a long-term practice,” Blumthal said. “You can’t get diverse on short notice.”
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