Richard Sundberg Architect

Specialty: Civic and residential projects

Management: Richard Sundberg, owner

Founded: 2010

Headquarters: Seattle

2009 revenues: N/A

Projected 2010 revenues: $100,000

Current projects: Showroom for stone fabricator and installer John Lambert in the Sodo District

Image courtesy of Richard Sundberg Architect
Sundberg is the architect of this showroom for stone fabricator and installer John Lambert.

Nine months into starting a Seattle architectural firm, Rick Sundberg has landed 10 jobs.

Other architects shouldn’t expect to copy his experience. Sundberg has decades in the business and a compelling reputation earned while at Olson Kundig Architects, formerly Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.

Slow improvement

Sundberg, president-elect of the American Institute of Architects’ Seattle chapter, said the architectural landscape has gone from dismal to slightly less so in the last year.

“Things are ticking up, but very, very slowly — and the fees are much less than what they were three years ago,” he said. “Things are pretty lean out there.”

Around the country, architects are starting practices because they can’t find jobs otherwise, he said. Some are dropping out of the profession.

“I am worried that we’re going to have a generational gap,” he said. “Folks in all age levels and experience levels have been let go from firms.”

Working with Mika

Sundberg started Richard Sundberg Architect, at 1429 12th Ave., in part to have more time to collaborate with craftspeople on projects and to spend with his daughter, Mika.

She graduated in 2009 with a master’s degree in architecture and is a designer at the firm. The practice also has a half-time employee, and Sundberg said he hopes to eventually have a staff of five to seven, “where everyone gets their arms around the projects.”

Besides designing a Sodo showroom for stone fabricator and installer John Lambert, the firm is doing mostly single-family residential design, including remodels, and a new cabin.

Given the downturn, some architecture clients aren’t spending as much per square foot — although Sundberg said his have the money to. One friend and former client, however, shied away from building because, as he told Sundberg: “It’s just not the right time to have a display of wealth out there.”

Pursuing civil work

Sundberg is gearing up a marketing campaign to get civic work, particularly museum design, one of his strong suits, he said. Museums are in a “financial drought right now,” he acknowledged, but fire stations and libraries are getting built locally.

Overall, “it’s a very dynamic time” for architecture, Sundberg said. More firms are employing integrated project delivery and becoming specialists in building types, such as health care or multifamily.

So what does Sundberg miss most about Olson Kundig?

“How much the other office took care of me,” he said. “I was a spoiled brat. ... Before you couldn’t get ahold of me if your life depended on it directly.”

Now he answers his own phone.

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