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REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

Interview with Principal Architect Sam Kachmar, Founder of SKA Inc. from Cambridge, Massachusetts

Sam Kachmar discovered his desire for architecture at very young ages and proved his ability by designing furniture and sculpture. During high school years, Sam worked on carpentry on summer holidays and school breaks. After graduated from Syracuse University, he has started to design his dream houses for his clients. I talked to Sam Kachmar about his career and projects.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sam Kachmar, Founder of SKA Inc.

Sam Kachmar, Founder of SKA Inc.

REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

by Meryem Aksoy

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The key to a successful project is to understand the desires of the clients, to prepare the project in this direction and to plan the whole process by adhering to it. Sam prefers to communicate with customers through this philosophy and prepares their projects in line with their wishes and budgets. Sam established his own architectural firm SKA Inc. and has been creating habitats for his clients in the Boston area since 2008. I asked Sam Kachmar, Founder and Principal Architect of SKA Inc., in order to learn more about his architectural career and basics of architectural projects. Enjoy this interview.

Sam, before talking about Sam Kachmar Architects, could you tell us about yourself?

I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts in Georgetown, MA following my dad to construction sites, where he worked as a builder for high-end homes throughout the area and I fell in love with putting together homes for people from when I was five or six years old. I worked doing carpentry on summers and school breaks through high school and went on to study architecture at Syracuse University in Central New York. Over the summers at college, I interned at Marcus Gleysteen Architects and then moved out to Aspen, CO to complete my licensure at Poss Architecture and Planning. After Meeting my wife while on vacation in Cambridge I decided to move back to the Boston area and came back to my roots of construction for a few years to round out my professional education while running my Architecture firm as a nights and weekends project in the beginning. Then the firm kept growing and eventually I needed to give it my full attention.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

Why did you decide to pursue a career in architecture? What inspired you?

I have always loved to make things, from furniture, to sculpture to art, and I think that rolled its way into Architecture. I have always been drawn to organizing spaces, and trying to understand what someone is looking for in a design is always such a fun challenge.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

How did you decide to establish your own firm? Could you tell us about Sam Kachmar Architects and your team?

I have always wanted to found my own company, and earlier in my career, I wanted to round out my education by working as a draftsman, an architect, a carpenter, a project supervisor, and a project manager, in the residential world since I felt that these experiences have prepared me for managing my own company. We are a small tight-knit team of five people currently with pretty diverse backgrounds yet similar interests in residential design, the Cambridge area and rigor in architectural design in general. The benefit of having a small firm is that we all get to work together very closely and know every project at SKA in and out, no matter who the lead is on the project.

How could you define your architectural design approach? How did your experience in Florence, Italy affect your vision?

I found that living in Florence helped me understand the rhythm, and rigor that goes into so many beautiful Italian designs. So many things that look simple at first glance have layers of intelligent complexity folded into them. I learned in Florence that making a design look simple and effortless is a challenging endeavor.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

What is your signature in your designs?

At SKA we combine rigorous design with construction management experience - a rare combination that leads to a distinctive design process and end product that are aesthetically and intellectually rigorous as well as financially informed. Our design values are rooted in new England pragmaticism: efficiency, logic, beauty, honest expression of materials, and clean lines and forms that allow the architecture itself - the space, light, materials, spatial relationships - and inhabitants to thrive. The result is an architecture that is current but timeless, serene yet warm, and universally rational while also being uniquely reflective of the values and characters of our clients. Our signature is a simple pragmatic design that fits seamlessly into our clients' lives.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

What are the advantages of being an Award-Winning architect?

I have been fortunate to get to work on Cambridge Homes that have won Historical awards for their preservation of the historical nature of the home, I have worked on modern homes on the Cape Ann that have won BSA design awards, and have worked on projects in the Rocky mountains that won Design awards for AIA Colorado as well. Winning awards for your designs allows your clients to give you a little more rope when you first start off on a design together, I would say it helps build trust early in a relationship, but it is how the project goes that continues and elevates that trust through the course of a project.

Which type of projects does Sam Kachmar Architects specialize in? What type of services do you offer your customers?

SKA is a committed to excellence in custom architecture and design for residential buildings. Due to my professional history in design and construction management, the firm combines those to create aesthetically and intellectually rigorous as well as financially informed projects. As I mentioned before, our design values are rooted in New England pragmatism - including efficiency, logic, beauty, honesty of materials and clean lines to create beautiful and functional homes that reflect the values of our clients.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

Where is the most popular location for new residential projects in Cambridge, MA?

West Cambridge is the most likely place for new residential projects, the area has large lots, trees, and historical homes that can accommodate large families. Many Executives at biotech, education and tech companies move their families here, purchase a grand old home, and then want to update it to be livable in the 21 century, that is where SKA has the opportunity to be a great partner in helping our clients realize their vision.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

Could you explain to us the full process of a residential project?

Our process for residential design essentially follows the steps of: Predesign, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Construction Procurement, and Construction Administration. Predesign is when we conduct building and site analysis and begin to process of collaborative planning with our clients, discussing the budget, schedule, planning, and existing conditions analysis. Next, in Schematic Design we begin to sketch and model the design with site plans, floor plans, elevations, sections and 3D renderings as well as begin the process of construction cost estimate. Then in Design Development we finalize and refine the design and begin detailing the construction and materials. Following that, we produce written and graphic documents required for construction and government approvals called Construction Documents. Then we perform Construction Procurement, in which we help the clients select a constructor for the project through a bidding process. Lastly, we perform Construction Administration in which we follow the construction of the project and the general conformance to our construction documents.

Is it still important to make cardboard models for your projects? Or do you use digitalization in every stage now?

Our firm utilizes many different mediums of drawings or modeling to study our designs and present them to our clients. We are always looking for the best way to convey our ideas to our clients so they can see the scope of the project and tell us through thoughts and ideas on it so we can develop the best possible home for them. So yes sometimes physical models are helpful, but we also greatly appreciate digitalization to portray our designs, especially since it’s the easiest to make changes and updates to it during the design process and the ongoing conversations with the clients.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

Do you offer turnkey projects to abroad customer? At which steps should your client have to be next to you after the first moment of the project?

We do not offer turnkey projects because all of our work is specific to the clients that hire us and designing homes for them in particular. Our design decisions are all in response to the client’s needs for a home and personal interests or values as well as the existing site or the existing building if it is a renovation.

How many months does it take to complete an average residential project?

The timeline of an average residential project is really hard to guess at because it’s so specific to every project, the scope of the work, and how the actual construction goes.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

What are the most important factors that affect the project cost?

A client being realistic about their budget early in the process can help us design to meet their budget. If we design a 5 million dollar house, and the client has a budget of 1 million dollars, then we have failed our client, and there has been wasted effort on a project. We try to establish parameters for a project early, and that typically helps us work for our clients in the most efficient manner that we can. Clients making decisions in a timely manner is the other factor that can help control the budget of a project, if a client gets stuck in analysis paralysis, it can drive up the cost associated with a project while not providing value. At SKA we value and respect our clients' budgets, everyone wants to get value from the money that they spend on design, we provide that at SKA.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

You have lots of completed and in-progress projects. Which one is your favorite?

That is such a tough question because all the projects are so different and I have favorites parts of each one. I love getting to work so directly with clients so often my favorite parts of the projects are the parts I know that are the clients' favorite parts or what they’re most excited about. The benefit of doing residential design is you get to know your clients so well because you work so closely with them and are designing their home, which is so personal, so I love getting to watch their visions for their homes come into existence due to my teams’ hard work and the contractors hard work, as well as anyone else involved in the process.

What would you recommend to customers who want to work with an architect to build their new home?

I would recommend that they consider renovating their existing home before knocking it down and starting new. While new construction can be fantastic and a great way to start from scratch we also really love to do renovations to existing buildings. That way the project is often more efficient and sustainable and we also get to interact with the existing New England architecture that we are so grounded in and inspired by. We love working at all different scales from completely new construction to small renovations that finish out a clients’ dream house to even furniture design and are always happy to realize our clients’ visions for their houses however we can.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

In your opinion, what is the relation between Low Budget - Short Project Time - High Quality? Is it possible to combine all in one project?

I think that is a balancing act for every project to consider budget, a timeline of construction, and quality of work, but one that is essential to successful design and our own design ambitions. Having a background in construction management gives me a different perspective that not all architects possess so I am always conscious of budgets on projects while maintaining excellent crafts since my love of architecture is rooted in my love of building. We do our best to balance these factors for each project and also consider what is most important for each individual client and project so we can prioritize and make decisions that apply as best as possible to each client or project.

What is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects?

The best advice I’ve ever received is probably “you have to dance with the girl who brung ya.” Basically stay loyal to those who have made you or helped you along the way. This firm would not exist without all those who have helped me and supported me through its creation and ongoing work and those people are still essential to me and the design process for their insights, opinions, and still continued support. That is one of the reasons why I also love having a smaller firm so we can continue to design and flourish in this close-knit group of designers who are all passionate about the same type of work.

Sam Kachmar Architects

Sam Kachmar Architects

What do you think about social media? How can our readers follow Sam Kachmar Architects?

We are love utilizing social media to show our ongoing projects and interact with the local community. Readers can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Houzz as well as check out our newly updated website kachmardesign.com. We are committed to making our designs and process as approachable as possible to clients and interested parties so we try to do so via social media in particular.

What is coming up next for you?

We have a lot of really exciting prospective work in the Greater Boston Area that we cannot wait to start on. We are also currently finishing up our new office space in Huron Village so we will have a beautiful new space to meet current and perspective clients in as well as potentially collaborate with other local designers. Cambridge and Huron Village, in particular, are very important to me as an architect and to our firm as a whole so I’m extremely excited to be joining the small business owners community here and to continue to design new homes or renovate existing ones in this neighborhood.

Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?

At SKA, we are grateful for the clients who took the risk to work with us from the very beginning, we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our clients, so from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for letting us design your homes, we take that responsibility seriously, and we value the relationships that we have built with all of you over time.

Thank you Sam.

For more information, please visit website of SKA Inc.





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