STORE9

THE STORE 9 STORY

Steven Kratchman founded his practice in 1999 out of the second bedroom in his apartment in a multifamily building on East 57th Street. He soon found himself in need of studio space in a more professional work environment, and established SKAPC’s first office on West 37th Street with a small team of architects. As the practice grew to include a staff of 12, Kratchman moved to a larger space on West 38th Street where the practice operated successfully for fifteen years.

When Kratchman was notified that the 38th Street office lease would not be renewed, he briefly considered relocating the firm to Jersey City, where he was living with his wife and young family. He went on to sign a lease for the 12th floor at 30 Rector Street in Manhattan and deposited four months’ rent and security. The space had three exposures of windows and views looking North and down into the World Trade Center site, West across the Hudson to New Jersey, and South to the Statue of Liberty. However, the landlord, Trinity Church, decided to freeze all leasing as they studied a potential hotel development.

As eviction notices were being mailed by ownership at 38th Street, Kratchman went to see Store 9. Located in Tribeca, the building was a half block away from two agencies with which SKAPC worked on a daily basis. The fact that the space was below street level and elevator split the storefront was not problematic, but the floor plate was half the size of what Kratchman needed. He proposed that the landlord give him the storage space directly below at a reduced rent, allow it to be converted to office space and change the CO accordingly. The landlord approved, and Kratchman worked with his structural consultant to create an atrium.

Programming, Planning & Lines of Sight

The atrium location and dimensions were partially determined by the line of sight from the most remote desk to the storefront plane on the upper level. This was the only provision for natural light other than the rear yard lower level courtyard. Neither of the space’s two levels could fully accommodate SKAPC’s studio program. Having previously lived in a duplex, Kratchman was all too familiar with the constraints and unintended consequences resulting from the geographical hierarchy of inhabiting two levels. Careful consideration was given to programming, and the decision was made to locate all of the studio functions on the lower, larger floor plate and the amenities – including bathrooms, pantry, library, and conference room – on the upper level.

Design

The building was a typical New York City warehouse and light manufacturing structure, with masonry bearing walls and heavy timber and plank floors. The interior finish on the walls was stucco and lathe that had been painted over. The look and feel of the existing space – graffiti included – was attractive and ready-made. Kratchman and his team chose to leave as much exposed as possible and simply add new work where required. The conference room table was made from recycled joists, black iron sprinkler fittings and scraps of recycled wood and plastic laminate, and new built-ins were designed where IKEA products could not be utilized. The end result was a blend of custom and purchased furniture and lighting.

Studio Production

SKAPC has adopted a unique approach to project management designed to deliver the ultimate in client service. The offices have been intentionally organized around an open studio system to facilitate teamwork and create optimal communication between project staff.

Kratchman’s exacting production systems reflect the business concept of controlled bottlenecks to enhance performance, produce innovative ideas and ensure quality control at every phase. Each project is assigned a team and a leader who assumes responsibility for every phase, from design to finance, legal, and zoning issues. As a best practice, the firm has developed thematic production sheets that get improved from project to project, rather than single details.

Production Line Up Island

Located under a field of lights at the center of the atrium, the “island” is a lineup of six 24-by-36 sets of drawings with flags (the folders containing the signed contracts). Each folder has a clipboard and a number. The order is determined by the priority of any combination of factors including value, urgency and importance. The lineup changes as the work is completed, and nothing leaves the office until the Studio Head gives Kratchman the green light for final review.

Office Culture

Kratchman instills in his team the value of ongoing education, providing them with a required reading list that features influential books on business theory and best practices. Included are works by Fred Stitt offering compelling reasons for using checklists; Michael Scott, founder of Totally Accountable Systems, on the indispensability of working with task list systems; and Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal, which dramatizes in novel form the business theory of constraints, illustrating how intentional bottlenecks can deliver unexpected performance.

SKAPC also has in-house Materials Library as well as an Architecture Culture Library to encourage staff to continuously explore the shared history and contemporaneous world of architecture and design.

Hiring and Training

SKAPC believes in the value of developing “home grown” talent. More than 50 percent of current staff are former interns, a reflection of Kratchman’s experience managing intern programs at both BRB Architects and Fox & Fowle Architects. The firm recently integrated a hands-on construction requirement for all staff. Additional training to learn real world construction techniques will enhance the team’s ability to create more buildable designs.

Our Team

Biography, Steven Kratchman, AIA
Steven Kratchman, AIA is crafting an architectural firm with the goal of achieving both critical and commercial success. He is president of Steven Kratchman Architect, P.C. and brings over fifteen years of architectural experience to his firm, having worked on a wide rage of project types and a variety of scales.
Steven continues his interest in architectural design philosophy and life long learning as a faculty member of the New York School of Interior Design where he has taught design and the design process for over nine years.
Steven obtained a Bachelors of Architecture degree from the University of Kansas and received a Master’s degree in Urban Design and Planning from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. Mr. Kratchman has studied abroad extensively as a Fulbright scholar to Stuttgart, Germany on a German Academic Exchange (DAAD) scholarship to Hamburg, Germany, and on Donald P. Ewart scholarship to Dortmund, Germany sponsored by the University of Kansas.
Steven is a member of the American Institute of Architect’s New Yo must meet the clients’ budget and schedule.”