by RONA MANN / Photos courtesy John R. Schroeder, AIA
“It all begins with a blank piece of paper.”
Those simple, yet effective words are spoken by John R. Schroeder, an architect by profession, a gentleman by design; and by choice, a real down to earth human being having an awful lot of fun doing what he always wanted to do.
“It’s all about the process,” Schroeder begins, settling comfortably into a chair around the conference table in his office. An office he shares with his right hand man of five years, soon-to-be-architect, Jared Hardell. “Whether we’re working on a residential or commercial project, there is always a process I like to follow because if you follow the process, the ideas percolate themselves and everyone is satisfied.”
While John R. Schroeder, AIA (American Institute of Architects) is a professional design firm specializing in architecture, planning, and interiors, Schroeder himself is just fine with simply being known as an “architect.” It’s all he’s ever known or wanted; and he’s done it successfully for the last 30 years.
“I knew early on that’s what I wanted to be. When I was about 12, my father told me I might want to think twice about that because math was not my strong suit. But I persevered. I took the high level math classes I needed and just worked harder. For a while I also contemplated becoming an author or an archaeologist, but in the end architecture won out.”
Still there’s a bit of the author in Schroeder and what he does. “My father’s friend who was an architect gave me some advice early on. He told me to learn how to write and write well. I see how important that is now because we spend 50% of the time writing proposals and bids, so that’s extremely important.”
Graduating from the University of Michigan, Schroeder considered continuing his education at either Tulane or the Rhode Island School of Design( RISD). Ultimately he chose the Providence-based, yet world renowned RISD and immediately realized, “I was going in as an underdog.” RISD seems to attract art and architecture students who are a bit more “out there” than the Midwestern, button-down, All-American Schroeder appeared to be on the surface. “They felt I couldn’t be creative,” John smiled. But he showed them…and everyone else. He’s still showing them, having built a solid reputation among both colleagues and clients with a large and enviable portfolio.
Although he graduated during an economic downturn, he quickly found work as a young architect working for prominent firms throughout Connecticut, before opening his own office thirteen years ago in the heart of Chester and designing the very building in which it is housed.
Schroeder’s experience and expertise extends from designing hospital and university buildings, to offices and homes; yet it is the residential work he enjoys the most. “It’s very personal,” John says. “I like to find out what makes people tick, how they like to live. That way we do what we do with no pre-conceived notions nor a cookie cutter approach. It’s the beginning of the process.”
So there we are again, speaking of “the process.”
“It begins by holding a meeting either at their office or their home, John informs. “I want to see exactly what they have and what their priorities are. Next, we bring them here to look at samples because there are too many to bring to them. There’s wood and stone and tile and hardware and so many other decisions to make.”
Then Jared works his magic. He amasses all the information and projections, initially rendering them into sketches and finally utilizing 3-D software, enabling the client to see both the inside and outside of their home or office. By using this state-of-the-art software, John and Jared are able to avoid costly mistakes, save time, and work more efficiently through increased precision and control, making for happy clients.
The client is part of the process from beginning to end which is why on the wall of the studio is the quote, “We engage our clients in positive and rewarding collaboration.” It’s simply the only way they know how to do business at John R. Schroeder,AIA.
The next pivotal point in the process comes when the client decides if they wish the faster approach of design build, or the “old fashioned” way of bidding from beginning to end, utilizing a system of checks and balances. There is no right nor wrong way to go. It is solely dependent upon the individual client, what they want to have happen, and how quickly they want it to happen.
Design build involves the contractor early on. “We make sure to get all pricing and decisions ahead of time to alleviate any pressure,” says John who clearly wants to avoid any potential roadblocks or negative outcome. “We have honest, skilled contractors with whom we’ve worked for years that we can reply on to be on time, dependable, and accurate. These guys love what they do, and they’re smart. They also know how to push the paper: scheduling, billing, invoices, hiring of sub-contractors. It’s all about having good relationships..and we have them.”
If the client does not opt for design build, the old-fashioned method is one where Schroeder is constantly checking for quality and integrity at each step along the way. “It’s important to us that the clients get the most bang for their buck, so it’s not just words and lines, but having the full knowledge of codes, mandates, and monitoring the constantly changing regulations. In the end our clients save more money because they did it right.”
The field of architecture – both an intricate form of art as well as a science – has changed greatly since John Schroeder was in school. “Back then we sketched everything, didn’t have sophisticated software, but we had triangles and graphite and electric erasers and four days of exams to get licensed.” Today he looks over at Jared who has already passed four rigorous exams and still has more to go. But Jared doesn’t work with triangles and graphite. His is a world of software and 3-D imaging that changes rapidly, still he’s on top of it all the time. Together John and Jared complement each other perfectly, and that makes for a winning association that only benefits the people with whom they deal.
“And we have fun, don’t we?” John says looking over at a nodding Jared. “The process is fine…rewarding, exciting. We take ideas from people’s heads, put them on paper, then transfer them to 3-D, and then produce a finished product. Still, it all begins with a blank piece of paper and an idea. Creativity is fun!”
John R. Schroeder AIA is located at 69 Main Street, Chester – second floor
www.jrsaia.com (860) 526-5838