Architect Joshua Zinder slipped through a fast-closing window of time to open his own firm. He was working for Michael Graves, and enjoying it, being part of projects he knew he "wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else." He was in a rare space, between projects. One had just ended, and his next had not yet been assigned. At the same time, the oldest of his four children was packing his backpack, getting ready to go to middle school.

"You blink and time goes by," he recalls thinking. "My kids would be taking the PSAT. I knew it was the last opportunity to go out on my own."

Doing so is a natural inclination for architects, Zinder believes. "When you’re in architecture school, they teach you to take pride in what you do. When you work for someone, you put a lot of yourself into your work, but it’s for someone else. It doesn’t have your name on it."

Zinder wanted to be able to say of a building "it’s a Joshua Zinder," so he took on the risks – and the hours – that go with starting a business. He now sees less of his growing children than he did as an employee, and is just back from the first vacation he has been able to take in two years, but he has no second thoughts. "It’s one of those selfishly creative things," he says of wanting to have projects that are all his own.

Selfish, maybe, and definitely creative, Zinder was also lucky. Right at the time that he was leaving Graves, celebrity chef Charlie Trotter was asking the renowned architect to design a restauant that he was going to open in the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. Graves turned down the project, and asked Zinder if he wanted it. With that substantial commission, his architectural firm, all of two weeks old at the time, was on its way.

Zinder, a graduate of Syracuse University (Class of 1991) who earned his master’s degree in architectural design from Columbia University in 1992, has also been busy designing homes. A current project is a 4,000-square-foot house in the Berkshires.

Zinder, a Princeton resident whose wife is the pastry chef at Jasna Polana, has two full time and five part time employees. He also teaches at NJIT. He says that making time for the teaching is important to his work. "It keeps me focused on design," he says. "It’s very easy, running a business, to work on maximizing profits and minimizing time on the job, but that’s not who I want to be."

Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design (JZA+D), 20 Nassau Street, Suite 25, Princeton 08542; 609-924-5004. http://www.joshuazinder.com.

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