After 40 years in the same office, architect Robert Sussna moved out without looking back, filling 10 dumpsters with what he had accumulated in all those years of practice. He was following the example of a Japanese friend, a professional potter, who, when she achieved a certain age, smashed all her pots. “You reinvent yourself and go on to another life,” says Sussna. “I am focusing my personal brain on certain things in my life and not everything.”
Sussna moved his office of Sussna + Matz Architects PA from 2,850 square feet at the Clifftown Center on Route 206, where he had had as many as 14 employees, to 650 square feet at 20 Nassau Street, where has two to three employees, plus two in New York. His partner, Charles Matz, divides his time between Princeton and New York, and the firm gets some work done offshore.
“This is a lot more than just moving my office,” says Sussna. “I am purifying — working with people that I like, helping people with really important projects, getting them done right — schedules, cost control, esthetics — getting the team to do it to suit the clients. I am having a good time at it. At one time we were up to 14 people, and her, now, we really have 2.5 or 3 people.”
Sussna grew up in Lakewood, where his father was a millworker and then a manufacturer of millwork components, and his mother was a pianist and a painter. The painting part stuck. Under the new schedule, he gets to paint one or two days a week, and he is pretty successful at it, having won entrance to prestigious shows of the New Jersey Society of Watercolors. Two of his paintings were accepted for the juried show, Ellarslie Open XXV, on display at the Trenton City Museum through June. His wife, now retired, was a college administrator in placement and counseling.
A graduate of Cornell, Class of 1961, Sussna has taught at Columbia and the College of New Jersey, is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and belongs to the board of directors at Enable. He has done more than 50 projects for Princeton University, and other clients have included the Lawrenceville School, PNC Bank, Rhone Poulenc, Siemens, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GE, IBM, J&J, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon.
Sussna + Matz is also doing some work for Siemens on College Road, and working on a major project in midtown Manhattan involving the transfer of air rights, a roof-top cogeneration plant, and major renovations to the member spaces. Another current project is the Verbeyst/Record Exchange building on South Tulane Street, which is owned by real estate developer Jeffrey Siegel. Sussna likes rehabbing old buildings even better than designing new ones.
“I think that buildings have a life that goes on and on. In the rest of the world, they don’t tear things down, they get respected over hundreds of years. I travel to Europe to look at those things. I like renovating in the whole sense of the world.”
“My life has changed. I don’t want personally to produce drawings and specs, says Sussna, who refers that business to Matz. “My partner said, ‘Why are you doing all that crap?’”
Now, says Sussna, “I deal with developers, and I also help lawyers and insurance companies unravel problems. Like Clint Eastwood I ride in on a horse, and I am trying to sell brains instead of manpower. In all humility, I figured out that I actually know something.”
Sussna + Matz Architects PA, 20 Nassau Street, Suite 235, Princeton 08542; 609-924-6611; fax, 609-924-5230. Robert Sussna AIA, president. Home page: www.sussna-matz.com