Also Gone From Hillier

Hillier’s Pipeline

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 29, 2003

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane: Hillier Architects

Five architects who made their careers at Hillier have

opened their own practice on Mapleton Road, in the building that used

to house another architectural practice. The company, called Ikon.5

Architects, consists of Alan Chimacoff, Joseph Tattoni, Arvind Tikku,

Charles Maira, and Richard Holmes, all former leaders of Hillier’s

higher education studio.

Chimacoff, a principal at Hillier, was released by the firm last


after 16 years as being director of design. The other four, all


principals, left Hillier on September 2, and Holmes describes the

parting as pleasant and professional. "On the way out, shaking

our hands, Bob Hillier told us, `If it doesn’t work out, you guys

always have a home here.’ Certainly the experience, the guidance,

and the mentoring we got there is why we are where we are now."

"It was a moment when we were looking for new horizons," says

Holmes. "Everyone has different thresholds for where they are

and where they want to be, and this seemed the moment to do it."

Unlike other areas, college and university building programs are


"It seemed time to take a swing at being our own bosses, charting

our own course, making the choices about the kinds of work we do,

the projects we pursue, and how the resources get allocated in our


The five talents mesh well. Chimacoff is the name-brand designer


for the Princeton Materials and Science Institute on Prospect Street,

and with Tattoni he did the new law school at Rutgers Newark. Tattoni

does a little of everything — design, run teams, win jobs, and

work with clients. Maira focuses on the technical aspects and quality

control and did major work on the new building for the Princeton


Library. "He is a master at interpreting design so that the


can understand what it is," says Holmes. Tikku is the operations

person making sure projects are appropriately staffed and moving


Holmes is an interior designer who concentrates on marketing. All

are married, and between them they have 10 children, of which five

are Maira’s.

Their portfolio includes commissions at 10 universities, including

Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Rutgers. Chimacoff invokes the term

"strong architectural concepts" to describe the team’s work,

saying that each project is rooted meaningfully to its place, informed

by the ideas, values, history, and traditions of the client. "You

might say we create modern buildings based on ancient principles,"

says Chimacoff.

The Hillier studio they left behind has two dozen people working in

Princeton in the area of higher education, about 40 people overall

in the various locations (New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and

Dallas) "Other people have experience and will jump into the


says Holmes. "Both Hillier and our group can take credit for the

buildings that were done while we were at Hillier," says Holmes.

"Bob Hillier has been very kind to say we can use the images on

our website as long as we put up the disclaimer that these projects

were done while we were at Hillier."

Says Hillier: "We are certainly disappointed when anyone has to

depart the firm and the four who have left to go out on their own

have our best wishes for success. As with the dozen or so firms that

have been spawned from Hillier over its 35-year history, we are proud

that their experience here was broad enough in scope to enable them

to go out on their own."

"Our education practice group is busy and continues to win new

projects under the leadership of Managing Principal Phil Dordai,"

says Hillier. Major new commissions include a new campus for a private

school in Pennsylvania, a dormitory for Goucher College in Maryland,

the new business school for Virginia Commonwealth University, a study

for the Fox School of Business at Temple University, Collin College

in Dallas, and major international schools in Dubai, Vienna, and two

locations in China.

At first the new group wasn’t having much luck finding

space that was not just a hum drum office. Then Genuone, a dotcom

at Mapleton Mills, gave its notice. Now Ikon.5 occupies part of the

Genuone space, 2,000 feet in the award-winning rehab design for an

older house, formerly the studio of Ford Farewell Mills and Gatsch

(Short & Ford).

Timing was right, says Holmes. "The projects we were involved

in were coming to stages where we could make a clean break without

harming a project or leaving a client in the lurch," says Holmes.

"The only revenue we have now is the consulting work we are doing

with Hillier to make sure the projects we are working on are well

served and fluidly handed off to Hillier staff. We are continuing

to do that for the next number of months."

Holmes says they look forward "to being able to choose when and

what we pursue. Hopefully we will be able to do that a little more

efficiently. At a big firm, it gets to be a numbers game. You have

to feed the big animal and sometimes it is harder to say no to


a proposal. Hopefully we will be able to choose which projects we

have a chance of winning and have a better hit rate."

The drama of the bidding process is not to be underestimated.


don’t realize that architects might get shortlisted for maybe one

out of 10 projects on which they bid. "Some clients don’t realize

a bid could be a week or two weeks of full-time work for two or three

people," says Holmes. "At Hillier, if we got shortlisted,

we won half of them." A smaller firm can afford to work on smaller

projects, yet this practice can boast of big firm experience.

They also hope to stretch their design wings into other areas. At

Hillier, for example, they were obligated to turn over a university

contract for an office building, museum, or conference center, to

a company specialist. Now Holmes hopes to announce a high-end retail

contract soon.

They chose the name, the Greek word for image, out of sheer


because they needed the name before they could sign a lease or order

phones. Most firms take the names or initials of the principals.


spent days walking through all the references we could come up


says Holmes.

This company has no worries about online colleges eliminating the

need for brick and mortar institutions. "While some think


access will cause the eventual demise of the physical campus, we


that campus environments promote the greatest synergy of understanding

between education, research, and society. And let’s be honest: what

18-year-old doesn’t want to go away to college and get away

from home?"

The five have no administrative assistants. Says Holmes: "We’re

very high on the totem pole, it’s just a very short totem pole."

— Barbara Fox

Ikon.5 Architects, 864 Mapleton Road, Princeton

08540. 609-919-0099; fax, 609-919-0088. Home page:

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Also Gone From Hillier

Another architect who left the Hillier fold, James


left one big company to join another. A 1968 engineering graduate

of Cornell with a master’s degree in architecture from Penn, Greenberg

worked with John Clarke (now with Clarke & Caton) for the City of

Trenton in the late 1970s and had been at Hillier for two decades.

Working in the New York, he was CIO for the national firm and


director for the New York office.

As managing principal of the 60-person Ehrenkrantz Eckstur & Kuhn

(EE&K) Architects, Greenberg will manage projects in New Jersey, New

York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Shanghai. These projects

include master plans for new urban schools and the schools themselves

in Camden, Jersey City, and Newark, and at Rutgers in New Brunswick


Top Of Page
Hillier’s Pipeline

Among the 10 new hires at Hillier are six professionals

based in Princeton:

Jeffrey Willcox, 51, is the new vice president and


director of the Health, Wellness and Lifecare studio, which is based

in Princeton. He is currently expanding Hillier’s successful


practice into the Midwest. He has a business administration/marketing

degree from California State University.

Karen K. Blose, 46, is general counsel, joining Hillier

from the Washington Group International Inc. A graduate of Mount


she went to Duke University School of Law.

George H. Swallow RA, 46, a project architect/lab


in the Science & Technology studio, is working on the UMDNJ Cancer

Center. He has a BA in architecture from the University of Arizona

and an Associate in Architectural Engineering Technology from


Institute of Technology.

Meredith Lynn Bostwick, 24, is Bob Hillier’s architectural

assistant. She has a BS in architecture from Georgia Institute of

Technology and an MA from Princeton University. She has also been

awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for Cultural Arts and Policy


revolutionary campus design in Historical Black Colleges and


Diego del Castillo, an architectural intern in Hillier’s

Science & Technology studio, is working on the Child Health Institute.


is from Lima, Peru, where he went to Universidad Ricardo Palma, and

is finishing his master’s degree at Cornell University.

Marta Emilia Karamuz, an architectural intern in Hillier’s

Health, Wellness and Lifecare studio, is doing a project for the


Center at Princeton. She went to Columbia University and has a


degree from Princeton University.

Founded in 1966, Hillier is New Jersey’s largest architecture

firm and has almost 300 people. In addition to its 200-person


in Princeton, the firm also has offices in Philadelphia; New York;

Washington, D.C., Dallas and Newark. Ranked among the top five largest

architectural firms in the nation, Hillier has worked on projects

in 41 states and 23 foreign countries and has been honored with more

than 250 awards for design excellence.

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