When JZA+D (Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design) opened in 2006, it was just Zinder in a windowless office on Nassau Street. Today the 14-person firm is not a one-man operation but a partnership led by Zinder and interior designer Marlyn Zucosky that has designed buildings from Macao to Carnegie Center.
Zinder and Zucosky have together been given the entrepreneur of the year award by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will hold a leadership awards gala on Wednesday, December 2, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at TPC Jasna Polana. Other winners are innovator of the year Kristopher Grudt of the Princeton National Rowing Association; Al Maghazehe of Capital Health, and Connie Mercer of HomeFront. Tickets are $100. For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.
Zinder grew up on Long Island, where he watched in fascination as the World Trade Center, clad in orange construction scaffolding, rose to take its place in the city skyline. His father, a lawyer and businessman, and his mother, a homemaker, also gave him access to a box of wood and tools. He loved building things at an early age, but his destiny to become an architect was secured in seventh grade when he failed a Spanish class and had to take a technical drawing class instead. After studying architecture at Syracuse and earning a master’s of advanced architectural design from Columbia, Zinder went on to work for Michael Graves and Associates in Princeton.
In 2006 Zinder realized he had reached a crossroads in his career. “I just sort of woke up one morning and I realized that my oldest daughter was 13, and that if I didn’t own a firm by then I would never be able to get it going before she went off to college,” he said. “I had four kids, and this was my last opportunity to open my own firm.” He quit Graves, having no work, but soon found three or four projects to work on.
Zucosky grew up in the town of Stratford in South Jersey, the daughter of a schoolteacher mother and Federal Aviation Administration employee father. She spent most of her childhood with the goal of becoming an X-Ray technician, but a high school job with an upholsterer gave her an understanding of interior design. She lent her skills to a number of architecture firms and then took seven years off to raise children. She forged her own path back into the workforce first by working for a neighbor’s consulting company, then by offering to start an interior design department at Clarke Caton-Hintz, the Barrack Street, Trenton-based firm where she worked for five years.
In 2011 both partners were once again at critical points in their careers. Zucosky was dissatisfied with her profile at CCH. “I really wanted to become visible in a firm, and I didn’t see myself becoming visible there,” she said. At the same time Zinder was asked to do a presentation for a Princeton University class being taught by fellow architect Bob Hillier. A student asked Zinder if he had any regrets, and he replied that if he had to start his business all over again, he would have liked to have a partner to share the burden.
It happened that Zinder and Zucosky were both friends of Hillier, and Hillier told Zucosky to speak with Zinder. That same night, by coincidence, the two met at a Green Building Council event and got talking. “It was a very slow courtship to get to know each other,” Zinder said. Zucosky joined the firm that year and was made a partner in 2013. She is now in charge of interior design projects for JZA+D, which prides itself on its multidisciplinary skills.
The company has worked on high profile international projects, as well as a number of buildings just down the street from its Nassau Street offices. Zinder said the firm’s most visible work is probably the Waku Ghin restaurant in Singapore, owned by famous chef Tetsuya Wakuda and sometimes rated as one of the world’s best eateries.
Zinder says his dream job would be to build a high-rise tower, which they company has yet to do. He has submitted several conceptual plans for various high-rise concepts, including residential towers in Jersey City and Brooklyn. Zucosky, a member of the Arts Council in Princeton, says her dream job is to work on a museum or a performing arts space for the university.
Despite their international projects, Zinder and Zucosky said they are most proud of the work they have done close to home. Their revamped Despana Restaurant on Nassau Street (U.S. 1, August 13, 2013) is highly visible. A little more out of the way but just as satisfying for Zucosky was the design of Arlees Raw Blends, a small juice store also on Nassau.
“Even though they are local, we’ve pushed the envelope on the design because we feel it’s important,” Zinder said.
JZA+D has also worked on the corporate headquarters of FMC, Antares Pharma (U.S. 1, January 15, 2014), and the ill-fated F-Squared Investments in Princeton South Corporate Center (U.S. 1, November 4, 2015), and lobbies at 101 and 506 Carnegie Center.
Zinder and Zucosky said the firm is seeing increasing work on corporate projects as companies renovate older office buildings to suit modern work forces.
“The existing office market is 20 to 25 years old, and no longer keeping current,” Zucosky said. She said landlords and companies alike are designing their offices to appeal to younger workers, and to be more hospitable in an era when workers are expected to stay at the office for longer hours. Break rooms have metastasized from small alcoves to large spaces with large buffet tables.
Zucosky said there is also demand to make offices healthier places to work by designing them to encourage employees to get up and move. For example, she said, she often places copiers and printers out of reach of the people who need to use them, to make them get out of their chairs and walk around more during the day.
Both said that the entrepreneur of the year being presented at Jasna Polana was an honor. Coincidentally, Zinder’s wife, Advah, is a pastry chef at that restaurant. The couple has four children and lives in Princeton. Zucosky, also a Princeton resident, has three children and is divorced.
“I am very flattered to be receiving this award, especially when I looked at the other recipients” Zucosky said. “To get acknowledgement as such a small firm was really special to me.”