Interview with Architect Bob Fox, Fox Architects,Philadelphia
What’s the most exciting project you’ve done lately?
The new Mills Corporation headquarters at Chevy Chase Center, next to Clyde’s in Bethesda. We started working on it five years ago with a 70,000 square foot requirement. Over time the project expanded greatly because of Mills’ rapid growth and became 200,000 square feet. The building was meant to be an embodiment of their transition from the original Potomac Mills concept to higher-end regional malls, which took on higher end finishes. The headquarters was supposed to reflect that. So we designed with materials that would evoke higher end, such as a two-story high space with stone walls, skylight, and monumental stair. We designed walls specifically to depict the impressive history of Mills, and created wonderful executive space from conference rooms to a rooftop patio. Unfortunately, because of Mills’ financial troubles, much of this is not actually being built, and Mills will occupy three floors instead of eight, and the remaining floors will be subleased.
What have been the challenges of going out on your own?
The biggest challenge is to stay on top of all the various aspects of running a business, from trying to be as responsive as possible to our clients to internally maintaining a work environment where our most valuable resource, our staff, can thrive. I’ve found that things have really changed professionally when it comes to architecture. We were still using drafting boards when I first started out. Today, we don’t have a single drafting board in the office; everything we do is on a computer. Technology is one of our top three items of expense – people being first, and then there’s office space.
How do you go about getting a job like that?
It’s really through the time and effort we’ve put forth to develop relationships over time and by working with key individuals on certain projects. We’re in a very relationship-driven business. I think any professional service comes down to the relationships, how you work with and treat people. There is a certain expectation people are going to have in terms of the level and quality of work, and a firm’s responsiveness – all of which I think are very good. We’ve tried to build a reputation based on that kind of service.