Building Business: Hutker Architects’ new Falmouth office
In the first installment of our Building Business series, we take a look at the design inspirations—both architectural and mathematical—behind the new home of Hutker Architects
The experience of entering the town of Falmouth, either from the north via Route 28, or after crossing Vineyard Sound on a ferry, is fresh and new thanks to the impressive new home of Hutker Architects. “It’s the gateway to Falmouth, regardless of which way you approach,” says Mark Hutker, FAIA, the company’s founder and principal. “I like to think this building provides a ‘handshake’ for the town.”
After more than a decade in an impressive building overlooking Falmouth Harbor, the growing business needed a new space. Associate Tom McNeill was enlisted as project manager, a big responsibility for the young architect, who is in his seventh year at the firm. “We experienced client empathy, [since] we were both client and designer,” McNeill says. “One of the invaluable assets of our firm is that we have committed, passionate professionals who are very good at what they do. And everyone has their own perspective and their own way of working. Balancing and acknowledging those strong opinions to create a space that worked for all was probably the biggest challenge.” A challenge that clearly became a success, since the new Falmouth office for Hutker Architects has earned several awards, including two presented at the 2016 Building & Remodeling Industry of Cape Cod (BRICC) Awards in the categories of Best Commercial Project, and a Shooting Star BRICC award for McNeill.
The search for a new space started with sites upon which to build a new structure, as well as existing spaces that could be transformed into the creative backdrop they envisioned. “We wanted a building that identifies our brand, as well as who we are as architects, and represents that in the architecture itself,” says McNeill. After viewing and considering several sites in Falmouth, Hutker learned of an exciting possibility during a casual conversation with a landlord, who suggested the team look at the former Colonial Candle Factory on Palmer Avenue. While the factory had originally been one large open warehouse-styled facility, years of retail use had sectioned the space into what might have been described as a small strip mall. But a site visit with the team uncovered the first happy surprise. Hidden by drop ceiling tiles were massive trusses of long leaf pine that are rumored to have been sourced from a previous structure on Otis Air Force Base in the middle of the 20th century. Suddenly the creative powers of the scouting team—Hutker, McNeill and firm principal, Charles Orr—began to consider the possibilities.
As the project commenced, McNeill tackled the goal of fulfilling the basic needs of the organization that were either lacking or in short supply at their previous office—necessities like parking, storage, a functional kitchen, indoor and outdoor gathering spaces for the staff, and flexible meeting spaces for clients and project groups. Construction by The Valle Group of Falmouth revealed the next happy surprise: uninterrupted oak flooring that ran end to end, the length of the building, despite decades of altering the space for a changing roster of tenants. The well-worn patina, inflicted by years of use when candles were not only being produced but also warehoused and sold to retail customers, provided the ideal color palette to influence the paint and fixture choices, largely chosen by Carla Hutker.
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