1. How did you two meet and what motivated the decision to found Martinkovic Milford Architects?
Justin: I founded the company in the depth of the 2001 recession. I was 25. I had leads for a couple of projects, and I was just ambitious enough and just naïve enough to strike out on my own. As a fallback, I put aside my last $300 for a flight back to my parent’s house in Connecticut. Fortunately for my parents, it worked out!
Brian and I went to architecture school together at Syracuse University. I always felt our values aligned and our skill sets were complimentary. Brian was working at another San Francisco firm. I told him “when I have enough work, think about coming on board.” I got the work, he came on board and 11 months later we incorporated the company as partners. It’s been 17 years, we’ve never looked back.
We believe architecture is about space, form, texture, materiality, light. We think about those things a lot, but most of all we consider the experience. Ultimately we want the users of our spaces to have extraordinary experiences with and through them, and we craft our spaces to that effect. If we can accomplish that, we’ll have achieved our mission.
2. What’s your process for getting to know a client?
We want to know what is really behind the usual stuff the client is telling us. If we can dig a little deeper into motivations, into the why behind the what, we’ll know how to leverage design to provide the most beneficial impact.
For residential work, we ask “how do you want to live your life? What are your daily routines and rituals? What is really important to you in life?” We believe architecture should support and strengthen what matters most.
In our commercial and healthcare work, we want to provide the very best experience to the end users. We seek out innovative companies to partner with since their ambitions, market differentiation and business plans often require the design to be approached differently. This is where we can push the envelope and advance design thinking. We want to know “What makes you special? What are your customers or patients really buying? What new approach or technology have you brought to the market?” If we know that, we can craft an innovative and exceptional experience.
3. You have offices in San Francisco and New York — what’s unique and distinct about California architecture and design?
The openness and willingness to try new things. There is a culture of innovation that pervades everything. It energizes us and it makes the work a lot of fun.
4. What does it mean to bring a “residential flair to commercial work”?
So much design defaults to the work that’s preceded it, without questioning whether or not these design assumptions are indeed the best solutions for a particular problem.
When we draw inspiration from residential design for our commercial work, we are usually leveraging inherent benefits of that style for the specific problem in front of us. I often find commercial design to be impersonal, and in many of our commercial and healthcare spaces we want to create the opposite experience for our users. Good residential design embodies comfort, familiarity, warmth. It’s personal. And so it’s our inspiration. Welcome. Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?
5. What was the process for designing One Medical’s modern home aesthetic?
We worked closely with the client since inception. This was a new company with a fresh approach to healthcare, it was critical to clearly distinguish the brand from its peers. We wanted to establish that this is a decidedly different type of healthcare provider, that this will be a decidedly different type of healthcare experience. The design is meant to signal that as soon as you enter. It was meant to signal something welcoming, comfortable, friendly, optimistic. From the very first project and since, the feedback from patients was “I thought I was in the wrong space” or “I had no idea this was a doctor’s office.” Considering the status quo in healthcare design, we took that as high praise.
6. Which architects or designers have inspired you?
Justin: I was inspired early on by Frank Lloyd Wright. In college I discovered art and film, and found design inspiration there. Today I’m wowed by design coming out of firms like SHoP and BIG, as well as thinkers in experience design. I love following the world of technology and learning from innovators who flip the script. Some of the most creative people I know are entrepreneurs.
7. Which architects or designers have inspired you?
Brian: Frank Lloyd Wright was my first introduction to architecture before I ever really studied it. As a young teen I knew his homes were special, familiar and approachable.
As I studied him further, i understood the thought and intention behind his choices, which made me truly fall in love with the work. I have a great respect for the modernist masters Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Roe — their work is both beautiful and provocative. However, my tastes gravitate to the warmth and character of the works of Louis Kahn. His buildings are masterful in their sense of proportion, simple use of materials and structure, and manipulation of natural light. When you are in their presence you feel at peace.
8. Which musical album has inspired you most in your life and why?
Justin: Chulahoma by The Black Keys, a tribute to the somewhat obscure blues artist Junior Kimbrough. They are able to convey deep emotion through with two piece band and a very simple sound. Conveying emotion though a medium is the ultimate goal of any true artist. And the guitar kicks ass.
Brian: Music hasn’t been a hugely formative part of my life. I can say that OK Computer by Radiohead is the first album where I really understood that the artist was trying to create a holistic listening experience; not just individual songs. That approach resonated with me because it’s how I approach my designs — threading in a consistent feel that may not otherwise be articulated.
9. Ski or snowboard?
Justin: Snowboarding. Cooler clothing.
Brian: Apres ski
10. Chocolate or vanilla?
Justin: Chocolate, hands down.
Brian: Chocolate, but not if strawberry is on the menu.
11. Action or comedy?
Justin: My new year’s resolution is to have more laughter in my life, so comedy.
Brian: Action, but a great sound system is a must.
12. Oreos or Chips Ahoy?
Justin: Neither. Too processed. Try the Nutella cookie at Proper Food.
Brian: Chips Ahoy. But don’t tell my kids, they love Oreos