Design, art, and architecture are central to Suzanne Zahr's firm. Keith Imper, from the local arts organization Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA), sat down with Suzanne to talk about her Architect-led Design-Build firm, and they discussed several key aspects about this intersection of disciplines.
Since her business has a front-end art gallery, Suzanne is able to bring in inspiring artists every other month. "It's fun to have a foot in the art world," she shares, and it's fun for the community, too -- SZ Gallery is one of the spots for the First Friday Art & Wine on Mercer Island.
Keith asked more about the unique approach that an Architect-led Design-Build firm can provide to projects. "Design integrity is first and foremost," Suzanne explains. "The value engineering, the problem solving, and the actual technicality of building is always in support of the design."
But how does this benefit the client? "If we're doing our jobs well, it will create this seamless experience for our clients, making it more cost-effective, too," Suzanne explains.
Keith also complimented her team as a whole, to which Suzanne shared more about SZ Build's construction manager, Ed Bom. "We have lofty ambitions as architects, and Ed keeps us honest and buildable," Suzanne shares. "Something I learned from my corporate experience is that agility is so important. Here, we have very quick turnarounds, we're fleet-footed, and we do our best to be very agile. [With our clients,] we embrace any ambiguity, but with a certain faith that… we’ll figure it out together."
When asked about what her dream project looks like, Suzanne laughed when she replied, "My own house!" But she went on to say that, "What's interesting is that every client is unique, and every property is different. [As long as] we can see eye-to-eye with our clients, and they understand that our methodology is a little different, [then we hope that] they're looking for the benefits that we hope to offer."
Suzanne also discussed her views about the arts on Mercer Island. “There is immense potential that’s been realized in the two years [SZ Gallery has] been here. Our Island is so central as it is, and the Town Center itself is starting to become more robust, too. There’s a vibrancy that happens [with growth], and art is a great way to have a creative dialogue during a time of growth.”
The First Friday Art Walk, which she helped revive on Mercer Island, can also be seen as a way to support local businesses, too, in addition to sharing artistic talent on the Island. In terms of bringing even more of the arts to the Island, Suzanne states, “I’m in full support of whatever that looks like, whatever that means, and if there’s an opportunity to contribute to that dialogue, I’m there.”