Architecture, art and music intersect at West Palm Beach firm
March 21, 2017
The Garcia Stromberg and GS4 Studios office in West Palm Beach is part architecture workshop, part art gallery and part garage-band recording studio.
Inside the warehouse at the Vista Business Park in West Palm Beach, the architecture firm has the computers and drafting tables one would expect. It also has walls full of paintings and sketches by partner Peter Stromberg, and musical instruments – including a guitar and a drum kit – that Stromberg plays. He’s a former music student who played in bands throughout college before Garcia gave him his first architecture job after knowing Stromberg’s father as a golf buddy.
It’s not just for fun. Garcia Stromberg produces virtual videos with music for its clients to promote their projects. Many architecture firms outsource those videos. Garcia Stromberg added an interior design practice, so Stromberg’s artwork has been used in his clients’ buildings.
“We do artwork for almost every project we do,” CEO and partner Jorge H. Garcia said. “Interiors used to be a support mechanism, and six years ago it become much bigger. We’re doing the interiors for two hotels that we aren’t the designers for.”
The firm has been tapped for major projects in recent years, including the Gale Boutique Hotel and Residences in Fort Lauderdale, the One Thousand Ocean condo in Boca Raton, the Akoya condo in Boca Raton, the Westin Grand Cayman, the Bahia Cabana condo and hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and the 3550 South Ocean condo in South Palm Beach.
Garcia Stromberg ranked 22nd on the Business Journal’s list of largest architecture firms in South Florida, with $4.59 million in gross billings in 2015, up from $3.2 million the year before. It has 34 employees – and Garcia would like to build a new facility for his growing firm.
Reaching that level was a long journey.
The firm has been on a roller coaster of a ride since its 1987 founding. It survived a falling out with previous partners and the painful recession in the 2000s. Garcia and Stromberg both filed personal bankruptcy in 2009 amid significant business-related debts.
Garcia Stromberg shrank to six people during the recession. One of its makeshift offices was in a garage in Stuart on land where the firm had previously hoped to build an office. Stromberg decorated the garage with old airplane parts that were thrown out by a nearby aviation facility and, when he didn’t have enough work to do, picked up painting. While he was painting, scorpions would fall from the garage’s ceiling trusses, he said.
There were days when they had no work, Garcia said, so instead of sitting in the office and sulking, they’d go to the steakhouse and have a drink.
“We came back because of our reputation,” Stromberg said.
The big jobs started coming when Garcia Stromberg looked south to Latin America. Garcia met developer Federico Salazar and traveled with him to Panama to build high-rises. Soon enough, Garcia Stromberg was landing clients in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. That allowed the firm to find clients in South Florida once development picked up again.
Garcia said his firm utilizes 3-D computer renderings to help land buyers understand what they could build on a property, present plans to municipalities, and market projects. Stromberg showed a video of a project in the Bahamas that goes inside a virtual house so a potential buyer could see what the ocean view from the living room would look like.
“Many architecture firms operate in linear fashion. We have no rules of the game,” Garcia said. “We have a spherical approach. One day it might be cost, or environmental or functionality. We don’t subscribe to the form-follows-function method.”
A lot of the work is in the chemistry of the longtime partners. One time, Garcia was on his way to Miami International Airport for a flight to Panama to make a presentation, but he didn’t have the project well designed. He called up Stromberg, who started sketching as they talked. By the time Garcia arrived in Panama, the presentation was ready and printed out at his client’s office. He said the first time he saw the plans for the building was when he made the presentation.
Those plans became a high-rise in Costa del Este, Panama.
“Our opinions are sometimes identical and our opinions are sometimes so opposed,” Garcia said. “And sometimes when they are so opposed, the best product surfaces.”
“The designs were better when people disagree,” Stromberg added.
Original Article on South Florida Business Journal here