Features

Garrick Jones '94 and The Making of Ten to One Studio

Making

In April, writer Mackenzie Goldberg went behind the scenes with Ten to One studio founder Garrick Jones ’94. They discussed how he’s building his business with his values front and center. This piece was originally published, unedited, on Archinect. It has been excerpted and reprinted with permission.

Four people on the team two women and two men
TEAM Garrick Jones (Center) | Garrick Houston | Graciela Hodgson | Sharvari Mhatre (and Sylvia Choi not pictured) AWARDS 2018 A|N Best of Design Awards Unbuilt Cultural Category Winner and Unbuilt Educational Category Honorable Mention 2018 Architizer A+

In only six years, Ten to One Architectural Design Studio has built up an impressively high volume of projects, many of which are offered up as pro bono services. Working across a diverse range of budgets, scales, and types, the New York–based firm is motivated by a commitment to public architecture and bringing design equity to underserved communities—an aim that was further codified after the 2016 election, the firm’s founder Garrick Jones says. While providing free architectural services can be tough, especially for a small firm, the benefits are worthwhile. We talk with Jones about how he and his team of four manage to make it work.

In just six years since starting the firm, Ten to One has worked on 91 projects. Can you talk about how you have built up such a large portfolio over such a short amount of time?

First, one of our primary goals is to widen the audience of architecture, particularly bringing design equity to underserved communities. Second, Ten to One is a business with mouths to feed and no silver spoons. We meld these two drivers into a business model that necessitates a high volume of projects across a diverse range of project budgets, scales, and types.

Design equity for us is a force for positive change that encourages better design and is good for business. Design equity opens the studio to a wider audience, stakeholders, team members, influences, greater empathy, and new theoretical and formal frameworks. More than just a large portfolio, we also benefit from a diverse portfolio, rapid cross-fertilization, and gestation of ideas across projects, which allows employees to quickly sharpen their teeth.

The greater Brooklyn community, where we work and live, has provided us with a relatively broad clientele and spectrum of work. Our projects thus far range from small private apartments to big grass roots urban designs, with the farthest ends of the spectrum attending mostly to our business model. We manage the office and relationships with clients, contractors and consultants such that fees and services are scalable depending on project budget and scope. We therefore take on small and large low-fee or pro bono projects as positive drivers in our business model.

Why is pro bono work important to the firm and how do you incorporate that into your business
model?


Pro bono is a necessary means by which we can deliver on our goal of design equity, and to expand our work beyond that which is most easily prescribed. We have a studio policy to invest a minimum of 10 percent—we are currently at 15 percent, on average—of our resources to equitable civic engagement, sustainability, and pro bono projects. Our studio has always worked pro bono, although I codified the policy and others in the studio’s mission after the 2016 election.

I manage the business like Robin Hood; 100 percent of our assets come from one set of our clients, while
we only spend 85 percent of our time on their projects. We invest the other 15 percent on pro bono projects. I hope our clients don’t read this. Just kidding. Counter-intuitively, this is a good business model that our clients appreciate and benefit from. Clients are rewarded as co-contributors in social investment, as well as being brought value to their projects from the research and development made through this wider range of work. Our studio also benefits from the R&D and garners a more diverse portfolio of projects we desire to work on.

As mentioned, you work across an array of project types, in terms of both scale and discipline. What does “building” mean for you right now?

Building means everything, nothing, and another thing. We have 46 built projects, 11 currently in construction, 12 in progress, and 22 designs completed. We desire to have all projects built, but it is also important for us to work on projects that might not be built—even though it should be built. Building can also be thought of as a long-term endeavor, like the building of a better city or social network, like a longer-term conversation of what gets built. We work on speculative projects. We do not typically work on competitions unless they are in line with our studio’s goals and fit within our business model. Some of our speculative projects are future phases of private residential projects, to be built over a protracted expanse of time and financing. Others are developed with clients, often nonprofits and other community
organizations, first as conceptual visualization to help project development, community support, and capital investment. So far we have had a library/workshop in Philadelphia and soon should have the first phase of a public school interior in East Flatbush Brooklyn built in part with fundraising and approvals aided by our design visualization. Our Community Innovation Campus in Bed Stuy Brooklyn slowly inches toward realization with each stakeholder and financier meeting. Another of our speculative projects is a bath house/event space sited under an elevated rail line that is heated and cooled by latent geothermal energy from the sewer system with electric power from a solar canopy above the rail line.
This project will not get built, but perhaps someday some such project will.

How do you help foster an inclusive work environment both in terms of how you recruit new employees, but also in regard to making sure everyone is supported once they are part of the team?

We have a hiring policy to have a majority of employees be women, minority, or LGBTQ—we have always been at 100 percent (excluding me). This is another positive driver to our business model as our employees come with a superior overall skill set for our studio’s goals. I tell employees when they start that they can have as much as they prove they can take on, from design to management. Licensure is supported financially. If employees wish for an equity stake in Ten to One, they can have it if set goals are met. While we have happily had key employees stay through much of our six years, it is also a re-invigorating testament to our studio’s spirit of empowerment that many have gone on to start their own studios, namely JengCHoi, HDS, Sizl Studio, and Braasch Architecture.

You are a Certified B Corporation, which recognizes businesses for building a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Why was this certification important for you to obtain?

The 2016 election was an impetus for me to make the studio a more vocal and visible force for social progress. Initially I saw B Corp certification as a marketing tool. The B Corp certification process is wide ranging and extremely rigorous, and through this process, I realized it could also be a tool for better business management and visioning. Through the process I was made to enact all sorts of standards such as financial transparency, employee review, and growth, minimizing the carbon footprint of our studio and our projects—and there is plenty more to improve upon.

Where do you see the firm in five years?

We will continue to work on the timeless puzzle of urban domesticity, at a variety of scales. We steadfastly push toward bringing our civic work to fruition, so we hope to be building equitable institutional projects and having this be a revenue-generating mainstay of the studio. We will then develop our next wave of pro bono strategic development projects, finding design opportunities on new civic and sustainability fronts. Our “future” projects are urban natures, habitable domestic and civic infrastructures that are actors in the urban environment. Our Bathysphere and Mulletowning projects best represent this next frontier. They posit wild social frameworks: Bath houses, adventure way stations, off-roading, street parties, and micro-ownership stakes. They occupy previously unoccupied sites over streets and waterways and under elevated trains, stitch urban voids, and create renewable energy networks from sewage systems and the elements.

To view a full gallery of Ten to One projects, visit tenonearch.com.

BEDFORD STUYVESANT COMMUNITY INNOVATION CAMPUS
BED STUY BROOKLYN

Commissioned by local community and nonprofit school leaders, the Bedford Stuyvesant Community Innovation Campus (CIC) multiplies x 2 the development potential of the full block site with a hybrid park and full build-out development; a holistic mixed-use complex traversable as a park. Pieces of the hybrid landscape are unearthed, sheared open to provide light and view, and sloped up and down to provide access from street to roof and throughout the campus. The myriad of programs—including pre-K–12 schools, teacher and student housing, community centers, recreation spaces, retail, and office—are staged along continuous promenades, breakout ramps, parks, atriums, and commons. The roof “park,” recreation and event spaces and community programming on top of and below the complex are accessible by stepped promenades from the street. Commercial and office spaces line promenades and commons. School programming is accessible by ramps winding around interior atriums. CIC, inspired by the socio-economic successes of university and college campuses as well as such projects as the Teachers Village in Newark, NJ, encapsulates a holistic community vitalization strategy that will achieve three important aims: 1) draw in much-needed resources such as jobs, affordable housing, innovative schools, and all the proposed CIC programs; 2) support the ongoing residence and increase vitality of the historic resident communities; and 3) maximize and catalyze existing assets such as cultural capital, thought leadership, and underutilized real estate. CIC includes three community schools grades K to 12; community and cultural centers; affordable mixed-income, teacher and student housing; retail and makers-market space; co-working and nonprofit space; multilevel indoor and outdoor recreation spaces; rooftop urban farms and solar energy canopies. The project has a total gross site area of 100,000 square feet; total gross floor area is 900,000 square feet; total school area 160,000 square feet; total residential area 360,000 square feet; total dormitory area 135,000 square feet; total retail area 50,000 square feet; total community center area 160,000 square feet; total co-work area 40,000 square feet; total parking area 60,000 square feet; and 90,000 square feet of open recreational space and urban farming.