A Conversation with Bill Suk of SUK Design Group LLP

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Adler Windows set down with Bill Suk, founder of SUK Design Group LLP – a multi-discipline architectural firm located in the heart of New York City. Throughout the last twenty one years, SUK Design has developed an impressive portfolio boasting a plethora of complex projects from luxury traditional townhouses to modern commercial renovations. Suk’s passion and drive for architecture never fails to impress, and today we get to give you an exclusive insight.

Adler Windows: Tell us, how did you find your passion for architecture and design? 

Bill Suk: Believe it or not, it was actually accidental. At college I was pre-med and music – the course just didn’t suit me. Music was my love but there was too much competition in the field. My roommate at the time actually suggested a number of architectural classes that I should take. After following his advice I found a new love for architecture and design.

AW: Can you give us an insight into your career journey so far ?

BS: I moved to New York in 1989 and worked for several large firms on numerous large scale projects. In 1996 I decided to start my own firm, in my apartment, with just a drawing board and a computer. It was very difficult and scary to be totally honest with you. I think I always had it in me to be entrepreneurial. I knew I always wanted to be my own boss and pursue projects for myself. My very first project was a hair salon in Staten Island. Fast forward twenty one  years later and we just won first prize in the Suduro KDC. The townhouse also featured on Curbed.com Most Beautiful Townhouses in New York City.

AW: SUK Design is known for specializing in complex projects. What do you consider a complex project and what influence you to specialize in this area?

BS: Trust me, they choose me ha ha. Ultimately, my philosophy is no project is a small project, every project is beautifully complex in its own way. That is why we Architects enjoy what we do, I thrive by killing complex projects such as the Intrepid Museum on the Hudson River.

AW: Describe your architectural style?

BS: I think every project takes on its own style as every client is so different. As a firm, we do not dictate style. I do feel that personally I tend to be more modern, but I also take on a lot of projects that are traditional – we are a very transitional firm. We bring our clients style and perception to life.

AW: Where do you get your inspiration from?

BS: I would say that I get my design inspiration from New York City however, I am also very inspired by my peers within the industry and my clients. Having the opportunity to translate my client’s vision into reality is very inspiring.

AW: Tell us about a project that stands out in your career?

BS: A landmarked Townhouse at 460 West 22nd Street. It was a building with extremely poor conditions so we had to stretch and make the most out of our budget. It was by far the most rewarding project to date as there was so many obstacles to overcome. We also got a lot of referrals from it and in the end it sold for more than $60 million. It was really great for the firm, almost like a turning point for us.

AW: Have you had any particular watershed moments in your career to date?

BS: The work on the Intrepid Museum as we completed several projects there. It gave us the ability to show people that we can handle large projects even though we are a small firm.

AW: What draws you to a project?

BS: The client, one hundred percent – they are the ones who make the projects interesting.

AW: What are the unique challenges Architect’s face working in New York City?

BS: The expenses and the laws. As everyone knows New York is expensive in general, but especially when building. It is also very difficult to build here when it comes down to permits, which are constantly updating.  It can be quite challenging to stay on top of all the rules and regulations in the city.

AW: And the opportunities?

BS: These are boundless, you just have to find them. The people in New York are some of the smartest, most talented and motivated people I have ever met. It is these people who create the opportunities. Although the laws are stringent, New York City does allow for a lot of versatility.

AW: What do you believe to have been the biggest attribute to your success?

BS: Finding and working with amazing clients who have stuck by my side for the last 20 years. Without these amazing people, SUK Design would not have grown into what it is today. Once you lock-down your clients you have to keep them happy and keep them with you – this is the difficult part as there are so many talented people in the City. You must continue to put in the hard work to retain your old clients and to attract new business.

AW: And finally, what advice would you give to a young Architect who is currently trying to make it in the industry?

BS: You won’t survive based on talent alone. As harsh as it sounds, sadly it is the truth. Architecture is a business – my advice would be to establish a network very early on and keep on expanding it. Stay focused and engaged, then you won’t go wrong.