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"You forget about intimidation when participating in the male-dominated construction end of architecture. It's about proving your competency."

Building Back After the Recession

"The 2009 recession sent hundreds of U.S. businesses into bankruptcy and millions of workers onto the unemployment rolls, but one Princeton architectural firm weathered the economic slump and has emerged stronger than ever.


“I think that the experience of the downturn has made us both more resilient and creative in our approach to obtaining work,” said Moira McClintock, managing partner in the firm, Ford 3 Architects.


“We were also fortunate to have a focus on preservation and adaptive re-use projects,” she said, noting recent preservation projects at Princeton and Rutgers universities and at the University of Pennsylvania.


Ford 3, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year, had its best year in 2008, when it began to establish itself among the businesses, high-end shops, restaurants and boutiques along Nassau Street in Princeton. But everything changed at the end of that year with the start of the recession.


“Projects went on hold, there was little new work to pursue and what there was was of a much smaller scale,” recalled McClintock. Ford 3 attempted to hold onto staff as long as possible by reducing hours and partner compensation but it had to let some employees go.


But some long-term clients enabled the business to stay afloat during that period and work its way back to the size it had prior to the recession, she said.


Given the significant costs associated with new architectural development, there has been an increased interest in re-use and restoration of existing buildings to modern standards of “sustainability” — an area of expertise for Ford 3.


Ford 3 Architects sprouted from Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch Architects in Princeton, the firm that brought its partners together. Ford 3 was founded in November 2003 when Jeremiah Ford III, a senior partner and experienced architect of over 40 years, approached Quinn Schwenker and McClintock about forming a new partnership.


This small business, now comprised of the three partners, design staff and engineers, totals 10 employees. It offers services in architecture, historic preservation, sustainability, interior design, planning, new construction and adaptive re-use.


The firm says its customers generally come back. “I am proud of our repeat clients,” said McClintock who, since 2006, has taken ownership of the firm and become managing partner. “We offer a high level of service and high-end residential design.”


Prior to joining Ford and Schwenker’s venture, McClintock worked for Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch and was an adjunct professor at New York School of Interior Design in 2002.


She holds a bachelor of architecture degree from Cornell University, and her studies abroad in 1989 to Rome, Spain and Portugal sparked her commitment to historic preservation, she says.


McClintock surprises contractors with her presence on job sites and knowledge of construction issues. That’s because there are fewer women in senior management positions, and people don’t expect to hear her speaking with such a high level of authority and expertise, she says.


“You start to forget about intimidation” when participating in the male-dominated construction end of architecture, she said. “I had one construction foreman tell me, ‘I bet since you’re a woman, you can get these guys to do whatever you want.’ But more than that, it’s about showing and proving your competency.”


Laura Lawson, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Rutgers, said McClintock can hold her own in any business discussion.


“Moira definitely shows her expertise and knowledge, both when we work one-on-one and in groups that include a mix of men and women. I’ve seen her stand up to contractors and stand firm on issues that were important to the project’s intention and quality,” she said.


The two women worked together on the renovation of Blake Hall on the Cook/Douglas campus at Rutgers.


“She understood what our department needed and stayed firm to make sure we got what we expected from the firm’s design work. We are very pleased with the results,” Lawson said.


Besides making money and winning back customers, Ford 3 has succeeded in other ways. In 2006 the Ford 3 partners were named the winners of the Atlantic County Historic Preservation Award for their rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the Richard Stockton College Carnegie Library Center in Atlantic City.


This building was later named one of the top 150 buildings and places in New Jersey by the American Institute of Architects of New Jersey in 2007.


One of Ford 3’s long-term projects includes a campus master plan and ground-up residential buildings for the Tenacre Foundation, a school of Christian Science Nursing in Princeton.


Other current projects include housing in Princeton, Bucks County, Pa., and Nantucket, Mass., a new library on Cape Cod, Mass., and new spaces for Princeton University’s Department of Astrophysics, according to McClintock."


Mulvaney, Nichole. "Princeton Architects weather recession with restoration and re-use." The Trenton Times. 28 April 2013.

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