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Designs on the Future

Studio One Inc. Puts Architecture to Work for Springfield
Studio One Inc. President Greg Zorzi (left) and Vice President Dan Zorzi.

Studio One Inc. President Greg Zorzi (left) and Vice President Dan Zorzi.

When Greg and Dean Zorzi were teenagers, their father, Peter Zorzi, founder of Studio One Architects and Planners in Springfield, brought them to see an historical home he’d just purchased to renovate.

He explained the importance of the building, its interesting features, and what it would take to make it livable again. Then, he handed his sons sledgehammers and told them to get to work.

Greg Zorzi said this was his and his brother’s informal indoctrination into the field of architecture, and similar scenes played out repeatedly as they matured along with their father’s business.

“The process went on for quite a while,” he said, exchanging a hearty laugh with his brother. “If he was going to work on a project, then we were going to work on it, too.”

Today, that trend of sharing the load continues for the Zorzi brothers, though with different trappings. The siblings serve as president and vice president, respectively, of Studio One Inc., the company their parents started in 1974 and for which their father still works on a part-time basis. It’s a unique situation, because architecture firms aren’t known typically for being family businesses. But its principals, who assumed their new positions two years ago as part of a succession plan that passed the management of the business from one generation to the next, say this has become a core tenet of their “culture” — a word they return to often.

“As kids, we would listen to our father talk about the business at the dinner table every night,” said Greg. “I think it’s those times that made us realize how much of daily life depended on this business, and we never lost that.”

Coming Home

Dean Zorzi joined the firm officially in 1987, and today oversees the creation of construction drawings that are presented for bid and to contractors; he’s also a constant presence at job sites across the region.

Greg joined the firm in 1994 after studying at the Boston Architectural Center (BAC) and interning with one of the city’s largest firms.

“It was interesting to see and experience the culture of other companies,” he said, “but as enamored as I was with the work, the experience also taught me that I didn’t want to run a big office. I’m so glad I had that realization, because it contributed a lot to how our company has evolved.”

Tucked into an historical brick building on Main Street in Springfield’s South End, Studio One has a number of other family-owned businesses as neighbors — Mom and Rico’s, La Fiorentina pastry shop, and the Red Rose Pizzeria, to name a few.

“We’re definitely in keeping with the neighborhood,” said Greg, adding that, like many of those other mom-and-pop shops, Studio One has been a fixture in the South End for several years, taking up residence in the early 1980s when Peter Zorzi purchased and redeveloped several blocks.

From these offices, Studio One has developed a diverse portfolio of work, including historical design and preservation projects and work for municipalities, educational institutions, churches, residential complexes, and senior-living centers, among others. The firm’s work can be seen across Western Mass. as well as in eastern parts of the Commonwealth, including the Cape and Islands, and in Connecticut.

Many projects are recognizable landmarks; Studio One spearheaded renovation efforts at the Austin Dickinson homestead in Amherst, for instance, and the Wilbraham Meetinghouse.

On the more-modern side of things, Studio One has also helped erect some “landmarks in training,” as the brothers call them, such as the Scantic Valley YMCA in Wilbraham, the Sullivan Public Safety Complex on Carew Street in Springfield, and the Edgewood Gardens suite-style dorms at American Inter-national College, also in Springfield.

In addition, Studio One has a particular niche in senior housing; the firm recently designed the conversion of the former Mont Marie convent in Holyoke into a 60,000-square-foot, 50-unit senior-housing complex that is slated to open in the fall, for instance, and a second new development on the campus is also being devised, with Studio One at the helm.

“The style is reflective of the original convent, so it’s a nice mix of three kinds of work we like to do — historical, senior housing, and religious buildings,” said Greg, adding that the project has led to new work in New Britain, Conn., where the Daughters of Mary are planning a similar addition. “It’s interesting how work evolves. Who would think working with the nuns would lead to a new business niche?”

Dean Zorzi added that it’s not merely the interesting sectors Studio One works within that he enjoys, but the fact that its services have become so wide-reaching.

“One thing I really like about what we do is the diversity of the practice,” he said. “We have nicely distributed levels of expertise in different things, and we’ve realized that we can do that without being the biggest firm and going after every job.”

Moving forward, Dean added that Studio One is focused on securing new projects in similar sectors, but also on continued work as ambassadors of the South End, of Springfield in general, and of the profession of architecture.

“We’ve been able to secure a number of smaller jobs in the South End that we feel are really important,” he said, “and that we might not be able to work on if our business model was different.”

Going South

Such local projects are ones that Peter Zorzi will often take on, because they fit his interests in historical preservation and community development. A recent example of this work is the centennial renovation of the Mount Carmel Society building.

“This was something he took on as his project, and the firm was very supportive of it,” said Dean. “It was one more tie-in with the South End for us, and led to other things.”

Indeed, the brothers followed suit in contributing to the health of the South End shortly after the Mount Carmel project, drafting their own master plan for the area.

“No one asked us to do it; we just did it, and now people are referring to it as ‘the Zorzi Plan,’” said Greg, noting that the document discusses several opportunities within the South End for redevelopment. “We’re studying various cross streets and intersections, as well as the Emerson Wright Park and what we can do to make that a more central, usable location.”

The park, the Zorzis explained, is secluded, and therefore poses certain security issues that detract residents from using it. Now working with the Springfield Planning and Economic Development department to draft proposals for the parcel of land, Studio One is finalizing plans to reconfigure the area and make it more visible. “The idea is to get more eyes on the park,” said Greg.

But the firm is also working to get more eyes on the city, as well as its rising workforce. A graduate of Springfield Technical Community College and its associate’s degree program in Architecture, Greg hopes to help create a pipeline from high school to higher education in the field.

“Our profession is still one that requires a lot of training and practice — a lot of hands-on work,” he said. “We talk about the pluses of our work all the time, but we also want to walk the talk and help introduce more young people to the job.”

While the Zorzi brothers may not have plans to hand sledgehammers to their interns any time soon, their interest in exposing a greater number of students to architecture as a profession is a trait they say they both inherited from their parents when the family business was in its early years.

“We’re very fortunate to have the work that we have,” said Greg. “We enjoy it, we appreciate it, and we work to hold onto it.”

The same goes, he said, for their neighborhood and their city.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

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