“The principles of good design are timeless”: Tenée R. Casaccio from JMZ researches building and planning today

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“The principles of good design are timeless”: Tenée R. Casaccio from JMZ researches building and planning today

JMZ Architects is a company that realizes both long-term visions and local spatial needs. With a background in planning and architecture, they are a women-run company that creates campuses and new structures alike. Starting from a single office of 23 employees in Glens Falls, New York, they focused solely on architecture and planning for higher education institutions, mostly public colleges and universities, and government higher education systems.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners+ 11

JMZ was founded over four decades ago by the now retired architect Robert Joy and continues to look to the future. Recognizing their roots and culture, their work is based on the idea that “joy is at the heart of what you do”. They have now reached the 100th milestone for campus customers and have completed several LEED-certified projects. In the following interview, JMZ President Tenée R. Casaccio, AIA, explores the future of design and construction.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

Why did you decide to study architecture?

When I was young I was fascinated by archeology; I loved the idea of ​​searching for answers to the mysteries of history. Later in high school, I wrote a thesis on Gothic cathedrals and was fascinated by the way these tall, beautifully proportioned buildings were built. After that it was all over! I am so fortunate to have a career as an architect now that fulfills my earliest interests in history, discovery, structure and beauty.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

Can you tell us a bit about JMZ and the beginnings of the company?

JMZ Architects and Planners, PC is a 24-person, fully integrated planning and design firm that focuses exclusively on higher education. We have helped more than 100 colleges and universities achieve their goals through thoughtful campus planning, strategic use of space, and creative facility design. We are also a nationally certified, women-run company.

The company was founded in 1977 by architect Robert Joy as a sole proprietorship and has grown to become the fifth largest company in the NY Capital Region (by revenue). Bob created a family-friendly environment and fun-loving culture long before it got there.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

They have a wide range of experience in dealing with questions of higher education through planning and design. Can you tell how your work has developed over time?

Our campus planning used to be more conceptual, but with an increased focus on accountability and data-driven decision-making in higher education, most institutions expect a comprehensive analysis of their current space usage and the justification of their future space needs. We have developed internal skills for this; It really matters to our clients when we can say that licensed architects analyze their spaces and translate their real needs into capital projects.

A large proportion of the institutions we work with on planning assignments commission us to implement the resulting projects. Our practice has evolved to allow greater collaboration with other architects in designing these projects. This allowed us to grow in an interesting way. We always enjoy sharing our higher education expertise and seeing how other companies approach design. Our growing partner network keeps bringing us new customers and new opportunities. Geographically, we have now practiced in 13 states.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

What projects have you been working on lately?

At the height of the pandemic, we put the finishing touches to a system-wide study of the use of STEM academic space, capacity and future needs at 15 universities in the University of North Carolina system. This is planning at its finest on a macro level. We want other university systems to strategize what they need and where they need it, like the UNC system has done.

We’re working with another South Carolina architectural firm to design a large building for the arts and health sciences at Greenville Technical College. Closer to home, we are planning to renovate the Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo. We have just started a relationship with West Point that will further diversify our portfolio in the college market.

And we recently learned that we were selected to create an athletics master plan for Dartmouth!

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

In the face of climate change, technology and construction, how do you think architects and designers will adapt the way they work to transform their profession?

With technology, we’ve all found that we can be productive remotely and that it doesn’t matter where your office is. I think that if we did that exclusively, something would be lost, but staying open to hybrid and flexible working time models could keep more women in our job and enable us to increase the diversity of our employees. That – in itself – could change our profession.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming to think of everything that is in design and construction these days – sustainability, accessibility, energy and building regulations, new technologies, safety – and then I remember: It’s just good design. Talented architects have been balancing program, budget, location, codes, costs and buildability for centuries. The way we do this is evolving, but the basic principles of good design are timeless.

© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners
© David Lamb Photography, Courtesy JMZ Architects and Planners

When you look to the future, are there any ideas that you think should be central to the minds of architects and designers?

Architects and designers are communicators by nature. The tools we communicate with have never been as powerful and accessible as they are now, but it’s up to us to choose the right tool for the job. There are certainly times when we pull out all the stops and have to be technologically “fast” in communicating our ideas. However, when you pick up the phone and have a conversation with a client that we really listen to, a relationship can develop that lasts well beyond the initial project.





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