2 min read October 2021 — Strada is a cross-disciplinary design firm that collaborates to create places that people truly enjoy. In an interview with Invest:, Founding Principal Alan Cuteri discussed what makes Pittsburgh and Strada unique, shifts in demand, the current state of education, sustainability and the potential for adaptive reuse.
What differentiates Pittsburgh from other markets?
Pittsburgh has a rich history emerging from the industrial heart of America to a culture of Medicine, Education, Technology and Robotics. Pittsburgh has a rich and deep philanthropic heritage from its industrial past which fosters the arts and humanity of the region.
The new $6 billion Shell cracker plant has had a major impact on the region’s economy, while urban core and city neighborhood redevelopment has blossomed throughout Pittsburgh. There is a wonderful mix of new construction, adaptive reuse, and community development happening everywhere in Allegheny County.
Pittsburgh has been called the melting pot because of the rich ethnic diversity due to immigration from all over the world partaking in the industrial revolution. Many of the ethnic neighborhoods remain intact and we celebrate this unique culture by embracing these communities and their cultures.
What differentiates Strada from some of the other players in this market?
We founded Strada 21 years ago to create a cross-disciplinary design firm that would elevate the design process to create amazing spaces and places and have fun doing it. We have architects, landscape architects, interior designers, graphic designers, exhibit designers and technical specialists in construction, business strategy and marketing.
We focus on our clients and their culture so we can help them discover more about themselves which translates into predicting what is next for them and their people. We then deliver amazing design solutions to support their culture and vision. We also design in a diverse market of hospitality, higher education, urban design, corporate office, and adaptive reuse. We have many new and renovated buildings throughout the region. With offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Chapel Hill NC, we work as a one firm design team, leveraging our talents from each location to be available for any project, in any place we serve our client’s. Pittsburgh is a convenient location to facilitate work allowing us to have projects in 18 states.
How were your services affected by the pandemic?
We were fortunate because just before the pandemic we completed a three-year plan to move all our team members to laptops and move our servers to the cloud fulfilling our plan for a more flexible and nimble workforce. We literally completed a project management boot camp the day the pandemic shut down the office. So, our team members grabbed their laptops and went home for what we thought would be a few weeks. Despite the challenges, we kept moving forward, relying on technology and communication to maintain the office culture using video conferencing for collaboration and social connectivity. Strada team members were amazing during the pandemic, we did not miss a beat and continued working efficiently and effectively for our clients. We ended 2020 with slightly more revenue, all due to the resourcefulness and effort of our team members.
Where does education stand today?
Education has taken a body blow from the pandemic. Community Colleges and remote educational programs did better while residential universities had significant setbacks and K-12 education suffered greatly but created a mindset of resiliency. The Universities are making a strong resurgence, we are seeing many more opportunities. Although the higher education community is rebounding from the pandemic, in a few short years it will have another major challenge due to the drop in college age population. Pittsburgh has many fantastic K-12 public schools as well as private ones.
There will always be a need for the college experience, to socialize and learn through conversation, research dialogue, socialization, and active learning. This level of intellectual growth is vital to our economic engine in Pittsburgh and will continue to be a major influencer.
What are some of the most innovative ways you are adapting sustainability into your projects?
We constantly strive to make all our projects sustainable. We are working to update our full interiors library to categorize products and materials that are sustainable. We have completed over 18 projects, LEED gold, silver, and platinum. We are researching ways to integrate the best practices from LEED, WELL Buildings, GREEN GLOBES, NET Zero and other sustainable thought leader organizations.
What is the potential for adaptive reuse in Pittsburgh?
There have been tremendous adaptive reuse opportunities in Pittsburgh, and there are still many more. The city has a robust architectural and industrial history which provides a wealth of built fabric for reuse. We have industrial sites and warehouses that are great for repurposing, and many have been converted into housing, filming studios, office facilities, robotics, and fabrication facilities etc.
What is your outlook for the architectural construction industry for the next three to five years?
My outlook is very strong. We’re seeing an influx of young professionals coming into the market; because we offer everything a major city offers, world class museums, medical centers, educational institutions and three major sports teams. Those attributes combined with an affordable cost of living, small city intimacy, a strong work ethic and strong communities, makes Pittsburgh a very desirable location for business as well as living. There’s a lot of drive here and it has attracted major technology companies like Google and Uber. There’s a great future ahead for architecture and construction here in the Pittsburgh Region.
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