Firm Profile: Catamount Design

In a world that demands increasing specialization, architecture called out to Alex Korn, AIA as a field where the ability to understand systems and peoples’ needs was required. Architecture requires understanding the whole and creating a built solution to meet a clients needs, using design to integrate a solution. Alex Korn founded Catamount Design as a one-person firm in Berkeley in 1999. This was after working as an architect in Seattle for the previous decade and graduating from the University Oregon in 1989. He came to architecture after undergraduate degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature. He writes:

Over the years we have had to the opportunity to work on a variety of new structures as well as additions and remodels from cabins and camp buildings in Vermont to a straw-bale home in Mendocino, from a nightclub in Oakland to an extension of a 1940s Harwell Hamilton Harris home in the Berkeley Hills. What defines our practice most is the variety of our clients and their needs. I think this reflects in part the diversity of the Bay Area as well as our goal of understanding the needs and tastes of our clients. Good design is about much more than style and we strive to bring it to each of our projects. Most of our work is in Northern California but we have projects across the country.

Our practice has changed and evolved over the years with a mix of residential construction, commercial TIs and small commercial design. Right before the Great Recession we were growing rapidly with mixed- use commercial developments and a number of condominium projects and multiple residential projects on the boards. The commercial projects went the way of the economy leaving us only the residential. Luckily in 2009, we had the opportunity to acquire a building in Berkeley through a commercial client which we developed into a nine unit office building. It now houses our office and a eclectic group of tenants. With the return of the economy we are growing again with multiple residential and commercial projects on the boards and in construction. In 2016 we were awarded accommodation for the rebuild of the 1924 Barret house in Berkeley the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).

For us, architecture is a field where our specialization is to be a “generalist” in the best sense – to understand a wide variety of topics and interests and to bring all those into a coherent project. Space and how we inhabit it effects all those who pass through it. The world today is about specialization, which affects architecture. However, it remains a profession where ideas, design and people can be brought together rather than divide.

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