We are celebrating 50 years! Check out 10 projects from our fourth decade, 1997-2007. View Gallery

Viewpoints

Reflecting Back: Magda Westerhout

April 20th, 2017 by

Marks, Thomas Architects 50th Anniversary

Glens at Guilford groundbreaking.

I came to Baltimore in 1982 for a year and fell in love with the city and stayed. In 1987, I decided I needed a job with a future. Times were good and there was a lot of opportunity for young architects.

I was very involved with AIA Baltimore and knew of Marks Thomas because the founder Paul Marks was the AIA Baltimore president in the early 80’s. I interviewed and told them I was looking for a job with people I liked. The office, then at 2300 North Charles Street, was under construction and the day of my first interview, all twelve members of the firm were drinking beer and wearing shorts. Paul invited me back for a second interview to convince me it was a great job, and invited me to go sailing with the office on the next Friday afternoon. How could I say no?

Charlestown gala, mid 90’s.

The sense of camaraderie I glimpsed that first day only deepened as the firm grew. Firm culture supported my volunteer passions, the Neighborhood Design Center and the local chapter of the AIA. On a personal level,Paul was certainly good at hiring people I liked; Mark Mobley, my future husband, was hired at Marks, Thomas in the same month as myself and we got married 14 months later. The first projects I worked on included our first building for Erickson Living Retirement Community, the Frederick House. We worked with Shelter to design affordable senior housing in Easton and Baltimore. The satisfaction of designing housing to improve people’s lives really resonated with me and I looked for more opportunities to do so.

AIA awards exhibition with Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

Over the years I have been incredibly fortunate to work with wonderful organizations such as Catholic Charities, GEDCO, Bon Secours and Telesis, all of which are committed to improving life for and supporting the residents of the many buildings we have designed for them. The long term relationships I built with friends, colleagues, clients and residents (not to mention my husband) at Marks Thomas, has profoundly impacted my personal and professional life.

Reflecting Back: Faith Nevins-Hawks

April 5th, 2017 by

Marks, Thomas Architects 50th Anniversary

AIA Awards Ceremony, 1995.

Why Marks Thomas?

Twenty Five years ago I was at one of those crossroads in life. Do I move to DC to work for a large architectural firm of separated experts in silos? Do I move to LA to find the boutique design firm that would hire me and pay me enough to live in LA? Or do I stay in Baltimore, my home town, and try to find a suitable opportunity?  I’ve always loved Baltimore, that town that knows it can only get better and where one can be in horse country 20 minutes from downtown.

One day driving north on 83, I noticed an office building of striking proportions. A building that stood out from its un-architectural surroundings. I had to find out who designed it, and since this was before Google, it meant asking architects. I was soon told that it may have been done by Marks Thomas, a firm that had been around for a while but no one seem to know much about the firm. I had to meet them.

Faith at the Northbay Education Center site, 2005.

Paul Marks had such a calm demeanor. He seemed to actually listen to what I had to say and believe in a contextual approach and straightforward style of design. Walking through the studio for the first time, I heard staff working together as well as taking charge. It didn’t take me long to think I could make a career out of such a place.

It was decision I am so glad I made. Marks Thomas gave me the opportunity to develop my design ability, realize my management skills and learn the business of architecture. Now Marks Thomas is a women business enterprise that has won both regional and national design awards, built a reputation for socially conscious work, is known for its adaptive use expertise, yet still maintains that relaxed atmosphere where everyone grows and finds their own path to follow. Today, when I wake in the morning, after walking to the barn to feed the horses and chickens, I head to my office with the Inner Harbor view to work with Marks Thomas Architects designing better communities for Baltimore, my home town.

Faith Nevins-Hawks, AIA, LEED AP

Reflecting Back: Tom Liebel

March 28th, 2017 by

Marks, Thomas Architects 50th Anniversary

Marks, Thomas Christmas Party, 2009.

So, I’m still the new guy.  I’ve been at Marks, Thomas Architects for over ten years now, and still remember clearly why I decided to join the firm.  The partners here are people of integrity and vision, and I wanted to make sure I was joining a firm where trust, respect, and an enthusiasm for design are the basic principles of how we do business.  I was also intrigued about a firm with a substantial history (40 years at that point) that also wanted to look forward and pioneer projects that focused on historic preservation and sustainable design to create better communities, while still maintaining a legacy of superior design and client service.

Tom’s AIA Fellowship celebration.

Looking at our work over the past decade, it is both a logical extension of the previous four decades of work and also an extraordinary expansion on that legacy – taking us into new sectors, new regions and new clients.  Reflecting on this, it really is remarkable to think about where we stand today, and what we are poised to become.

Today, we are building on this five-decade legacy by continuing to welcome into Marks, Thomas great projects, great clients, and great staff that are smart, creative and genuinely fun to work with.  So, every day I get to work with an outstanding group of individuals that are all trying to make the world a better place by improving the built environment. 

That, and free donuts on Wednesdays…

Tom’s AIA Fellowship celebration.

The Future of the Urban Environment

February 23rd, 2017 by

A little over a year ago, I was asked to speak at the Connected Car Expo in L.A. to give my take on what the urban environment of 2050 might look like. Carmakers and affiliated professionals were looking ahead to try to tailor their efforts toward future trends in the urban environment and architecture. It was a bit of a daunting challenge, but I agreed and dove into researching projected demographics, as well as cultural and architectural trends.

I decided to begin my “talk” with some background on environmental sustainability, focusing on two critical elements to the future of our planet: water consumption and CO2 production. I started with a joke: “Why do scuba divers always fall backward out of the boat? Because if they fell forward, they’d still be in the boat.” Seems obvious.

Read more

2016 in Review: The Year’s Best Blog Posts

January 9th, 2017 by

2016 was an exciting time of growth here at Marks, Thomas Architects, building new communities in our hometown of Baltimore while opening a new office in Richmond, VA. And we are even more excited about the coming year, as we achieve a huge milestone for our company — celebrating our 50th anniversary!

Over the past half-century, we have cultivated relationships with some of the area’s most reputable builders, developers, and community leaders through collaboration and leadership. We are proud of the positive impact we’ve had on the lives of those that live and work in the buildings we’ve designed.

Read more

Generations Unite: A New Housing Model

November 22nd, 2016 by

In this time of perceived competition for scarce resources, intergenerational housing may be the solution to cross the generation gap while satisfying shared needs. More retirees are resisting the “Shady Acres” model of senior housing where age restrictions rule and separation from children and young adults is established through a gated community. Intergenerational housing models are becoming more popular and varied, from single-family homes in close-knit communities to roommates sharing a multi-room building.

Read more

Decoration or Distraction: Are Classroom Walls Too Busy?

September 1st, 2016 by

Back-to-school time is here for our local families, teachers, and school facilities! Once classroom spaces are stocked with desks and books for the coming year, teachers in those classrooms set to work to make the spaces lively and unique. As designers and observers of several varying types of classrooms and learning spaces, we have seen that teachers not only gear their decorations to the interests of their students—based on their age, grade, and subject matter—but also to their own personal interests: including quotes from famous cultural and historical figures, favorite sports team and college memorabilia, and popular movie posters, for example.

This NBC News article explores some interesting points on this subject, and asks the question: Do too many decorations in classrooms overstimulate students and distract them from learning? Read more

Marks, Thomas Architects: Some of Our Most Memorable Projects

August 16th, 2016 by

We asked our Associates to choose one of their projects they enjoyed and tell us why. Their answers surprised us. They all agreed it was difficult to choose just one, but beyond that, their top picks were extremely varied—in terms of building type, scale, design phase and, of course, the personal reasons for their selection. Their choices include newly constructed luxury condos, historic spaces that have been repurposed into housing or office and commercial space and new affordable housing communities. They are also widely different in scale—from an entire urban neighborhood to a door detail—and the design phases include initial master planning, construction administration, and all the design phases in between. Read on to get a window into the minds of our highly creative team of Associates.

Read more

Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Architectural Profession

June 9th, 2016 by

According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, more than one third of American workers experience chronic work stress. Architects aren’t firefighters or policeman but architecture professionals rank in the top 10 “burnout” careers in America. Architects often face the pressure of turning out projects under very tight deadlines, while juggling building code, design problems and safety issues. They not only have the pressure to perform, but may feel they sacrifice their personal and family lives for their jobs.

Is achieving better work-life balance the answer? And if so, how can better balance be achieved by the hard-working architect? According to Cristobal Young, sociology professor at Stanford University, it’s not about adding free time to your day.. It is more an issue of coordinating the free time you do have with that of friends and family. Here at Marks, Thomas Architects we work to promote better balance by offering ways in which to be healthy, connected, and creative.

Read more

The Green House Model: Transforming Long Term Care

May 12th, 2016 by

After a fainting episode, 80-something Lawson knew his family was right when they insisted he no longer live alone. But the place he moved to in Baltimore, though technically a nursing home, defies everything we’ve come to associate with the typical nursing home model. Like the other 10 to 12 residents in his “house,” Lawson enjoys a private room and private bathroom, which wraps around a central hearth (Living/Kitchen/Dining). At mealtimes, he can sit down around a large table with other residents and staff members to enjoy conversation and a home-cooked meal. Or if he’d prefer to have a peanut butter sandwich, that’s fine, too. On warm days, he can sit on the screened porch to watch kids play ball on the field across the way, or tend the pots of flowers growing there.

Read more

« Older Entries