My Soapbox: Kurt Platte, OTR architect and designer

Because of his extensive work in the neighborhood, local architect Kurt Platte could be considered the architect of the "new Over-the-Rhine." His eponymous firm, Platte Architecture + Design, is located in the heart of OTR just blocks away from many of the projects he's completed over the last decade.

Platte's most recent work includes The Anchor at Washington Park and Over-the-Rhine's fashionable menswear retailer Article. He's also working on the development of Broadway Square in Pendleton, a $20 million renovation of 15 historic buildings into a mixed use development that includes 70 apartments.

Soapbox checked in with him to find out more about his work and what drew him to Over-the-Rhine.

How long has Platte Architecture + Design been active in Cincinnati?
I started the firm as a one man shop out of my basement in 2002, and Cincinnati has always been our primary market.

Many of your clients are located in Over-the-Rhine, and your firm has been credited with designing the new OTR. How would you describe OTR's new face? What is the difference between your new OTR and the historic OTR?
That's incredibly generous. There are a lot of great firms doing beautiful work down here. There is a really fresh and progressive energy driving a lot of the people that are active here. It doesn't matter the age, race, ethnicity, or socio/economic background. The energy is tangible. The goal of our design work is to respect the history and story of the area and its structures while lacing it with a crisp, clean edge.

Your office is at 1404 Race Street—how long have you been there, and why did you choose that location?
We've been here for three years now. We actually designed the building we're in (Saengerhalle) for NorthPointe. When the project was wrapping up we found ourselves outgrowing our old office. Our space just felt like a natural fit for the environment we wanted to create. You also couldn't deny all of the energy and excitement down here, and we wanted to be a part of it.

Could you tell us about your history as an architect? What led you to that career?
My path to this career really started in high school with my love of sculpture. After I saw the Guggenheim in New York when I was 18, I was all in.

How many employees do you have? How many projects are currently open?
We have nine team members now and currently have 32 open projects that range in size.

What's the most difficult aspect of your job?
Managing expectations has always been the greatest challenge. It's a constant battle.
How do you manage clients' expectations? 
Regular communication, never shying away from difficult conversations, intentionally discussing budget and unsettled design decisions.

How do you manage your own expectations?
Always being clear that we are here to serve the client, not make a statement. Reminding ourselves that we actually get paid to pursue our dreams.

If you could give advice to a fledgling artist in this city, what would you say?
Explore your interests, find what you're most passionate about, and pursue it intentionally. And don't be afraid to reach out to others. You'd be surprised by how many people want to see you succeed.

Interview by Sean M. Peters
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