JN+A on How to Make Good Architecture Great

Discover what JN+A looks for when it comes to building-product specification.

Jennifer Geleff Jennifer Geleff

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Founded in 1989, JN+A was started by Jonathan Nehmer who was driven by a simple yet lofty goal: become the world’s leading firm in hospitality design. For nearly 30 years since, the firm has continually embraced innovation and leading design principles, working on a variety of project types including hotels, resorts, conference centers, restaurants, educational facilities and more; each project contributes to an impressive portfolio that asserts their indisputable strength in the industry.

Embassy Row Hotel by JN+A, Washington, DC

So what’s the secret? According to the firm, it’s all about honing a strong spirit of cooperation and collaboration — between the project team, design consultants, client, contractor and the end user. This challenging process of interdisciplinary communication is made that much more feasible with Architizer, which strives to connect the various stakeholders that are sometimes left disconnected.

To break down this process and understand what JN+A looks for when it comes to creating phenomenal architecture, Architizer spoke with Architectural Designer Sam Forman, RA, LEED® AP (BD+C). According to Forman, “Architizer has the potential to make good projects great.”

Hotel Zero Degrees by JN+A, Danbury, CT

Some of the firm’s recent projects include Hotel Zero Degrees in Danbury, Connecticut, where JN+A created the third property for the boutique hotel brand featuring 114 guest rooms and a 100-seat restaurant, as well as the Crowne Plaza Dulles in Herndon, Virginia, where the firm completed redesigned and renovated the site’s public space and guest rooms.

The project that Forman is most excited about and one that so strongly represents the firm’s ethos of connectivity, however, is The Black Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut. “The ownership group, RMS Companies, also acts as the General Contractor on the job, which creates a really fluid working dynamic,” said Forman. “It’s always great to work with a team that strives to create the best cohesive project possible and has the ability to make that happen.


Crowne Plaza Dulles by JN+A; Image via JN+A

Lately, JN+A has been using Architizer to search for and reach out to material vendors, in order to overcome certain obstacles that are often inevitable throughout specification. During the material selection phase, “The most important thing is whether or not the product solves the problem or achieves the goal that you need it to. Whether it is purely aesthetic of more focused on the budget, there is always a final determining factor that indicates which product is best,” said Forman.


Marriott Hotel Brooklyn by JN+A; Image via JN+A

Often times, “the toughest thing during the specification process is making sure that you are thinking about all of the outlying factors that may be affected by your selection.” For example, “Does the rainscreen system require a proprietary installation mechanism? Does the paver require additional structural support, which may then double the price? The difficult thing is to know all of this up front before putting a solid specification out.”

Historically, when material selection was pursued through online face-value searches or in person at large conventions, it was harder to factor in all these considerations at once. Fortunately, “Architizer removes the cat-and-mouse game of product selection. Designers no longer have to sift through the general internet or rifle through every product catalog. Architizer provides a one-stop shop for all of the products and allows the specifier to make selections without wasting time.”


Hyatt Regency Hotel by JN+A; Image via JN+A

Ultimately, a tool like Architizer allows architects and designers to better ensure that the end product lines up with the original design intent.

In the future, it is undeniably important that building product manufacturers continue expanding their commitment to sustainability and global responsibility while closer collaboration emerges between architects and manufacturers. But beyond that, Forman also believes that “manufacturers should care more about longevity than they currently do. If there were more progressive products that owners and architects could trust today,” just as they have trusted brick for hundreds of years, the industry could become a much more forward-thinking force.

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