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Architect finds the 'right stuff.' (Bonsignore Brignati and Mazzota P.C. plans expansion abroad)

Armed with a revolutionary product and technique for replicating stone and other surfaces, a New York-based architectural firm is setting it sights on Asia and taking its expertise to China where the company plans to design a number of projects.

The architectural firm of Bonsignore Brignati & Mazzota, P.C., located at 275 Seventh Avenue, recently completed work on a project for the Royal Garden Hotel in Hong Kong.

Richard N. Bonsignore, president of the 27-year-old architectural firm, stated that BBM has decided to expand abroad as the construction industry experiences a slump at home.

Specialists in large-scale corporate planning since 1966, BBM has completed projects in the United States and Canada totalling more than 62 million square-feet. These projects, Bonsignore noted, have ranged from small one-story structures to complex installations as the New York Stock Exchange, and have included hundreds of thousands of square feet of large corporate facilities, as well as many full building restorations and upgrades.

In the three decades, the practice has existed, Bonsignore said, they've never seen worse times for the construction industry than the present. The office has significantly reduced in size from that of the "fat 80's."

Bonsignore stated that BBM partner Rocco Mazzotta recently travelled to Hong Kong to oversee the project at the Royal Garden Hotel where the developers wanted to add a rooftop pool and gardens to the existing structures.

" ... the building was not designed in total to stand the weight," said Bonsignore of the design-build project.

Working closely with the fabricator/sculptor Mario Noto of the New York-based Rocca & Noto Sculpture Studio, who developed a lightweight reinforced fiberglass process to simulate stone, BBM adapted the intricate detailing required for architectural forms in this process for the Royal Garden Hotel project.

"We hooked up with Mario and we worked on the product - he with material and mold and us with the adaptation of materials to actual installed implementations," he said.

The firm first teamed up with Noto for restoration at the Plaza Hotel. A restoration assignment at 2 Rector Street followed. Both projects employed the material extensively in the form of simulated stone and terra cotta.

While the use of this material has been sparse, the contribution of new compounds and "an economy-driven restoration climate" is creating a wide acceptance in this country as well as its demand in construction abroad, Bonsignore said.

The firm continues to fine tune the technique. They are currently doing the restoration of the Dudley Station in Boston for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. There the product is being used to replicate cast iron.

"It's a very, very versatile product," he said.

Bonsignore also said that BBM has a long-standing relationship with Jie Zhou, the company's Asian representative. Zhou, who worked for BBM during the late-80's moved back to his homeland in Bejing from New York and has been markets are opening as China prepares for its independence in 1997. The firm has signed an agreement with Zhou to get first crack at any projects that should require American expertise.

"Everything is anticipating this is going to be another bed of activity as Middle East was in the 70's" he said.

Bonsignore acknowledged that many doubt whether China should be recognized as a trade partner because of the government's civil rights record.

"That's something I'm going to neave to the politicians - the social, moral questions ..." he said, noting that he would make an individual decision on any projects that should come along.

In addition to the value of personal contacts, BBM has been capitalizing on the latest improvements in telecommunications, including a state-of-the-art CADD System (Computer Aided Drafting and Design), which is among the largest and most sophisticated in New York City.

Bonsignore said that BBM first adopted CADD into practice in 1980 and since then has employed the system in many diverse and technically demanding projects, resulting in providing a balance between design innovation and cost/time controls that clients, both national and international, have come to expect.

Over the years, BBM had provided architectural services in the fields of education, the business and merchatile industries, and housing. Listed in Interior Magazine's Top 5 firms, BBM annually supervises the construction of 3 million square feet, worth over $82 million. The Clinton Hill Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was designed by BBM in 1972, creating a children's library with special construction, furniture and equipment to provide ready access to more than 20,000 volumes and magazines.

As principal in charge, Bonsignore's projects at BBM have included Irving Trust Company, Equitable Life Assurance, Johnson & Higgins, Harrington Righter Parsons, NYNEX, New York Telephone, Manufactures Hanover Trust, United Jersey Bank, National Westminster Bank, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

The BBM Staff numbers over 100 professionals, including architects and designers, engineers and computer technicians, and specialists in every area of interior design. Bonsignore noted that the form's service history includes site analysis and lease negotiation; program development, cost analysis, and scheduling; project management; and furniture inventory and space documentation.

According to Bonsignore, BBM's skills in project management, scheduling, and adherence to budgets have controlled costs for the firm's clients. Due to BBM's ability to have each principal intimately involved with each respective commission, Bonsignore added, the project's 'flow' is accelerated and assured to successful completion.

As part of an on-going, multi-million dollar project, BBM has upgraded the elevators, kitchens, air-conditioning systems and 900 guest rooms at The Plaza Hotel, with BBM's restored facade improvement work winning scrupulous Landmark Committee approval.

In the past seven years, BBM has planned and designed seven major trading facilities, including the New York Stock Exchange. The First NYSE trading floor upgrade since 1921 was made frame which was suspended 35 feet below the 75-foot ceiling. As a result, BBM was able to complete the $24 million project without any down time during a period of record breaking trading volume.

Prior to BBM, Bonsignore was employed by Voorhees Walker Foley and Smith, currently Haines Lundberg & Waehler, where he provided architectural services in design and construction for such projects as Bethlehem Steel, Ford Motor Company and Allied Chemical.

A graduate of Pratt Institute, Bonsignore received a BA in architecture in 1957 and obtained his registration as a practicing architect in the State of New York in 1962. In addition to having his certification with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, he is licensed in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Florida.

He was a member of the Westwood, New Jersey Planning Board for 10 years, serving two years as chairman, and has been affiliated with the New Jersey Foundation of Municipal Planners and New Jersey Builders Association. He is director and past president of the Westwood Senior Citizens Housing Corporation, as we;; as the president of the board of directors of Talbot Perkins Childrens Service Agency.
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Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 29, 1993
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