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Architect takes global view.

With the scarcity of new large-scale architectural and interior design assignments in the United States, Richard Hayden said he is thankful his firm has the expertise to work outside the United States.

New York-based Swanke Hayden Connell Architects is currently engaged in two major assignments in Caracas, Venezuela. They are also involved in a number of assignments in Eastern and Western Europe with local partners and with the help of their London office.

"We have the capacity to weave our way through the storm," said Hayden, managing principal of the firm. "It is much more pleasant to have the capacity to work around the world rather than sit in New York and twiddle our thumbs. "

In the booming 80's, Swanke Hayden Connell was active in speculative development and interior projects for expanding businesses. The firm grew to 300 members. Today, scaled down to roughly 200 members, the firm is using its skills and experience to cultivate new markets abroad and stay active in this country.

In Caracas, the firm is involved with a local developer in a 2 million-square-foot master plan for Banco Mercantile. Included in the plan is the creation of a 300,000-square-foot financial center on Avenue Unrdaneta in the Central Business District that will be known as Edificio Central. The building will rise from an existing 1950's structure that has been taken down to its "skeleton." In addition to containing state-of-the-art mechanics, the frame will be modified to meet the city's new stringent earthquake codes. As part of the same master plan for Banco Mercantile, Swanke Hayden Connell is also providing consulting design services for the development of a multi-building mixed-use urban complex.

They are also helping Banco Mercantile with designs for a piece of property in Miami, and designs for a representative office they will establish in New York.

"Things are very busy down there as is all of South America," said Hayden. "That's why we're concentrating our guns down there."

In London, - where the firm's office numbers 55 including four Americans, Swanke Hayden Connell was selected to redevelop a 200,000-square-foot office building for Wates City of London Properties/Kowa Fudosan (UK) Ltd. on London Wall in the City.

And in London, the interiors division is working on 600,000 square feet for Coopers Lybrand & Deloite; 300,000 square feet for American Express; and 250,000 square feet for Credit Suisse.

In Berlin, the firm has formed a venture with a firm headed by a German architect that lived and worked in the United States for more than six years.

"We established an office in Berlin three months ago after nine months of research and negogation," said Hayden.

Having a local partner is important, Hayden said, and it is also helpful that the principal is familiar with American customs.

"They all speak English in Germany but they don't all think English," he said.

The venture is developing a design program for a major international oil company, the name of which, Hayden said, could not yet be revealed. Swanke Hayden Connell's London office is also involved in this project. The firm is participating in two other competitions in Berlin.

Hayden said there is a tremendous upsurge in Berlin in interest and demand.

"It's the way it was in 1945 in some cases," said Hayden. "Because it was in the |Red Zone' nothing went on there for years and years."

Many American developers, Hayden said, such as Hines and Tishman, are getting involved in the development of hotels, office buildings and retail.

"All of the major broad-viewed developers are getting involved in putting property together," Hayden said.

Hayden said they are not interested in getting involved in small projects - like 10,000 square feet - in which they would compete with small local firms. They will be looking to get into large-scale work, where, he said "they don't have the experience.

"We bring a very advance technical capacity as well as design prowess, so to speak, compared with what was there," he said.

For the past five years, the firm has been working in Istanbul, Turkey. They are currently involved in five projects, including a twin-tower structure - 28 and 34 stories - for a Akbank, a bank and holding company and a 2 million-square-foot project of three hi-rise towers.

While working overseas presents additional challenges, Hayden said, the firm is well equipped to handle them.

"It's part of our safety net and having a broad view helps us make it through the current recession," he said.

On the Home-Front

Here in the states, the firm's Miami office, in association with Detroit-based Rossetti Associates, has been commissioned by the Metro Dade County Parks and Recreation Department to design a 15,000-seat tennis stadium. Located in Key Biscayne, Florida, the stadium will be the site of the Lipton International Players Championship and will contain 7,500 permanent seats and 7,500 temporary seats.

The Florida office also serves as the contact office for the work in South America.

The firm will be rejuvenating its government work and Joe Spina of Swanke Hayden Connell will be relocating to Washington in the fall to open a government liaison office.

"One of the things you learn in a slowdown period like this is you go back to basics," said Hayden.

The firm is currently designing a 200,000-square-foot processing facility for the Post Office in Maryland. And they are doing a historical buildings report for the General Services Administration.

Back in New York, the firm is relying on its interiors business and renovations and historic restorations. Dutch-born Theodore H.M. Prudon is the principal in charge of the restoration and ADA work. Restoration assignments include a study of the Washington Square Park arch, the restoration of the Trinity Building and the exterior and interior renovation of 111/115 Broadway, the two landmark office towers in Manhattan's financial district.

This month principal Richard A. Carlson, principal-in-charge of Interior Design, will receive a National Historic Preservation Award from the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as a representative of the Statue of Liberty restoration team. The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, restored by Swanke Hayden Connell, will receive a Presidential Historic Preservation Award from the same body.

The are also involved in a $30 million rehabilitation and the addition of a building at P.S. 181 in Brooklyn. And they are upgrading three locations for the YMCA.

"We feel that we are particularly well-suited for that market," he said. "If there is something distinguished about a building, we'll find it."

In New York, the firm's office work today is mainly in what Hayden calls "redo's" - helping 60's and 70's buildings compete in the 90's. They are involved in the massive upgrading of One New York Plaza, a renovation of a building for First Winthrop on Fifth Avenue.

They are also doing interior design work for a number of the firms including a number that have purchased or are going to purchase buildings partly for their own use. Bertelsmann AG has commissioned the firm to do the work on the 600,000 square feet of office space it will use in its recently acquired 1540 Broadway. He said they are also working with two or three other buyer-users that are currently shopping. Many insurance companies, Hayden said, are out to purchase.

"The renovation area and the restoration is on the upswing and the new building is on the downturn," he said. "[Renovation and restoration] is clearly the architect's market from our view."

Competition for the interiors work today is stiff, Hayden said. Many firms are just now trying to get into that sector because of market pressures. And, some firms, he said, are willing to slash their prices.

"More and more people enter the market ..." said Hayden. "We've been beaten out of some jobs by good firms who are taking outrageous fees."

Optimistic View

In the past three months, Hayden said, the firm has become very busy and they are actually starting to see a backlog build.

"We're sitting in an optimistic position that the week before Christmas I wouldn't have been able to give you, he said.

"You roll with the punches and there have been some punches in the past few years," he said.

At the end of 1989, after a most successful year for the firm, Hayden and his fellow principals decided to defer bonuses in anticipation of what they thought would be a slowdown. The slowdown did come and the firm eventually closed its Chicago office and laid off about 100 staffers.

Swanke Hayden Connell is a descendent firm of Walker & Gillette, which was founded in 1906. In 1979, Richard Hayden and Edward Connell joined with Albert Swanke to create Swanke Hayden Connell. Today the principals are Hayden, Connell, Richard Carlson, and Theodore H. M. Prudon.

In its early days, the firm designed homes for New York's aristocracy and some banks. Around World War II, it branched into some commercial work and the 60's and 70's were mostly institutional and restoration. With the help of partner John Peter Barrie, who joined the firm in 1979, the firm entered the world of speculative building and business expansion. Among their design projects were Trump Tower, Americas Tower, the Brooklyn Union Gas Building at MetroTech and interiors for dozens of growing financial concerns and law firms.

"A very large percentage of our work in the 80's could be traced to the financial industry," he said.

Today, Hayden said, the leaner Swanke Hayden Connell sees light at the end of the recessional tunnel.

"Every indication is that it's heading in the other direction," said Hayden. "The question will be how strong it will be and what will be our share."
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Title Annotation:Richard S. Hayden discusses the international work of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:May 20, 1992
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