Exclusive Interview with Ms. Serda Urganciyan, Partner-CEO at Studio 88 Architecture

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2024-05-02 11:45:00 Viewer: 4,378 Comments: 0 Country: United States City: New York

Exclusive Interview with Ms. Serda Urganciyan, Partner-CEO at Studio 88 Architecture

Serda Urganciyan, recently appointed as Partner-CEO at Studio 88 Architecture, brings a visionary perspective to her leadership role. With over 25 years of experience in architecture and construction management, Serda holds a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Business Administration from the New York Institute of Technology. Her career highlights include overseeing significant projects such as the comprehensive renovation of NYCHA projects and managing high-profile endeavors like the National 9-11 Memorial and Museum procurement at Lend Lease.

In a recent email interview with Urban Transport News, Serda articulated her vision for Studio 88 Architecture, emphasizing innovation and sustainability as core principles driving the firm's future endeavors. She shared insights on the evolving landscape of architecture in mobility and urban infrastructure, underscoring the importance of adaptability and forward-thinking design in shaping cities for the future. Serda's leadership roles at major NYC developers/owners have honed her ability to navigate complex projects while ensuring alignment with owners' objectives and budgetary constraints, a skill set she now brings to Studio 88 Architecture as it embarks on its next chapter of growth and innovation.

Can you share what drew you to Studio 88 Architecture and what your vision is for the firm as its new Partner and CEO?  

I was excited to join Studio 88 due to the expertise offered by its personnel and the other principals, Joseph Grant and Argiris Giorgou. I had previously collaborated with Joseph Grant on the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan, including connections to the nearby PATH and the Metropolitan Transit Authority's (MTA) subway train systems, and it was a very positive experience.

We are pursuing opportunities related to upgrades of the aging New York City subway system and multi-family residential design work, particularly in commuter areas along train routes to New York City, originating in New Jersey, on Long Island and upstate New York. We are also developing new business opportunities in the academic and government work, including in the justice system.

With your vast experience in architecture and construction, how do you plan to leverage your expertise to drive Studio 88's growth in large-scale public and commercial projects in the urban transportation sector?

Leveraging our relationships in the industry is one of the ways we develop new business opportunities. This approach has recently resulted in Studio 88 winning several transit-related projects, including subway station accessibility access upgrades, for which we are serving as a design/build team member under the lead firm Ensign Engineering. Additional opportunities are related to public/private ventures focused on revitalizing certain neighborhoods in New York City and on Long Island, where local authorities offer incentives to private real estate developers to build mixed-use properties combining office, retail and residential uses. One of my recent projects prior to joining Studio 88 was managing construction of Crossing at Jamaica Station, a 585,000-square foot, 30-story mixed-use development in Jamaica, Queens adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road, New York City subway and JFK Airport Airtrain Jamaica station. There are several new similar projects planned in the region and we hope to participate in them. 

Could you highlight some of the major challenges you anticipate facing in your new role, and how do you plan to overcome them? 

The current economic environment, both in the US and globally, is negatively impacting private and commercial real estate investment and reducing tax/public funds available for infrastructure projects. Studio 88 is addressing this challenge by serving both commercial and public markets to ensure a steady growth of work in different market sectors. In addition to diversification, we are building new relationships in the healthcare and higher education segments as well as expanding our geographical market to the entire northeastern United States.  

Studio 88 Architecture has a diverse portfolio covering transportation, public, and commercial architecture. What opportunities do you see in these sectors, and how do you plan to capitalize on them? 

New York City's recent push to encourage affordable housing as well as the MTA's continuous subway system upgrades and natural disaster resiliency hardening work offer opportunities for the next decade. In addition, the US federal government as well as state and local agencies support women-owned businesses such us our firm, opening additional opportunities for public work.

Given your involvement in notable projects such as the Woolworth Building conversion and NYU Langone Health Kimmel Pavilion expansion, how do you intend to maintain Studio 88's commitment to excellence and innovation?  

Quality of design work, innovation, technical expertise and responsiveness have always been Studio 88's core values. Our partners are very highly experienced and regarded in the industry and we are mentoring a new generation of employees at our firm to continue this focus on quality architectural design services.

Community engagement seems to be important to you, as evidenced by your involvement in the Armenian community and volunteer work. How do you plan to integrate community-centric initiatives into Studio 88's operations? 

Community service and building connections with our neighbors and local businesses are valued by our firm. All partners volunteer locally and maintain relationships with the community. This includes both New York City and the town of Oyster Bay, where our firm is headquartered.

Could you provide some insights into the current projects Studio 88 is working on, and any upcoming ventures you're particularly excited about? 

There are several line of business we are particularly excited about.  New York City Local Law 97 requires all large commercial buildings to eliminate gas and other fossil fuels as sources of energy in the coming years, mandating a switch to electricity for heating, cooling and cooking. The same law also dictates very high energy efficiency of building envelopes. Studio 88 is working with numerous property owners and developers to upgrade their real estate holdings to achieve these requirements. Another promising market is building natural disaster resiliency into public transportation infrastructure, in particular the New York City subway system. Our firm recently worked on the Rockaway Line Rehabilitation and Resiliency project and we look forward to additional work in this market. In the commercial and institutional sectors, Long Island healthcare industry is rapidly growing and we are pursuing medical facility work as well, particularly the independent offices.

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