Michael Graves Architecture is Expanding With Announcement of New Acquisitions
By Anne Levin
With the recent acquisitions of two architecture firms and more in the planning stages, Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MG) has been undergoing significant expansion since Graves, who established the firm in Princeton in 1964, died seven years ago. According to Joe Furey, the firm’s president and chief executive officer, Graves would be on board with the plan.
“He absolutely wanted the firm to go on,” Furey said this week, recalling a talk he had with the architect around the company’s 50th anniversary in 2014. “I said to him, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if, 50 years from now, people are celebrating the 100th year of the firm? Maybe the youngest person we just hired would be in their seventies, and still working here.’ He just smiled and kind of slapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Make it happen.’”
Michael Graves Architecture announced last week that it had acquired the New Jersey-based Jose Carballo Architectural Group (JCAG), a company with which it has previously collaborated on three projects. Earlier this year, the Graves firm acquired Waldon Studio Architects (WSA), which is based in Maryland and focused on planning, architecture, and interior design. The two acquisitions “are part of a long-term strategic growth plan for MG,” according to a press release.
“This potent combination of brand recognition, aligned values, and deep relationships are part of the continuation of an exciting new chapter for MG that simultaneously honors the firm’s established heritage,” reads the release. Graves “left behind a committed and talented team and an incredible legacy of innovation and design brilliance in the firm. This latest acquisition will allow the firm to continue strengthening its expertise, particularly in the multi-family residential sector.”
Under the new company structure, JCAG founder and principal Jose Carballo will serve as principal, as well as head of the firm’s multi-family sector in the tri-state area. Furey will oversee the ongoing integration of the JCAG employees and continued future acquisition strategy.
Building multi-family residences is one of JCAG’s areas of expertise. MG and JCAG have previously collaborated on two market-rate and one high-end luxury multi-family project. “We want to take our strengths and leverage them by bringing in some new firms and new talent,” said Furey. “We thought this would be a really good fit.”
Graves, who taught at Princeton University for 39 years, is credited with spearheading a more humanistic approach to architecture during a period when abstract modernism was in favor. His 15-year partnership with Target, for which he created products ranging from tea kettles to drying racks, made serious design more affordable. After suffering what started out as a sinus infection and becoming paralyzed from the waist down in 2003, Graves became an advocate for the disabled and used design to improve the health care experience for patients, families, and clinicians.
In Princeton, the Graves firm designed the renovation and expansion of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts/Arts Council of Princeton. His former home and studio on Patton Avenue, known as The Warehouse, was purchased in 2016 by Kean University to serve as an education research center for its architecture and design school, which is named for Graves.
MG is currently completing due diligence on some additional acquisitions, which the company hopes to announce in the first quarter of next year. Despite the growth, the firm’s relationships with clients is intended to remain “boutique” in feel.
“In the acquisitions we have already done and will continue to do, each of those companies have something to add to the bigger company, including talented people and client base,” Furey said. “We will continue to keep it at the studio level. They [JCAG and WSA] will maintain their client relationships and bring us into those projects, and vice versa. So it’s a tight customer relationship. I come from an enormous company and I know exactly what corporate bureaucracy is, and we’re not going to become that.”