One of Cincinnati’s biggest economic contributors is the University of Cincinnati, which provides jobs for many of the city’s residents. Manufacturing is a booming industry in the city as well. Many well-known companies are based in the city, including Procter & Gamble Co. The healthcare and financial industries are also major contributors to the city’s continued growth. 

Cincinnati, in other words, is an economic player. The 15 area architects listed here are making that growth possible. These architects have been providing exceptional service for decades, and they have impressive, award-winning portfolios to show for it. And every one of them has seen their work featured in the press.


GBBN

332 East Eighth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

GBBN partners with visionary organizations who want to make a difference in their communities. Every project is an opportunity to use collaboration, research, and analysis to uncover the challenges their clients face and use design to help them achieve their goals.

One of the firm’s recent projects is Cincinnati Ballet’s Margaret & Michael Valentine Center for Dance. The project is an inspiring combination of dance academy, community space, and professional studio space for dancers who give everything to their craft. The building’s design is influenced by Cincinnati Ballet’s mission to break down the stereotype that ballet is only for a certain group of people; it embraces their vision that dance is for everyone. The design is both artistic and functional and maximizes the site. Floor to ceiling windows connect dancers to views of nature, city streets, and the Cincinnati skyline. For the building’s iconic design, the firm received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Cincinnati’s Architecture Honor Award.

The GBBN design team for this project includes: Marcene Kinney, Daniel Luegering, Steve Karoly, Greg Pinter, Phil Rowland, and Matthew Schottelkotte.


MSA Design

316 West Fourth St, Sixth Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45202

MSA Design focuses on relationships. Established in 1985, the firm has established strong relationships with clients through its excellent services. Whether it is a new construction or renovation project, the firm collaborates closely with clients so every project reflects their vision. For 36 years, the firm has strived to treat both clients and team members with loyalty and respect. Recently, the firm expanded its offices to Florida, Columbus, and Cincinnati. 

The Empower project is a good example of what this firm can do. To build the headquarters for one of the country’s biggest media agencies, the firm chose an industrial modern style. This style evokes the company’s strength and youthful energy. The design has an open layout encouraging collaboration between the members of the agency. Located in Over-the-Rhine, the site’s historic neighborhood has been a major influence on the design. Blending with the historic buildings adjacent to the headquarters, the design features terracotta panels at the base of the office. In between these terracotta panels are glazed panels, connecting the building to the vibrant neighborhood. The firm’s fantastic work on the project earned the 2020 Citation Award from AIA Ohio. 

The firm’s relationship-centric approach begins with the partnership of principals and owners Michael Schuster and Bill Baker. Schuster FAIA, LEED AP, takes care of the firm’s design strategy. His solid credentials include an AIA Gold Medal award. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati School of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). Bill Baker, AIA, is an alumnus of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design with expertise in sustainable design. Working in the field for over 28 years, Baker has mastered quite a range of different aspects of the business, including management, business development, and master planning.


BHDP

302 West Third St, Suite 500, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Established in 1937, BHDP is the longest-running firm on the list. The firm has been featured in Cincinnati Business Courier, Facility Executive, and Sprudge. One of its most recent awards is the 2020 Merit Award for Experiential Graphics category from the Cincinnati Design Awards. It built its credibility over the last eight decades by providing top-notch architecture, design, and planning services. It has contributed to the development of a wide range of markets including retail, industrial, and education. 

Based in Cincinnati, the firm has extended its services to clients in other parts of Ohio and North Carolina. Among its many projects in Cincinnati is The Kenwood Collection. Approached by Peco Real Estate Partners (PREP), the firm was asked to renovate an unfinished, abandoned mixed-use project on a tight schedule. The firm expertly answered the client’s brief. It transformed the site into a high-end modern structure that stands out amongst other structures in Kenwood Town Center. The building’s most iconic feature is the sculptural roof, a wonderful addition to the city skyline. For employing sustainable methods in the project, the firm secured a LEED Silver certification from the US Green Building Council. 

Proud of the firm’s influence in the Cincinnati community is firm president and COO David Johnson, AIA, LEED AP. Johnson has over 23 years of industry experience with expertise in IT and project and human resource management. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.


NELSON Worldwide

311 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

NELSON Worldwide is a big firm with a big vision. With over 20 offices and 700 team members, the firm aims to reach more clients across the country and the world. Its vision is to use its expertise in architecture and design to elevate the human experience. The firm feels that by providing creative solutions, architecture positively impacts the lives of the people. Many publications have recognized the firm’s contribution to the industry, ranking it high on their top architects lists. Last year, the firm was ranked number three on the Building Design + Construction’s Top Retail Architecture Firm list. 

One of the firm’s important contributions to Cincinnati is the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel. In restoring this city landmark, the firm carefully reworked a former bank into a sophisticated hotel. The process involved bringing the building up to standard with current building codes and safety systems. Fire-resistant construction and emergency exit areas were added to the building. Other new additions to the historic building include a modern glass canopy, elevators, and a restaurant and bar. The firm masterfully designed a total of 323 rooms.

Established in 1977, NELSON Worldwide is currently directed by John “Ozzie” Nelson, a second-generation owner. The firm’s chairman & CEO, Nelson is a University of St. Thomas alumnus with more than 18 years of industry experience. Under his supervision, the firm has grown to become one of the country’s biggest providers of all design-related services.


KZF Design

700 Broadway Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Consistently named one of Cincinnati’s largest architecture firms by the Cincinnati Business Courier from 2019 to 2021, KZF Design is looking at the future. Founded in 1956, the firm constantly strives for better designs to provide better futures for its clients. Under this principle, the firm has accomplished projects in different sectors including commercial, education, and industrial. 

A sample of the firm’s cutting-edge designs is the UC College of Business. This state-of-the-art teaching facility has a total project cost of 120 million dollars. Within the 225,000-square-foot facility, the firm included modern lecture rooms, a grand atrium, and open workspaces. Students and members of the academe can take breaks in the lovely courtyard or the spacious cafe inside the facility. The project’s architect of record, the firm has designed a center conducive for learning, preparing students for their future. The firm used environment-friendly methods on the project and the project received a LEED® Gold Certification. The firm has also been given the Merit Award for Building Architecture by Cincinnati Design Awards for its outstanding work on the project. 

Leading the firm’s forward-thinking architects, designers, and engineers is president and CEO Doug Marsh. Marsh is a University of Cincinnati alumnus with more than 33 years of industry experience. Since the beginning of his career, he has remained loyal to KZF Design.


Reztark 

601 Main Street, Suite 200, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Founded in 2006, Reztark wants retail clients to embrace a consumer-driven approach. In building commercial establishments, the firm guides businesses to success by building engaging facilities. The firm believes in creating spaces that appeal to a brand’s target demographic. An engaging space, according to the firm, is one that appeals to the consumer’s lifestyle choices and desires. 

As an expert in designing retail and commercial facilities, the firm has earned the trust of several well-known brands. One of these is Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati. Aiming to enhance customer experience, the firm upgraded the facility to include a 7,000 square feet additional showroom space and a sophisticated customer lounge. The hillside next to the showroom provides a natural privacy feature that conceals the space from the area’s neighboring homes. To fully embody the luxury experience represented by the brand, the firm used wall-to-wall glazing, modern lighting fixtures, and premium finishes on the store.

Reztark’s expertise in commercial architecture is influenced by its CEO and design principal Brett Kratzer, AIA, LEED AP. Kratzer is an architecture graduate from the University of Cincinnati with more than three decades of professional experience. Under his guidance, the firm has served many clients in and out of the US. Its international projects can be found in Asia, Europe, and South America.


Elevar Design Group

555 Carr Street, Cincinnati, OH 45203

In business for over half a century, Elevar Design Group believes that the secret to industry longevity is personal service. By providing design solutions specific to clients’ needs, the firm secures the loyalty of its customers. Established in 1967, the firm enhances its services by listening to its clients. As a result, the firm has served clients all over the country. It currently has satellite offices in Dayton and Cleveland, and another one in Lexington, Kentucky. 

A sample of the firm’s commercial projects is AE Door and Window. Located in Cincinnati, the project involves the construction of a new showroom, loading docks, and a receiving office. The new showroom has a modern style, using a dark color scheme to accentuate the displayed products. Offices have transparent walls, allowing employees to see the activity within the showroom. From the outside, the contemporary design mixed with a dark color scheme easily catches attention. 

Elevar Design Group is currently headed by E. Thomas Fernandez, a member of the Society of American Registered Architects. A second-generation owner, Fernandez continues his father’s goal of providing the best design solutions for its customers. Fernandez heads the firm’s design direction and staff management. Under his guidance, the firm has been featured in different publications including the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Realm Magazine, the Cincinnati Business Courier, and the News Journal.


Platte Architecture + Design

1810 Campbell Alley, Suite 300, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Kurt Platte, a Miami University alumnus, founded the firm in 2002 with a desire to create good spaces. Gathering a team of creatives, Platte employs a collaborative approach to make his vision come true. For Platte, good design comes from the blend of creativity and technical expertise provided by the members of the team. Together, Platte and his team work to challenge assumptions and efficiently merge form, function, and space. The firm’s work has been featured in the press, including Cincinnati Magazine, Local 12 News, Dwell Magaazine, and The Scout Guide.

The team’s creative and technical genius has produced many award-winning projects. One of the firm’s highly-acclaimed projects is The Hi-Mark. Winner of the 2017 Merit Award from the Cincinnati Design Awards, the project is an adaptive reuse and renovation of a historic house to a bar and restaurant. The firm provided architectural and conceptual design services for the project. Located within the actual flood plain of the Ohio River, the firm’s design solution was to raise the establishment’s floor. After taking care of this, the firm preserved as many details as it could on the historic building. It exposed the old structure’s bricks and joists and made the old fireplaces and window sills the highlight of the bar. The final result is a gritty bar and restaurant sure to become a neighborhood staple.


Drawing Dept

3217 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209

A consistent awardee in the AIA Cincinnati Design Awards, Drawing Dept is an expert in hospitality design. The majority of its commercial projects are in Cincinnati with a growing project list across the country, most of which are focused on the food and beverage industry. Aside from bars and restaurants, the firm is a master in providing architecture and design services for the mixed-use, recreation, and housing markets.

One of the firm’s award-winning commercial projects is the Revel OTR. Receiving an honorable Mention in the 2017 AIA Cincinnati Design Awards, the project is a transformation of an 1885 building to an urban micro-winery. Inspired by the owner’s casual approach to making wines, the firm designed an equally casual space where friends and family can comfortably gather. The warm, inviting atmosphere begins with two custom front windows that open freely to the street. Once guests enter, they are instantly welcomed by a bar and drinking and dining areas and a stair leading to the more private second floor. The bar counter’s layered wooden panels and the exposed brick walls with a mural create a rich mix of textures. The design also includes a production area where the establishment’s excellent wines are created.

The brains behind the firm’s genius designs are owners Rob Busch – FAIA, Ron Novak – AIA, and Evonne Morales – AIA. Together, in collaboration with their colleagues, they have made the Drawing Dept one of the most decorated firms in Cincinnati.


CR architecture + design

600 Vine Street, Suite 2210, Cincinnati, OH 45202

CR architecture + design values precision. For the firm, every detail is important to bring a client’s vision to reality. Founded in 1982, the firm has showered attention to detail on every retail, corporate, or education project it has taken on. Its projects are executed by a team of professionals dedicated to client satisfaction. These members are equipped with both technical expertise and imagination, enabling them to create one-of-a-kind spaces. 

One of the firm’s expertly designed facilities is the U Square @ The Loop. Making use of the vacant site bordering the University of Cincinnati, the firm provided architecture and sustainable design services to create a mixed-use facility. The 4.2-acre space now contains both commercial and residential spaces catering to students, faculty members, and residents in the area. Inspired by the youthful energy of the nearby campus, the firm produced a vibrant design that houses retail shops, restaurants, and offices. The residential space has 161 modern apartments; the retail and office spaces are 120,000 square feet in total. Promoting interaction, the design features a green space where the community can gather. For sustainable practices employed in the project, U Square @ The Loop earned a LEED Silver certification. The NAA Paragon Awards also gave the project the Best Community, Student Housing, award. 

Leading the firm’s award-winning works is David Arends, AIA. Arends is the firm’s chairman and CEO and a member of the Ontario Association of Architects. He holds a master’s degree from Miami University, and he has been successfully practicing his craft for 35 years.


DNK Architects

2616 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214

Established in 1986, DNK Architects believes that exceptional design is the meeting of inspiration and reality. For the firm, pleasing architecture must meet the needs of the people and the environment. These needs include cost-effectiveness, practicality, and sustainability. The firm provides a wide array of services including interior and landscape design as well as urban planning. Whether it be new construction or renovation, the firm ensures superior quality in the final output. 

A sample of the firm’s expertly designed projects is the Gateway Condominiums. Aiming to revitalize downtown Cincinnati, the firm created a modern condominium building with an attached parking garage. The building contains 26 loft units with either one or two bedrooms. Amenities included in the design are elevator access and a roof deck. Each unit is designed with a balcony, connecting the residents to the neighborhood. For its exceptional work on the project, the firm received the DBIA Ohio Valley Chapter Honorable Mention in the category of Public Sector Buildings under $15 Million.

Many of the firm’s outstanding designs have graced the pages of publications like Cincinnati.com, Spectrum News, and Cincinnati Business Courier. David Kirk, the firm’s president and CEO, leads the firm in maintaining industry leadership. He is a member of the AIA and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). For the last 35 years, he has handled a wide range of projects for the public and private sectors. He is a proud alumnus of Howard University.


K4 Architecture + Design

555 Gest Street, Cincinnati, OH 45203

Founded in 1998, K4 Architecture + Design evolves along with the needs of its clients. Attempting to provide holistic solutions to these needs, the firm has transformed into a full-service firm that specializes in design, branding, and marketing. The firm has undoubtedly exceeded client expectations and has designed outstanding commercial, financial, and retail facilities over the last two decades. Its expert services have reached clients in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. 

Adding to the firm’s credibility are its press features in the Cincinnati Business Courier, Financial Brand Insights Magazine, and Soapbox Cincinnati. The firm received the Honorable Mention Award in the 2013 Cincinnati Design Awards as well. The First Financial Center is a great example of the firm’s commitment to excellence. Clients approve of how the firm understood and identified with First Financial Bank’s corporate brand and values. In partnership with the bank’s contractor and vendors, the firm completed a professional working facility with office spaces, conference rooms, and a banking center on the ground floor. 

Evolving along with the customer’s needs are firm president Jeff Klump and principal Richard Posey. Both AIA members, Klump and Posey have a combined 67 years of industry experience. The two are University of Cincinnati alumni with vast experience in the retail and financial markets. They continue to learn through new challenges on new projects.


RSL Commercial Architecture

8927 Rossash Rd, Suite A, Cincinnati, OH 45236  

Featured in Cincinnati Magazine and Cincinnati Business Courier, RSL Commercial Architecture focuses on commercial architecture. Based in Cincinnati, the firm has completed many retail, corporate, and financial projects all over the US. Its areas of expertise include multifamily, themed environment, and museum projects. Established in 1990, the firm has established partnerships with the best engineers and consultants, crucial components to its successful projects. 

Richard Stanley Ladrick, the firm’s principal, prioritizes client satisfaction when handling projects. Under his supervision, clients are assured of a responsive approach to their queries and needs. A University of Cincinnati with over three decades of industry experience, Ladrick understands that a successful firm must be attentive to clients’ budget and schedule requirements. 

In Cincinnati, the firm has provided its expert services for Connected Life by Cincinnati Bell. Designing for an internet service provider, the firm has created a store with a blue and white color scheme reflecting the company colors. The store has a professional yet approachable style, created with a combination of rustic and modern materials. The storefront is made of glass panels; the lounge has an accent wall made with wood. The company name and logo are prominently placed at the center of the accent wall. 

Author

  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at General Contractors with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at General Contractors, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration