Home    Archichat | April 2011

An architect is a builder of dreams. They tend to communicate in a pictorial way and use other nonverbal manners of sharing their observations of life. I met with two architect couples, Sophia and Cord and Mark and Anne, at Block 7 for dinner. Big city, small town…three of the four went to undergrad together.

Sophia Malik and Cord Bowen | Local Design Office

Born in Houston, Sophia is a LEED-certified, licensed architect who graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture. She studied with world-renowned and Pritzker prize-winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, and her work has been recognized internationally. Sophia founded Local Design Office with Cord in 2005 and has grown the practice to a full-service design firm providing creative solutions in architecture, graphic and industrial design. Also a native Houstonian, Cord holds two degrees in architecture, with his bachelor’s from UH and his master’s from Parsons School of Design in New York. Recently, he added an MBA from the well-known Bauer School of Business at UH. While acting as a consulting partner at Local Design Office, he also teaches industrial design and architecture at UH. Sophia and Cord have been married since May of 2005.

How they met:

Cord: Sophia and I met through mutual friends. I will always remember the first day I saw that amazing smile with so much energy behind it. It was inescapable. Smart, beautiful and wildly talented, I realized I had met an amazing woman with a similar drive for a full and rich life. It would be many years of friendship before we would really fold our lives together.

Sophia: When Cord and I met, one of the things that was so apparent from the start was that we were really great friends. Even though we came from very different backgrounds, we shared a passion for so many things that it made sense for us to embark on life and work together. That’s why I think our business relationship works so well. Because of our friendship, we’re able to work very openly and honestly. Granted it’s not always easy, but there is never a dull moment and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why it works:

Cord: We are often asked how we are able to work together as a married couple without epic battles. My answer is to have a strong marriage first and the business practice follows. We are both passionate about what we do and we often clash with different ideas. The key is to resolve the differences with respect and a want to move forward with the best idea for the project.

Sophia: It’s really important that we make time to have distinctive boundaries between what we do and how we live, although at times it does meld together. We really make time to check in, whether it’s sharing a funny text or taking a walk together. Also when working on projects, there is always one person who takes the lead role. Instead of competing, we’ve learned to support each other so that the project can move forward in the best way possible.

The future:

Sophia: We really want to create an environment that is shared by everyone that we work with. That’s where the concept of Local Design Office came from. We want it to be a creative studio where everyone involved contributes ideas and processes so that it becomes more of a true collaboration.

Cord: Our business plans show our want for a multi-discipline design studio with 20 or so employees pushing the discussion of creative boundaries around design and business. Our life plan hopes for rich adventures surrounded by family, friends and great experiences – and with the way things are going, it seems that we’re well on our way!

Mark Schatz and Anne Eamon | m + a architecture studio

Mark and Anne met while at UH. In the Architecture College, the classmen are on separate floors. Mark would sneak over to his buddy’s desk that looked down to the atrium every day and watch Anne studying down below. After months of this, Mark’s friend had enough and told him to go introduce himself. They will be married 16 years in March – they got married over their spring break – and are expecting their first child this month! They have two studio cats and two dachshunds.

In 2004, they began their practice, Mark was licensed and they won the AIA Houston Honor Award 700sf house and garden, then published in Dwell Jan/Feb 2005. The house which started it all is a prototype student cottage located about a mile from UH – now home to their studio office. They were awarded the 2009 AIA Houston Design Award for Interior Architecture for Ingrain. They have three interns – two of the three are also former students of Cord. Both have taught design studios at UH over the past six years, and Anne teaches a five-week-long studio for high school students every summer through Wonderworks.

Why it works:

Mark: I have had a lifelong love of making things, building, furniture, landscape, photography, sculpture … and fortunately Anne had the same adventurous spirit. By the time we graduated, we had purchased an inner city lot and started construction on our first house. We didn’t really consider how unusual or naive this was until much later.

Anne: Seemingly all at once our night and weekend house project took on a life of its own and shifted the direction of our professional lives. Mark became licensed, we won an AIA honor award for the house, it was published both locally and nationally, all within a year. What better time to start a practice?

The future:

Mark: We started our practice with the passionate belief that architecture has the power to transform everyone’s quality of life. Architecture is a social act. Our practice has developed into a relatively broad range of projects including smaller scale retail, office interiors and branding, furniture, small scale residential interventions, new houses and even a residence with an art gallery space many times the size of the living space. The projects vary stylistically, but maintain a consistent design philosophy.

Anne: It is difficult to separate an architectural practice from daily life as you are constantly immersed in design, philosophy and living the work. What could be better than making a living and a life pursuing your passion with your partner?

Sandra Gunn, Broker Associate with Boulevard Realty can be found at www.sandragunn.com or at 713.224.2777 | Makeup: Asher for Kuhl-Linscomb | Clothes + jewelry: 310 Rosemont |

Hair: Riaro|Lauren Solutions for Hair | Food + drink: Block 7

By Sandra Gunn | Photography by Jack Potts