Steven Kordalski, Architect
2012 MID-CAREER DESIGN PRIZE
Steven Kordalski may have his thumb to thank for his entry into architecture.
The aforementioned digit got him to his interview with Joseph Morbito, then director of Kent State University’s School of Architecture, when he had to hitchhike from Ashland College, where he was taking classes.
Morbito informed the young man he was also considering other students for Kent’s summer intensive program. When he learned of Kordalski’s gumption to get there from more than 60 miles away, however, he immediately accepted him.
Today, Steve credits a couple of childhood experiences for first turning his thoughts to the design and construction of buildings.
When he was in sixth grade, his parents tackled the job of restoring their home. Shortly afterward, he met an architect living on his street who had torn down a cottage on his property and designed a modern home to replace it.
“Those experiences started to formulate what I wanted to do as an adult,” Steve says. “Then I took some art and mechanical drawing classes in high school and learned I had the technical aptitude, so that kept me moving in the right direction.”
While attending KSU, he spent half a year in Florence, Italy, studying European architectural design and history. On a trip to France, he learned the true meaning of “Wow factor,” when he visited Notre Dame du Ronchamp, a church designed by famed architect Le Corbusier, outside of Paris.
By 1972, Steve had his Bachelor of Architecture degree from KSU in hand, and went on to work at several small Cleveland firms, including Todd Schmidt and Associates, Argentieri Day Associates, and William B. Morris Architects. Along the way, he eagerly learned how to serve as a project architect and designer for a variety of projects, as well as how a professional architectural office is managed. By the mid ‘80s, while employed at Richard Fleishman Architects, he began considering a major career leap.
“I was ready to grow, but a lot of the other firms already had their principals in place in my age group,” he says. “So I knew I either had to leave Cleveland or start my own firm.”
He chose the latter, and he and a partner opened their own office in 1984 that has since become Kordalski Architects Inc., where he serves as president. Located on Murray Hill Road in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, the boutique architectural studio specializes in corporate interiors, commercial and residential projects. Whether designing a barber shop or a law office, Steve informs, the firm takes the same careful, deliberate approach to evaluating the project and providing a design that is rooted in the client’s culture and tailored to the business’s needs.
“It’s always most fulfilling for us to take space that may not have high design standards and turn it into something that is delightful to be in,” he says. “We excel at incorporating the optimum light, proportion, and attention to detail.”
The firm has won numerous awards for its work, including American Institute of Architects Cleveland and Ohio chapter design awards. Most recently, the firm garnered a 2010 AIA Ohio, Design Merit Award for its design of the Amin Turocy & Calvin LLP offices in Cleveland, Ohio.
“A big part of Steve’s portfolio consists of interior spaces animated through his use of new or unusual materials, a varied palette of textures and accents that enliven and render these tactile compositions,” observes Stephen Bucchieri (CAP 1992), AIA, managing principal of Bucchieri Architects. “By applying his artistic eye in the pragmatic realm of architecture, he pushes the level of design and goes beyond initial project expectations.”
At the heart of a successful design, Steve believes, there should be a strong concept that the end user can understand and that is clearly evident in the completed work.
Ultimately, he says, “The most important result of our designs is that people should enjoy visiting, living or working in the spaces we’ve helped create.”