It has been called, by people who know the firm at least, the biggest (or best, depending on who you ask) architecture practice in New York nobody’s ever heard about. Superlatives aside, in the decade-plus since it was founded, Fogarty Finger has produced a solid but unassuming body of clean, modernist built work in and around New York City. It has done so very much outside of the limelight.
“We’re a bit shy,” said firm co-founder Robert Finger. “We don’t like to talk about ourselves. We focus on the quality of the work and the client relationship.”
Chris Fogarty, the other founding partner, seconded that sentiment. “We haven’t done a lot of marketing,” he said. “All of our business has been word-of-mouth referrals. That’s been our business development plan.”
Fogarty and Finger met when working in the New York office of SOM, where they gained experience designing big projects, while growing disaffected with some of the inefficiencies that can occur in any large organization. “At SOM we got frustrated seeing so much of the design chopped out,” said Fogarty. “The buildings were often naively designed. There’s no reason to design a wild facade system just to lose it to value engineering. We try to do what’s affordable right from the start.”
Another thing they tired of at SOM was working through the night, which they decided they would never impose on their own employees. Starting in 2003 with only two employees—themselves—Fogarty Finger now numbers around 50. The firm’s Lower Manhattan studio is open and informal. Employees have easy access to the partners, are given responsibility quickly, and are not worked to the bone (they get four weeks of vacation as well as flextime!). As a result, Fogarty Finger claims it has never lost a client and has only seen two employees move on to competitors. “You have to make yourself appealing,” said Finger. “You’re only as good as your staff.”
The majority of Fogarty Finger’s projects to-date are multi-family residential buildings and corporate and commercial interiors, but the firm has ambitions to design larger, more complex projects. “I worked on a lot of skyscrapers while I was at SOM. I’d like to do an office tower here in New York City,” said Fogarty. “But in the U.S. everyone is so risk-adverse. They don’t want to hire you unless you’ve already done that type of work. You have to find some crazy client who’s willing to take a chance on you. Once you’ve done it, the phone will start ringing.”
Part of the fanfare or not, Fogarty Finger continues to grow. In fact, the firm has extra space on its floor into which it intends to expand, adding desks and architects. How big will it get? Who can say? “We’ll know when we get there,” said Finger. “Not so large that we lose our connection to the client and quality.”
Long Island City, New York
Situated on a quiet historic residential street, this five-story condominium playfully reinterprets the traditional row house. A seemingly random window pattern breaks up a rough brown brick elevation. Each window is framed with brownstone sills and headers, adding to the depth of the facade.
New York City
Fogarty Finger repositioned this mid-century skyscraper for a new millennium clientele. Sweeping expanses of glass and a dynamic entry transform the building’s sidewalk presence. The architects completely reimagined the lobby in a crisp, minimalist vein.
Astoria, New York
The Marx is a seven-story multifamily building with 33 units located in a quiet neighborhood of Queens. The outwardly simple square fenestrations of the facade contain a layer of architectural detail and shadow play created by angled metal panels and glazing variations.
Nyack, New York
This 7,500-square-foot, five-bedroom home overlooks the Hudson River on a steeply sloping site. Clad in shingles, the interior is anchored by a large family room that opens onto the garden. Glass walls and a neutral material palette connect the interior and exterior.