In an industry full of clean lines, sharp eyes and careful deliberation, Philadelphia’s Metcalfe Architecture and Design has differentiated itself with one simple, childish concept:
The Metcalfe website quotes internationally known child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim and Plato regarding the merits of play. One look at some of Metcalfe’s most recent projects – like its redesign of the American Independence Seaport Museum and a highly touted interior project at Michael Cohen’s 1920s Colonial Mt. Airy home – and it’s easy to see play at work. The 11-person company offers a complete range of services, including exhibit design, which has earned Metcalfe a reputation as an experiential architecture firm and kept it busy and growing throughout the economic downturn.
The firm’s approach has garnered numerous awards. Its Tree Canopy Walk at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania earned high praise and was the only North American project honored with a 2012 International Galvanizing Award.
Founder Alan Metcalfe is an amateur musician and branched out on his own in 2001 after more than a decade as a lead designer or partner at three different Philadelphia architecture firms. His fingerprints are all over the company’s work and workplace.
What was the inspiration behind Metcalfe?
To work for clients we like. We produce our best work for clients we relate to. We are architects and exhibit designers that work with Schools, museums, non-profits, food service, retail and custom houses.
What was the biggest challenge in getting Metcalfe off the ground?
Getting people to understand that we do architecture AND exhibit design. It is an unusual combination.
What resources did you take advantage of to launch Metcalfe?
My partner, Aaron Goldblatt, worked in museums for 15 years and had very strong connections to them. After seven years, of working to establish ourselves, we had created an exotic tree canopy walk that received international attention and made people notice.
What resources did you take advantage of to grow Metcalfe?
I am a member of Vistage, which helps me professionalize our entrepreneurial company. We photograph and publicize all of our work. If we don’t tell the world, who will? We are social marketers. Both Aaron and I recognize the value of personal relationships. We can’t only rely on the quality of our work to sell it. we need to tell everyone we can about it.
What key partnerships in your region or state have helped Metcalfe grow?
There are loads of exhibit fabricators in our region. They have been a great help. There are also loads of schools around here, and we love working for them.
What’s next for Metcalfe?
We are continuing to develop our staff, and company message. We’re launching a new website in the coming year and have numerous exciting projects on the way. We intend to continue our focus on architecture, exhibit design, highlighting the importance of play in design, and improving our approach to sustainability.
— by Joe Petrucci
211 N. 13th St. Suite 503 Philadelphia, PA 19107