Two Minutes With Steve Carmina of Carmina Wood Design

As co-president and CEO of renowned architecture, engineering, and interiors firm Carmina Wood Design, Steve Carmina has built a reputation for spearheading challenging historic renovation projects. We recently caught up with the talented architect and longtime baseball fan to chat about what projects he’s most proud of, how he handles making tough decisions, and the value of rereading Stephen King.

    1. How do you start your day?

      A cappuccino with my friend Mario

    2. Baseball was a favorite childhood pastime of yours. What position did you like to play, and who was your favorite player?

      Catcher. I was a huge Johnny Bench fan. It was a great time to be a fan of the game. There was no free agency, so teams stayed together for years. I miss those days.

    3. What led you to architecture?

      My father instilled this nuts-and-bolts sense of curiosity in me. Once I found mechanical drawing, I realized that it was the perfect creative outlet, which led me to architecture.

    4. You’re a major Stephen King fan. What keeps you coming back to his books?

      Each time I read them, I find nuances and missed connections he makes only for us, his constant readers. I am presently reading the last of eight books in The Dark Tower series (my sixth time through them). By the way, the movie was so bad. I knew in the first 90 seconds that I wouldn’t sleep for a week because of what they did.

    5. Besides the complex tax regulations, what’s your main consideration when undertaking a historic renovation?

      The harder the save is, the better.

    6. Can you describe what the phrase “historic fabric” means to you?

      These are the elements of the building that have spanned the sands of time and survived to the present. They best represent the original intent of the architect and the original owner. It could be exterior features such as cornices, dentils, or corbels, or interior details like a staircase, window casings, or wainscoting, among many other things.

    7. What project are you most proud to have worked on?

      There are so many of our “babies” out there. Pride takes on many facets. For instance, the Buffalo City Mission was a passion project for me and the firm. It was so hard to get it off the ground and to have the community accept it. We fought many battles, and in the end, we prevailed. Historical projects can be even harder. I’d say that the one I’m proud of most recently is my own little project at Michigan and Broadway, now known as Nash Lofts. It was nearly an eight-year fight to navigate past what felt like every challenge we could have faced.

    8. You’re used to working on physical structures. What was it like working with Block Club on something as abstract as a rebrand?

      The toughest thing for a creative person to do is to allow someone else to be creative for you. I tried to sit back and accept my role as one of many, and I think that I did okay in that aspect. Working with the Block Club team reminds me of how we work with our clients—tough, direct, and pushy at the right time to get a result.

    9. When restoring a historic building, how do you balance the new with the old?

      It is always a careful dance that must be done with reverence to the original architecture and compliance with the standards we have to follow. I love the juxtaposition of the old and less old.

    10. What would you say your design philosophy is?

      Never settle for “almost good.”

    11. How do you handle making tough decisions?

      I get many opinions from others, consider them, and then follow my gut.

    12. How do you measure success?

      I watch people in the spaces we create and try to see their expressions. I try to understand how they enjoy and use those spaces. Their excitement is our success.

    13. What’s the last thing that inspired you?

      La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It’s the most amazing piece of architecture ever created.

    14. What’s your dream development project?

      All of them

    15. What can the best designs teach us about life?

      No one is ever going to be happy about everything. You can only hope that the numbers hit 50/50.

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