Creating visual and functional hierarchies is part of good architectural practice, but historically, architecture has also relied on hierarchical models for its internal and external structures. Boulder-based architecture and design firm bldg.collective (pronounced ‘building collective’) has taken a different approach.
“Rather than having a singular vision of the architect and everyone falling into place underneath, our approach is to deliver a project as a team, from the architects, builders, homeowners, consultants—everyone works together toward a common goal,” says architect and principal Steven Perce. “And that’s where the name bldg.collective was born,” says fellow architect and principal Chris Gray, “That idea of the collaborative collective process.”
These ideas first began to form back when Gray and Perce were pursuing master’s degrees in architecture together at CU Denver. “We initially talked about working together down the road once we both finished our internships,” says Perce, “But eventually, a number of years after grad school, everything aligned and we started to talk about the type of architecture practice we wanted to create and how we wanted to approach architecture and building here in Colorado.”
bldg.collective’s renovation of a dated ranch in South Boulder, was featured in our Spring 2021 issue. “We barely increased the size of the footprint at all and used a lot of the existing structure, but at the same time, it’s hard to even visualize that the old house even existed,” says Chis Gray. “That’s something we really strive for in those kind of projects and we really love the challenge of creating something seamless.” Photos by Jess Blackwell.
The result was bldg.collective, a nimble seven-person firm that’s as concerned about providing a high level of professional service is it is delivering a high level of design. For Gray and Perce, the key to unlocking this balance is a profound understanding of their clients and what they’re trying to achieve in terms of program, budget, and aesthetics. “A big part of our design process is getting to know our clients really well and making the specific projects always about their goals and aesthetic leanings,” says Gray.
After the concrete details of a project are determined, Perce says it’s equally important to nail down some less tangible aspects their clients are looking for. “We really try to understand what some of their inspirations are, whether it’s places they’ve traveled or artwork or anything that begins to evoke some sort of emotion,” says Perce. “Once we know the emotional qualities our clients are looking to achieve, we can build off of that and use it to inform the layout of the house and even some of the home’s material qualities.”
Charred and stained cypress siding clads this bldg.collective-designed residence in Boulder’s Newlands neighborhood. Photo by David Lauer.
This client-centric focus translates to a diverse portfolio of renovations and new builds across the residential-commercial spectrum. But the investment in the customization of each project also makes it difficult to nail down the “bldg.collective style.” “I think we have a nice clean, contemporary bent to all of our projects, but they all vary quite a bit based on that collaboration with the client,” says Gray. “So there are some common elements to our projects, but they’re all very unique because each of our clients is very unique.”
Since its founding in 2009, the majority of bldg.collective’s projects have been in Boulder County, but don’t be surprised if you start seeing them around the state. “We’re starting to do more projects in the mountains in Summit County and Park County,” says Perce. Gray continues, “We also have two projects in Fort Collins right now and one starting up in Colorado Springs so we’ve opened it up in the last year and a half.”