The Rapidian

Lott3Metz architecture puts people first

Local architects Ted Lott and Greg Metz work to build community by transforming spaces into people centric places.
Greg Metz and Ted Lott

Greg Metz and Ted Lott /Eric Tank

Kendall Building

Kendall Building /Eric Tank

Lott3Metz office in East Hills

Lott3Metz office in East Hills /Eric Tank

For the past 13 years, Ted Lott has been evolving professionally as an architect as the city of Grand Rapids expands its growth, contributing to the progressive urban emphasis trending today.

"I've always had an interest in urban design, and specifically designing buildings in a city environment," says Lott. 

As a student of architecture at the University of Michigan, Lott received both graduate and undergrad degrees before returning to Grand Rapids where he settled into the East Hills neighborhood. No stranger to Grand Rapids, Lott had attended middle school and high school in East Grand Rapids. He began his career with Landmark Design where he spent nine years flexing his architectural muscles and learning the machinations of city politics. He credits Bob Van Putten for giving him, at a young age, the responsibility to engage in projects that Lott found attractive, such as the Heartside revitalization efforts. 

Lotts' fist foray into urban planning came when he was offered to serve on the Heartside Mainstreet Program board of directors where he volunteered for the next five years. It was during these years that the confluence of design and community came together and Lott began to harness his newfound experiences to inform and guide his principles of urban design. 

In 2001, Lott left Landmark to start Lott3 Architecture on Ionia in a room above the Sierra Room (now Hopcat) with a table, a computer and 500 CDs. In 2003 his friend Greg Metz stepped in to help out with the escalating amount of work and on January 1, 2004 Metz officially partnered with Lott. Since then, much work has been done with recognizable community institutions such as Aquinas College and Spectrum Health

Metz, a Grand Rapids native and experienced architect, had worked on lakeshore houses before moving to much larger scale projects with Progressive Architecture proved to be a complimentary match for Lott. 

Together they worked to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly ethos that continues to be the driving force behind their success. 

"We always try to design something as sustainable as we possibly can," says Lott. "Our focus is the greenest building- the greenest development- makes the best use of your resources, whether it's an open land or an existing building. And that's the first greenest decision that you can make."

In evaluating a project, many variables come into play. However, the best use of the available resources and building in the city are the most viably important qualifications for making designing green, according to Lott. 

"The most sustainable building development is in an urban environment, because in that street all of our utilities reside," says Lott. 

Designing buildings is one thing. Neighborhood planning is a complimentary component to what Lott3Metz does. Urban designers, he says, need to consider both avenues if they want to honestly evaluate a community's needs. It's a profession that requires effective communication and people centered planning. 

"An urban environment is about people, and if you don't include the people you fail," says Greg Metz. "We're designing for people: it's all about the people."

"Part of what we see ourselves [is] as urban designers - we can't be any one thing- we have to be willing and able to plan with community groups. We have to be willing and able to do good preservation work for buildings that are existing there, to do quality adaptive reuse, like Donkey for example. We have to be able to do quality ground up buildings," says Lott. We don't put distinctions on the activity were doing. We see it as broader continuum of our urban work, trying to create a better city. And that's really our focus as trying to build a city."

Lott3Metz has worked on several neighborhood strategic plans, each varying in execution and final product. Brikyaat in Midtown and Belknap Lookout are two examples of past community projects. Currently, Lott3Metz in cooperation with Mark Miller of Nederveld is in the final stages of the East Hills strategic plan, which is essentially a neighborhood policy statement. 

"On the 23rd [of June] we'll give a half hour presentation overview and we're exited about the final work because it's very different than anything else we've done." 

The presentation will take place at the Inner City Christian Federation on Cherry Street and is open to the public. 

Other projects include the recent completion of the new 340,000 square foot Meijer corporate headquarters in Walker. Lott3Metz is also excited to be teaming up with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. on a new year long planning project. 

"We're very fortunate to be a part of it. Were exited to be working with the team Interface Studio out of Philadelphia and Stoss out of Boston," says Lott. "These guys are world class pros and we're honored to be on the table with them."

One of the most important projects Lott3Metz has worked on, and see as contributing to the vitality of urban living, is the Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center adjacent to the newly rehabilitated Monument Park in Downtown Grand Rapids. 

"The fact that 616 (Development) was able to get the apartments in it and get Osteria Rossa open on the first floor- that was a great project," says Lott. "We always feel like we need to be doing projects like that because those are the ones that knit the city back together on a very textural, fibrous way. Having buildings like that vacant is a problem. If we can put one of those back online, it's a huge deal. It's not necessarily a huge architectural puzzle, but it's a huge community piece of the puzzle. So that's the kind of stuff that makes us feel like we're doing the right thing."

Lott3Metz work to be invested in the Grand Rapids community and their passion bears fruit in the many design, building, planning and community centered projects in and around the area. From center city to individual neighborhoods, Lott3Metz understands the different dynamics that make a place vibrant and healthy.

"I think all of us around here would say we're architects first. We see the planning process as a way to support our efforts in city building," says Lott.

"We get urban architecture better than any firm in west Michigan. I know we do, hands down. We live it and breath it. That's what we want," says Metz. 

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