If you have been to the neighborhood bar, The Local, you might have a pretty good feel what Mike Phinney is all about.
The ski lodge like atmosphere must be his alter ego because his office environment is a stress filled, fast moving gush of creative thought and production. Every organization has a way of getting a human thought to a finished product, the Phinney Design Group pours emotion, soul, madness, laughter and sweat into projects that show good understanding of design, materials, fenestration, and proportion.
Like many small architectural companies they work on residential and commercial projects. As you peruse through his work, you find an easy rustic feel in some form or another. Over the last five years he has gained quite a bit of notoriety as a green builder. His work is showing up more and more in the city of Saratoga Springs. Some of the work is in town, but most seems to fit best in a more rural setting.
He is a small firm of about five or six people. This still gives him a pretty good payroll each week, but nothing like Saratoga Associates but far exceeding the Frost Architecture business model. From his website, I couldn’t find a lot of work in the city, but I will focus on two projects within the city limits.
The first project has to be The Local on the corner of Beekman and Grand. Since they serve beer, it is a very important building. The upper floors also house his offices. Many architects are building modern versions of a mission bungalow or a reproduction of an old carriage house, not Phinney Design. They are comfortable with, a ski lodge, or a civilized version of an Adirondack great camp. With the snow storm this week, I had to steal these images from the Phinney Website, please accept my apologies.
The Corner of Beekman and Grand Streets
Their use of materials is so unique for a building in the city. They didn’t pick up any styles from the neighborhood or Saratoga Spring in general. In the end it still looks comfortable sitting on a corner in the city. Walking a fine line of being a unique building and comfortably in place is a difficult thing to do. Often these efforts result in some sort of albatross that has no relationship to its environment.
Unlike the Adirondack Trusts arching windows on Church Street, Phinney’s windows give the ground floor of the building a strong urban feel – they don’t reek of 1975. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as if this is the most original building or even that different from his other building designs. What they has done is take his design esthetic and make in work in a city environment. They didn’t try to throw so many things in a pile just to make everyone at the DRC happy.
764 North Broadway
Finally, I’m including a building that has not been built yet. I feel odd about this because I could design a building that hasn’t been built also, but that doesn’t mean it will ever get built – But the renderings were so nice I chose it anyway.
Many of North Broadways mansions were considered summer homes when they were originally built, and this design definitely carries that theme throughout the building. Again, you can see the Phinney features in its styling, but it has an abundance of elegance when looking at it. The heavy stone work has a very Adirondack feel, but the small third floor windows give the house a sophisticated feeling. The window placement is almost artistic and is what enables this building to sit on North Broadway.
There is only one change I believe would help, and that would be to paint the singled siding a darker color. Many of the older mansions were much darker that their current state, and it made them much smaller in stature. But now a days if you can afford a big building, you want everyone to see that you can afford a big building.
The Phinney Design Group currently has made little impact on the City of Saratoga Springs, and I don’t know if his style will be accepted as an Saratoga type home. Most of his work seems to be in the northern rural areas, and that makes sense, but he has shown that he can create an urban home also, that is unique and could become small landmarks in the future of Saratoga Springs.