Matter of craft: Local architects make a case for craft-in-making firm
At CaS4 Architecture, LLC, the space is fittingly unfinished. Visitors enter through a unique door of woven wood panels that was constructed in one afternoon by founders and business partners Paul Cuta and Marc Schellpfeffer. In the center of the main room, a large Ping-Pong table provides occasional stress relief and doubles as a conference table — a clear indication that Cuta, 49, and Schellpfeffer, 39, have come together to have fun as well as to design.
The partners, who worked together for over eight years at Engberg Anderson in Madison, launched CaS4 last August. For Cuta, it was an opportunity to “stay small by design and personally engaged with a small number of clients instead of trying to be everything to everybody.”
“It is more fun helping them drive their products than just responding to RFPs with people we don’t know,” he said.
When it came time to name the company, they got creative. C-a-S stands for Cuta and Schellpfeffer, they explained. The long “a” creates what they describe as a play on case for architecture, or case for design. The “4” stands for the firm’s four primary services: architecture, planning, interior design, and development assistance.
CaS4 was funded with a mix of personal cash and a combination of a line of credit and a loan from the State Bank of Cross Plains. “In our business plan, we wanted to be able to tread water within four to five months of being in business,” Schellpfeffer notes. “We’ve been very lucky. Those goals haven’t been difficult. We thought we’d be in our line of credit for the first four months or so. [Nine months later] we’ve been in it for a week!”
Being financially conservative has been key, but a long to-do list remains. “There is some frustration in that our growth has been so quick that we haven’t instituted many things we talked about doing,” Cuta notes. “That’s the trade-off. Right now, everything needs to be done at the same time.” In January, they hired another architect to help handle the workload.
Among CaS4’s current projects are the 14-story, $20 million apartment complex from McGrath Property Group at 149 E. Wilson St. and an expansion of the Beth Israel Center at 1406 Mound St. The company also hopes to transform its own location, at the corner of Monroe and Glenway streets, into a multistory, mixed-use property with some first-floor commercial (not restaurant) space. Neighborhood meetings have already begun.
“True architecture is what we do,” Cuta says, “but we see other opportunities as well, whether having skin in the game or developing unique pieces of furniture. We love the idea of craft-in-making,” which he describes as authentic, quality-crafted design.
The company will soon add a workshop that will allow the architects to build models or mock up small design details — a handrail, for instance. “Design isn’t a broad stroke,” Cuta notes. “It can be very finite in detail.”
Schellpfeffer admits he functions better when he can touch and hold a craft rather than sit at a keyboard and monitor. “You understand how things go together, and that exploration and investigation influences design.”
“We also rely on 3-D modeling,” Cuta adds, “but we still use our pens.”
CaS4 Architecture, LLC
3414 Monroe St.
Madison, WI 53711
608.709.1250 | cas4arch.com
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