Vertical Arts Architecture (VAA) based in Steamboat Springs, is entering its 11th year in business with three offices in Steamboat Springs, Denver and Vail. Founding Principal Brandt Vanderbosch attributes the success of the company to a customized process called VAA Envisioning, which is one of their most important components of schematic design and planning. Vanderbosch states, “We strongly stay away from any preconceived style; style needs to be developed through process.”
Growing up on a large property in Edwardsburg, Michigan, Vanderbosch knew from an early age the field of architecture was in his future. He enjoyed the creativity of drawing and his teachers created drafting classes for him. “My family had interest in a lake resort and lodge in Michigan. My grandfather always had land, building maintenance and construction projects going on that I helped him with, and I got into the construction industry framing houses when I was 15 through high school and college,” he relates.
Vanderbosch attended Ferris State University where he studied construction management and earned an associate’s degree in Architecture Technology. While construction management was not his forte, it provided a solid background for architecture. Furthering his education at Ball State University, he graduated with bachelor’s degrees in Architecture and Environmental Design.
Vanderbosch was drawn to the Rocky Mountains on a school trip to Colorado. “After graduating in ’97, I worked for a few months and realized it was time to leave the flat land of Michigan and move to a more interesting palette for developing my architectural career. I bought a truck, packed it up and set up an interview in Denver and moved to Vail.” Working with Charles Cunniffe Architects, Vanderbosch garnered tremendous experience with residential, commercial and mixed-use projects in the mountains. “Every project presents a different set of criteria, issues and opportunities. You have to listen first, then get creative and pull strategic vision into the design,” he shares. He opened a satellite office in Steamboat Springs in 2001, which he and another colleague ran for three years.
Vanderbosch founded Vertical Arts Architecture in 2004 and recruited his college friend, Rob Nadolny, to join him in the firm. “During our startup Rob had the perfect strengths that complemented mine. I had passion for design and being a business entrepreneur. Rob had the project managerial and technical strengths. Since then we have expanded the team to have a wider variety of talents and strengths.” With the inception of VAA came the creation of the VAA Envisioning process. Vanderbosch describes, “We consider Envisioning to be one of the most important elements when beginning design on any project. It allows us the freedom to explore major concepts and ideas before specific design is started. Owner goals, site history, surrounding environment and materiality are all considered when forming the overall creative concept behind each project.”
Of the business model Vanderbosch shares, “Knowing my strengths has been a critical part of creating a good design business. I can’t do everything well and knew I had to employ good, smart people to work integrally in a creative studio and to ultimately perform well for our clients.” The VAA team offers clients multi-discipline project attention from architectural design to interior design to landscape architecture
Vanderbosch refers often to the team’s strong listening and strategizing skills. He shares the story of a client whose original project ideas changed drastically. He says it is easy to go into a project with a preconception of a design, but that is precisely what the team avoids. This ranch project in Larkspur spoke to that process. “We listen strongly and analyze the site before drawing anything. As design professionals, we all have an immediate design feeling when visiting a site. It takes patience to obtain all the information first and not just jump into a vision too quickly. One client started out wanting a classic Moroccan design for their home, with a formal courtyard and colonnades, which would have been a fun challenge. But ultimately through the envisioning process their true vision came out. Their developed style turned into a more site-specific contemporary design that still formed around a dynamic courtyard with glass walls that opened inward and outward to the amazing views and living spaces.”
Vanderbosch says the team works thoughtfully, methodically and uniquely on every project. “We analyze each site in terms of how we naturally engage with the site and respond to the environmental factors that are unique to each site in the mountain landscapes. We have spent years developing a process of engaging the client and pulling out their true wants and needs. Including a client questionnaire that we put into an envisioning book so the client has an accumulation of thoughts and can see the transformation of the design on their own.”
While the firm originally started planning commercial projects, residential projects soon followed in 2005. Today, the company is equally balanced with commercial and residential projects. “We have a great balance of boutique residential and commercial projects and have never wanted to be pigeonholed in one area,” says Vanderbosch.
Stēl House + Home, a division of VAA, is a retail furnishings store in Steamboat Springs. “Tactile design is a big part of what we do. We believe a space really comes together when the furnishings are part of the design. Stēl was born out of a desire to create unique, custom pieces that our clients will feel proud to own. Getting into the textiles and materiality of the furniture allows us to create spaces that feel holistic and true to the clients style,” explains Vanderbosch.
VAA is dedicated to sustainability in their projects. The firm feels sustainability can be worked into every project with varying techniques and strategies. Says Vanderbosch, “We have several LEED-certified professionals on staff who can guide a client through certification and also consult on different methods of achieving their sustainability goals.”
Summarizes Vanderbosch, “VAA believes each project is different from the last. We never take a cookie cutter or one-size-fits-all approach. We delve into what is important to the client and how their vision can be combined with the special qualities of their project.”
BIO: Kathy Smith is a freelance writer, editor and chef who contributes to many New West Publishing magazines.
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