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LineSync Architecture:  

Joseph Cincotta and Julie Lineberger

Joseph Cincotta
and Julie Lineberger with their daughters, Jaslyn & Jadria, 1997.

Excerpts from Line synchronisation:
Joseph Cincotta and Julie Lineberger
talk to Sonja van Kerkhoff, May 1997.

LineSync Architecture designs large and small commercial, municipal and residential properties, and currently employs two architects and two draftspersons. Joseph graduated from Harvard's Graduate School of Designwith a Master´s degree in Architecture (M.ARCH). Julie is responsible for LineSync Architecture's marketing, client negotiations, and office management. Before running LineSync Architecture, she worked as a professional international educator in third world countries. The family has been living in Vermont for 8 years, where they established LineSync Architecture in 1988...

Joseph: ...Looking back on it, there were a series of inspirations and disappointments that I worked hard to overcome. A similar incident happened a few years later in my junior high school. I found out about the city's public magnet high school that one could test for admission. There were three of them in New York and one specialized in architecture: Brooklyn Tech. I still remember feeling embarrassed and overjoyed the day when the principal announced over the public address system the students who had passed the exams for entrance into the special schools...

That fantasy ended rather abruptly in the first few weeks of my gruelling life at Brooklyn Tech. I come from modest working class roots. It took two buses and four trains, every day; a total of three-and-a-half hours to commute on New York City's transit system. I struggled. In my second year, I was asked if I wouldn't be better off leaving. "No," I answered. "Next year I get to study architecture!"

...In 1983, I began my three year stay in the Sultanate of Oman, working for Al Turki. I was hired as a site engineer, which basically means that I took the plans that were engineered in England and insured that they were carried out properly by the builders who were from India.

During this time, Gulabsi was constructing his own headquarters, and ever the perfectionist, I took copies of his blueprints and played with them in the evenings at home. A few weeks later I was pleased with what I had, and laid them on Gulabsi's desk declaring, ´This is what your office could look like.´ Gulabsi politely took them saying, "That's very nice. I will look at them. How is your day´s work going?"

The following month Sultan Qaboos demolished a construction project that was particularly unsympathetic to Omani cultural aesthectics. He then halted all construction in the country pending review by the royal government.

Gulabsi was suddenly interested in my drawings. He promised that if my design passed the review, it would be built and I would become the company's inhouse architect. As luck would have it, this was at the very time that I was scheduled to join Julie who was working on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. We had planned to live in Thailand and work together for a year before returning to the United States. Instead, Gulabsi and I persuaded Julie to join us in Oman where she worked in the Sultan's Private School and I designed a variety of projects for Al Turki Enterprises including the warehouse, a palatial villa for the owner, worker housing, a block factory and the like.

Seven years later, my design for the Al Turki Headquarters had the honor of being designated a National Landmark in the Sultanate of Oman.

In January of 1986, we returned to Cambridge, in the U.S. Married, with a baby due in July, I reentered Harvard, having the dubious distinction of being the only student ever readmitted after dismissal. Having gained some skills in diplomacy, I successfully completed my studies, with honors while retaining my creative spirit.

Al Turku Heacquarters,
Sultanate of Oman.

The four storey building
was designed to house
a showroom, company offices
and management housing
on the top floors.
The exterior features
a combed white cement plaster
that is maintainance free
and heat reflective.

Arcade in the
Al Turku Heacquarters,
Sultanate of Oman.

It was in graduate school that I discovered why so few people shared my vocational dreams. Architecture students tend to come from very well off families. Having gone through the first few years of starting up our own practice, I have come to understand how that can be beneficial. This is not something one does for money. The statistics are dismal. The number of graduate students who pass the architectural licensing exam on the first try hovers at around 20 percent nationwide. The number of architectural interns who become architects is just as disheartening.

Public Safety Facility,
Manchester, Vermont, U.S.A.
Combined Police, Fire and Rescue Services under one roof. The separate wings serve the various roles of each department while enabling team work among the various groups in efficent and effective ways.

Sonja: Tell me how LineSync Architecture started?

Julie: When Joseph graduated, we had a two year old daughter, and found we were visiting rural southern Vermont often to find peace, clean air, and a safe place for Jaslyn to run around. We decided to switch the arrangement, living in the country and visiting the city for cultural events.

Part of the decision included Joseph's decision not to work for a large firm. Many graduates end up designing bathrooms in large buildings before being able to sink their minds into something challenging.

We borrowed all we could and moved to southern Vermont. The housing market was booming, new residents were pouring into the ski community, we had a two year contract with a local developer to create a planned community. We felt that our contract would sustain us while we built up our reputation, met people in the area, and created a portfolio.

The week we arrived is pinpointed as the week the real estate market in the North East went bust. The developer with whom we had signed the contract was run out of town under legal threats, owing everyone in town money. We did not have a job, we had already borrowed all the money we could to move, we had no reputation in a town where architects were looked down upon by the builder community, we knew no-one except the developer who had just skipped town!

That was the start of LineSync Architecture. We went for it. I began writing for a local newspaper and thus met all the business owners in the area, marketing for our firm at the same time. Joseph canvassed real estate offices. Because Joseph had worked as a carpenter, he knew how buildings are were constructed. This knowledge quickly spread among the builders, and it was the builders we worked with who had a great hand in building our business, as well as the houses and commercial buildings we designed. With perseverance, we were able to survive...

Joseph: Partially out of ignorance, and partially out of a burning desire to remain creative and original, we avoided following the accepted paths to success. We're forging a new paradigm for the practice of architecture. I want to make a lasting contribution that inspires non-traditional prospective student types to choose a career in architecture. This profession desperately needs genuinely inspired creative thinkers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I also want to end the dominance of the academic elitists...

Making the world a beautiful place is important to me. The fundamental experience on this plane seems to be about appreciating sensual pleasures. Our whole beings are equipped to be stimulated through the five senses. I want to make buildings that feel good: a visceral satisfaction equivalent to smelling Grandma's sauce cooking for Sunday dinner.

Plan for a public safety facility in Manchester, Vermont.

Violin House, Wilminton, Vermont, U.S.A.

A large sheltering roof covers
a geometric interplay of rooms
encircling a two storey living room area.

The focal point is a finely crafted staircase
made of fiddleback maple and
tightly strung steel cable:
a homage to the memory of the widow´s
concert violinist husband.

Sonja: Julie, what about your involvement?

Julie: I am responsible for the marketing and all the office management. Often our tasks overlap both in design and management, and quite regularly on client relations.

Joseph and I met in graduate school at Harvard. I was in the Graduate School of Education, studying and working in the field of International Education. I had travelled many places, working in various settings. In Bogota, Colombia, I started a school in the hillside for children fleeing United Fruit Company violence; in Tijuana, I was part of a group that ran a summer school for street children; in Bonaire, I taught English and Spanish to Dutch businessmen; in Thailand, I ran a 10,000 student education system at the Khao-i-Dang Relocation Camp, working with the International Rescue Committee under the auspices of UNHCR; in the Sultanate of Oman, I taught English and social skills to Bedoin children who had received scholarships to attend the Sultan's private school; in Boston, I worked with a group to open the International Studies and Language High School for the Boston Public Schools.

When we decided to marry and start a business, I took my non-profit skills and switched to profit. It is this unusual background, we believe, that has allowed us to be successful in architecture, at a time when thousands of architectural firms close annually in the States.

Joseph: ...Coming from a non-architectural background, she is very good as a bridge between the art of architecture and the practice of it. Consequently, over 80 percent of our projects are built, extraordinarily high for an architectural office. I was raised on a parallel path such that I found Julie's world view very compatible with my own. Becoming a Bahá´í in 1995 wasn't an epiphany for me, but was more about joining a community of like minded people. Julie had been raised in a Bahá´í family. I felt like I was among friends...

Sonja: Tell me more about the work that LineSync Architecture does.

Julie: We design homes all over the country, and even a few overseas, and because of this, we have worked hard to avoid developing a recognizable aesthetic. This is rare in the field of architecture, where the success of many firms is contingent upon their having a distinct style and design that is easily marketed. We may be taking chances, but we prefer the stimulation.

Our homes are as varied as the cultures of our clients. We favor the use of local materials and methods as much as possible. We also find it fascinating that a major part of our job is drawing out the self-defining cultural influences in our clients. They reflect how they live and, accordingly, what they want the interiors of their homes to feel like and be used for.

For example, the Middle Eastern modulus, has no true counterpart in western culture. Often western architects confuse modulus with the living room. The actual use of the modulus, however, is much more subtle. It is a greeting place where visitors can meet with selected members of the household while others go about their business in complete privacy. As such, it functions autonomously to the home and is often quite at odds with a traditional living room.

We have also been observing how foreigners living as expatriates adjust traditional western style homes to suit their own cultural needs. To further the middle eastern comparison, this can be simply darkening the house with an inordinate amount of curtains and shades, pulled tightly, mimicking the darkness required to keep cool in the homeland. Often it is a large addition affecting the design of the entire home to affect the culturally proper room sequence.

Hollywood Crash Pad, Santa Barbara, CA, U.S.A.

A refuge in a spare wing of a Santa Barbara residence.
The sloping partition wall divides the bathroom closet, workdesk and sleeping areas while maintaining a spacious ambiance.

With the majority of our clients, the cultural pulls are more inconspicuous. Their lives, and dreams for home design, are influenced by their socioeconomic culture, their career culture, their family structure, their education, the community in which they build, and their self-definition. In our country, the experience of designing and building one's own home opens up a candy store of infinite possibilities. The role of the architectural team can become quite complex...

The success of our approach is validated by the quantity of LineSync Architecture residences. We ask only one thing before taking on a commission: is the client genuinely interested in producing something uniquely personal?

We have just won the Master Grand Prize from MiniCad, the software program we use in our office. Pace Bene, the winning design, is a residence we designed in North Carolina. The design was heavily influenced by the cultural values of its Mediterranean clients. The judges created the new category ´Residential Design´ to honor our entry!

Julie: Pro bono is free, or greatly reduced price. We have done this from the inception of our business. It is our way of contributing back to the universe. We believe that good design can be conducive to affecting desired change and feel it is not something that should be limited to people with monetary wealth.

Joseph: It began because we wanted to give, but didn't have the financial ability to do so. The extent of our donation increases as our profitability increases. The feeling of giving back to the universe validates our existence, in the sense that our lives are a privilege...

Other projects include a local center for the performing arts that was under conception, other affordable houses, a welcome center for the local Chamber of Commerce, the design to retrofit handicap accessibility for two local community churches and the local library, and the redesign of a building for Youth Services.

Our current pro bono project is the Bright Hope Child Care Center in the inner city of Jamaica-Queens, NY. I heard of the project from an article in the magazine Women in Construction. We interviewed Women of Faith, the group that is putting the center together, and liked their vision, enthusiasm, and faith, and decided that our commitment matched theirs. We are in the permit approval stages at the moment. Last month, we presented the concept and plans to a Women in Construction networking session and garnered support for the donation of materials and labor for the actual construction, which will take place in the spring...

Joseph: We have a lot of fun. My sister-in-law has been trying to entice us to come up with a Mashriq prototype that small communities can build themselves. That may be our pro bono project for 1997.

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, June 1997, pages 8 - 11.

2003: LineSync Architecture received three awards in the first three months of 2003: Best and Brightest American Architects - Building Stone Magazine. The accompanying article features a story of Julie and Joseph, as well as photos of a private pool grotto designed by LineSync Architecture; Best Integrated Design for Energy Efficiency in Residential. This post and beam home of straw bales is "off the grid" generating its own energy sources; Public Space Award - Vermont Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. LineSync Architecture's pro bono project: an ADA entry for the historic Congregational Church in Wilmington.

Current projects include a 10,000 square foot state of the art office for RG Niederhoffer Capital Management on the 39th floor of 1700 Broadway in New York City; custom designed and hand crafted dining room table and chairs for 20; planning for a tasteful multihome lakeside development in Vermont; and new homes in Florida, Connecticut and Vermont.


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