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George Gakidis of Gakidis + Stewart Design Group Inc. discusses favorite projects, inspiration and Integrity


Gakidis + Stewart Design Group Inc. is a coast-to-coast company that focuses on providing exceptional architecture and design services. Their dynamic portfolio includes private homes, condominiums, hotels, restoration projects, schools and works in the non-profit sector. In 2013 they were honored with a Red Diamond Achiever Award for their work on the Wychmere Pool Bar Pavilion. We caught up with founding partner, George Gakidis, to talk about his favorite projects, where he finds inspiration and why he choses Integrity.

In 2005 you joined forces with Andrew Stewart, an old friend from The Rhode Island School of Design, to form Gakidis + Stewart Design Group Inc. How do the two of you compliment each other?

GG: The primary reason we joined forces was to develop a bi-coastal partnership. Andrew was established in the San Francisco Bay area, and at the time was expanding to the South Lake Tahoe area. Andrew has a strong background in commercial architecture but was beginning to take on high-end residential projects, which is where the majority of my experience had been. It made sense to combine our strengths.

In 2013, Gakidis + Stewart Design Group Inc. received a Red Diamond Achiever Award for work on the Wychmere Pool Bar Pavilion. What do you believe helped your company rise above the rest?

GG: We have an enormous amount of coastal experience. Our knowledge and expertise in this area gave us the edge to propose the most sensible solution for the site. Using materials and finishes that withstand an environment in such close proximity to the ocean. The design not only had to be inviting, but also had to accommodate two programmatic elements; dining and congregating. It is also an architectural feature of the entire site, so we needed to make it impressive, without compromising the views of the Nantucket Sound. On the waterfront it’s always about the view and the open horizontal dining area acted as this transition between the pool and the ocean. The clerestory windows and cupola over the bar create a beacon from both land and sea.

Beside the Wychmere Pool Bar Pavilion, what are one or two additional architectural accomplishments that you are particularly proud of? Why?

GG: One is definitely NECAT, (New England Center for Arts & Technology) in the heart of the Newmarket Business District of Boston. NECAT is a non-profit culinary arts training center for under-employed and un-employed individuals, so it was really gratifying to be a part of it from the beginning. The project offered a challenging scenario. The original space served as a function hall and restaurant and we were charged with transforming it into a functional school complete with classrooms, café, offices and a teaching kitchen amphitheater that seats 106. All the while taking into consideration NECAT’s standard: “Environment Shapes Behavior.” It was an exciting project for our interiors department to work on. It is extremely rewarding to be able to see the space being used daily by students who appreciate the surroundings.

Another accomplishment is a major renovation to a house on Cape Cod that was built in the 1700s and had an addition put on in the 1800s; we honed in on the 1800s style as a solution (as it had to be historically correct). The client wanted a two car garage with a large multi-functional space above, and a chapel that needed to be situated to incorporate a collection of stained glass windows. Custom glass windows had to be made to match the stain glass. (Marvin Wood Ultimate Series was used.) LED lighting was incorporated in-between windows and stain glass to illuminate at night. In the end, the addition we created looks as if it has always been there – while the interior had spacious open planning more in tune to how we live now. I was very pleased on how we were able to integrate these two challenging aspects in historic New England.

When working on a new project, what are some initial areas you tend to look to for inspiration?

GG: With any new project we always take into consideration site and context of where the structures are going; that inspires us. That’s pretty high on the list. The client’s needs, function of space and vision also lead us in the direction of our solution, views, vistas and presence. From there we develop preliminary designs and begin the process of fine tuning. I tend to be a little old-school, and my go to inspirational tools are often books and magazines. We have a large library, and anything in print that I can flip through gets the design process going. All our projects are a team effort having a great team on all projects is always inspiring. Whether a commercial or residential program, we come up with a solution that is like a glove that fits that clients hand perfectly.

What is the one building trend right now that most excites you?

GG: Probably the industries shift to sustainable materials. There are so many options to offer clients that are low maintenance, made from renewable materials, and at affordable price points. It’s an interesting direction to be able to advise clients to take. Being conscientious of limited resources is important for future generations.

Why do you choose to use Integrity products?

GG: I use Integrity products for a lot of reasons listed above. Besides being a renewable product, they address coastal challenges we have here New England and along the Eastern coast, as well as any of the wind issues we’ve seen in the rest of the country. Integrity offers lots of options within a very short lead time, and the clients appreciate competitive pricing.

What three words would you use to describe your expectations for the summer building season ahead?

GG: Onwards And Upwards!