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Five Minutes with Thamarit Suchart, Chen + Suchart Studio

Five Minutes with Thamarit Suchart, Chen + Suchart Studio

On October 20, 2017, AIA Arizona held the annual AIA Arizona Awards Gala at the Phoenix Art Museum. Amongst the awards given were to The Kenneth, a townhome project we’re proud to represent in Tempe, that was designed by the local architecture firm Chen + Suchart Studio. For their hard-work, AIA Arizona presented them an award as a Distinguished Building. Before they started their architecture firm in 2003, the husband and wife duo of Thamarit Suchart and Patricia Chen cut their teeth gaining knowledge working alongside Wendell Burnette and at the Jones Studio.

Since then, any building bearing their design touch and imprint adheres to conscientious consideration of the materials and their relation to the environment they are constructed. Prior to The Kenneth, they were known for their tasteful expansion and renovation of an English Tudor home in the F.Q. Story Historic Neighborhood, as well as their design of the Yerger Residence, settled in a prominent Camelback Mountain location, which gave the landmark constant presence “in the experience of the house while creating other introspective moments.” These homes, as well as others, have also been awarded with top AIA Arizona honors.

We recently spoke with Thamarit Suchart about the design process of The Kenneth, its new designation as Distinguished Building, as well as being an elder architecture firm in the Valley. Below the Q&A are a complete list of winners:

What was one design element of The Kenneth that always stood out to you? 

The idea of using one main material, in this case corrugated metal, and exploiting the material to its fullest potential, how it is configured and manipulated and therefore establishes the architectural language for the project. All of this takes place while still creating a unique place to live.

Chen + Suchart has received AIA awards in the past, what sets The Kenneth apart from your past projects? 

The Kenneth was a big challenge for us as it was one of our first larger scale projects being an 8-unit development.  More critical as a challenge was the budget for the project. These units are a development that is an investment with budgets and returns as constraints.

The question and ultimate challenge became, how does one still create a piece of quality architecture within those parameters. Otherwise one ends up with more of the same developments we see time and time again that exist throughout our building environment.

Were you surprised by the accolades that The Kenneth received by the AIA?

We are always pleasantly surprised with the recognition we receive for the work that we do. We enjoy the fact that we have received and continue to receive awards for the work we do that is judged from a jury of our peers. Each year these juries change and we continue to receive recognition from different juries of varying perspectives and backgrounds.

As an accomplished firm, how does it feel to have the opportunity to mentor young architects as you were mentored yourself by Wendell Burnette?

I am not sure if we can yet say we are accomplished, but we simply strive to design each and every project with architectural integrity. We currently have one very faithful person working with us. The opportunity to mentor those with less experience than us is an enormous responsibility and one that we relish.

The mentoring is furthered by having the opportunity to teach architectural design studios for the past six years at ASU and University of Arizona. Empowering the next generation through education is a responsibility that I enjoy.

What excites you about local design trends around town as an architect?

We do not really pay attention to trends as they are fleeting and, more often than not, superficial. Clients who choose to work with us come to us to develop a project that has design integrity and transcends trend or stylistic moves.

As an architect in this environment, I am excited about more and more people becoming increasingly aware of modern and contemporary homes that are true to this time and place. Too much of our built environment is a facsimile of an architectural language that has no roots in this place.  We hope to change our built environment one project at a time.


Full list of award winners:
Arizona Public Service 2017 Energy Award
Project: West-MEC Southwest Energy Campus
Architect: DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky
Owner: West-MEC
Contractor: McCarthy
Salt River Project 2017 Sustainable Award
Project: Liberty Wildlife
Architect: Weddle Gilmore Black Rock Studio
Contractor: Okland Construction
2017 Theory + Design Award – Citation Award
Project: Beyond Borders
Architect: Aaron Tsosie
2017 Component Design Award – Citation Award
Project: Local Nomad
Architect: s p a c eBUREAU
Owner:  Lauren Danuser
Contractor: s p a c eBUREAU
2017 Urban & Regional Planning – Citation Award
Project: Arizona Canal Master Plan
Architect:  John Douglas Architects
Owner:  City of Scottsdale
Contractor: Howard S Wright
2017 Urban & Regional Planning Award – Citation Award
Project: Downtown Tucson 2050 Plan
Architect: University of Arizona, School of Architecture
2017 Unbuilt Award – Citation Award
Project: The National Museum of Afghanistan
Architect: Line and Space, LLC
Owner:  Afghanistan Ministry of Information and Culture
2017 Distinguished Building – Citation Award
Project:  Kenneth Place Townhomes
Architect: Chen + Suchart Studio, LLC
Owner:  Withheld Upon Request
Contractor: TLW Construction
2017 Distinguished Building – Citation Award
Project:  Dunlap Venue
Architect:  Matthew Salenger & Maria Salenger
Owner:  Valley Metro Phoenix
Contractor: Southwest Fabrication
2017 Distinguished Building – Citation Award
Project:  Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center
Architect: Jones Studio
Owner: Maricopa Community College District
Contractor: Layton Construction Co., Inc.
2017 Distinguished Building – Citation Award
Project:  Ghost Wash House
Architect: Architecture – Infrastructure – Research
Owner: Eric + Lauri Termansen
Contractor:  Build Inc.
2017 Distinguished Building – Merit Award
Project:  Casa Caldera
Architect: DUST
Owner:  Name Withheld
Contractor:  DUST
2017 Distinguished Building – Merit Award
Project: Barnone
Architect:  DeBartolo Architects
Owner:  Johnston Properties, LLC
Contractor:   Caliente Construction
2017 Distinguished Building – Merit Award
Project: Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building
Architect:  CO Architects in Association with Ayers Saint Gross
Owner:  Arizona Board of Regents
Contractor:   DPR Construction + Sundt Construction, A Joint Venture
2017 Distinguished Building – Merit Award
Project: Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science
Architect:  CoLab Studio & 180 Degrees
Owner:  Desert Botanical Garden
Contractor: 180 Degrees
2017 Distinguished Building – Honor Award
Project: Tucson Mountain Retreat
Architect: DUST
Owner: Owner’s Name Withheld
Contractor:  DUST
2017 Distinguished Building – Honor Award
Project: Environmental and Natural Resources Building (ENR2)
Architect of Record: GLHN Architects and Engineers
Design Architect:  Richärd+Bauer
Owner:  University of Arizona
Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
2017 Distinguished Building – Honor Award
Project: Arizona State University Beus Center for Law and Society
Architect: Ennead Architects / Jones Studio Inc.
Owner:  Arizona State University
Contractor/CMAR: DPR Construction


2017 AIA10 Award
Rick McLain, AIA
2017 Client Award
Agua Fria Union High School District
2017 Arizona Architects Medal
Neal Jones, AIA
2017 Firm of the Year
Holly Street Studio
2017 Goodwin Award
Project: Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science
Architect: CoLab Studio & 180 Degrees
Owner:  Desert Botanical Garden
Contractor: 180 Degrees
2017 Educator Award
Mary Hardin, AIA
2017 Design Pedagogy
University of Arizona ARC297m/397m | Material Fabrication I + II
2017 Community Education
Camp Architecture
2017 Research Design Award
Project: Canyon View High School
Architect: DLR Group
Owner:  Agua Fria Union School District #216
Contractor: Chasse Building Team


Photography of The Kenneth by Matt Winquist