Profile: Tanek Architecture and Design

Video Courtesy of Fran at Zeichen Press

I would like you to meet Tanek!  Tanek, an architectural and design firm, is nestled in a converted turn of the century office building in Minneapolis.  The firm was started in 1999 by Nat Shea and Ken Piper.  If you flip their first names backwards and combine them, you get Tan and Nek, or Tanek!  I had the chance to meet with Ken and Nat last week and learn more about Tanek’s  projects and design process.  Take a moment to meet Nat and Ken and their talented staff in the video above and then click after the jump to see my interview with Tanek!

With a background in both architecture and real estate, Ken Piper and Nat Shea know plenty about creating inventive commercial environments.  Ken was the President of Genesis Architects, a commercial real estate firm.  He brought Nat on board as Vice President.  At Genesis Architects, they were serving developers, brokers and property managers.  Nat explains, “We really got to see design and construction from the inside out from a design and real estate standpoint.  We really got to learn the business.”

After working 5 years at Genesis Architects bringing up their business, Ken and Nat decided to strike out on their own.  They started working out of their front porch, but soon moved to an office space on Hennepin Avenue, next door to Liquor Lyles.  Nat fondly remembers his early office days, “I would get in early to work, and hear the bottles breaking as the garbage person took out Liquor Lyle’s garbage and think, ‘Oh, is it 5:30am already?!'”

The early days were challenging.  Nat explains, “Everyone told us in 1999, that we shouldn’t start because it was a bad time.  And we didn’t know any better.  So for us, we had good support. And we had a strong client list and we had been in the business for many years.  People already knew us in the business.”

By reaching out to their contacts, Nat and Ken were able to garner up a business and hire talented employees.  Tanek is a small firm, which allows Ken and Nat to be active on each project.  Clients benefit from getting the expertise from the principals and the entire Tanek staff.  “It gives us a pulse on what’s going on,” Ken states, “It keeps us active and involved, it’s the ‘roll up your sleeve’ concept.”

Their active collaboration with the client is evident on every project.  Nat explains, “We approach it from a couple different ways.  Really, for us, it is looking at it from a business strategy.  We try to think about our clients, where they are in business and say, ‘Okay, what are their needs?'”  After discussing the project with their clients, Tanek uses 3D rendering to provide an almost exact picture of how the building will appear.   “3D can sometimes can be more complicated, but the speed our team can use these tools are amazing!” Nat exclaims, ” They are able to come up with ideas in 3D, and then present it and show it on a screen.  It has been a great tool.”  Some of Tanek’s 3D rendering can be seen in the photo gallery below.

All of the tools Tanek uses helps accomplish their main goal: to capture the heart and soul of their client.  “There is a story to be told for what we do,” Ken says, “That is where our expertise  comes in.  Anyone can design, and I think the essence of who the client is and really solving the problem in a really creative way is it for us.”

After all their years working in architecture, it is evident that Ken and Nat love what they do.  What part of the job excites them the most?  “For me, it’s always seeing the satisfaction of our clients and in this business,” says Ken.  Nat continues, “The fun of it is we have such a great team of people now.  That is the biggest thing is bringing the team of people around this table and doing stuff in real time with the client.  It’s not just one person, its our team collectively bringing a lot of energy to the project.”

It was a pleasure to talk with Nat and Ken and I want to thank them for showing me their lovely offices.  If you would like to learn more about Tanek, please visit their website and view a selection of their projects in the gallery below.

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