When Roman Mychajlowycz met his business partner Carol Kleinfeldt as classmates at the University of Toronto more than 48 years ago, there was no way to predict how together they would influence the region’s architectural landscape with projects both big and small. After graduating from University with degrees in architecture and pursuing various apprenticeships to obtain membership in the Ontario Association of Architects, the former classmates decided to launch their own firm, the Toronto-based Kleinfeldt, Mychajlowycz Architects, Inc. (KMA Architects).
“The idea of starting our own firm came about because we didn’t want to work for anyone else,” says Roman with a laugh. “We did the absolute shortest apprenticeships possible and then we started our practice from ground zero.” And they’ve been collaborating on award-winning architectural designs ever since.
KMA Architects, which Roman describes as a small firm that tackles large projects, is unusual. Having grown to nearly 20 employees in the late ‘80s, the partners soon realized that they were spending most of their time managing staff and running their business instead of focusing on actual design. They decided to downsize the firm to a workable size where they could be involved in each project from start to finish. “We can better maintain quality when there are continuity and understanding of intent in the decisions made throughout a project,” says Roman.
But their smaller size hasn’t stopped the firm from taking on large-scale architectural design projects. Over the years those projects have run the gamut from commercial work (restaurants, condominiums) to public sector work (municipal buildings, correctional facilities). The firm also specializes in development of planning guidelines and standards and Planning and Design Compliance (PDC) Services for P3 Infrastructure Projects. “We developed the P3 model with Infrastructure Ontario, and the Durham Regional Courthouse was the first P3 project in the province,” says Roman.
“To a large extent, people are able to forge a path where they want to go, but a lot of things happen by chance,” he says. “We didn’t set out to do public sector work, but as we took on more institutional projects that had a community or social aspect to them, it just seemed more socially relevant to do those kinds of projects.”
From courthouses to BMX racing tracks to an orangutan habitat at the Toronto Zoo, Roman and Carol have created their fair share of award-winning architectural designs over the years. Among the long list of awards and honors earned for their work is the 2010 Ontario Association of Architects Design Excellence Award for their design of the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute at Pearson International Airport, and the Justice Facility Review Award from the American Institute of Architects for the Edmonton Institution for Women in Alberta. More recently, the firm found themselves on the list of finalists for the 2016 ArchDaily Building of the Year for Sports Architecture for their design of the BMX Supercross Track in Toronto. “Each new project brings new and diverse challenges,” says Roman. “Those are the things that keep this job interesting and engaging.”
When asked to name his favorite design from the last three decades, Roman doesn’t hesitate. “Every single one is a favorite – it has to be. That’s like asking which one of your children you like better. Who has an answer for that?”
The biggest challenge to running their own firm is unquestionably the business end of it all, says Roman. “Carol and I went to school for architecture where we learned about the philosophy and design aspect of architecture; it was not a professional business school. It ends up that we were remarkably unprepared for running a firm at the onset, and when have your own practice you have to do it all.”
One way KMA has been able to keep focused on the design and project management side of their business is by counting on the professionals at Sloan Partners for their accounting, tax and bookkeeping needs. “Since the beginning, we’ve always been with Sloan. It would take us five times the effort to do everything they do for us,” admits Roman. “We couldn’t be happier with the services Sloan provides us and we have recommended them many times over the years. We would not think about going anywhere else.”
To learn more about Kleinfeldt Mychajlowycz Architects, Inc. or to see a gallery of their work, log on to www.kma.to.