PZS Architects nice to meet you

The Firm

PZS Architects strikes a balance between collaboration and creativity, working with clients to understand their needs and designing solutions to help meet their goals. PZS identifies each project as a unique opportunity to provide form to our clients’ aspirations with our fresh perspective and flexible approach to achieve elegant results that exceed expectations.

We regularly engage our clients with ongoing and open dialogue so that every project is grounded in a realistic understanding of the project’s purpose and the client’s parameters. Through this collaboration, we create architecture that enriches people’s lives and elevates the human spirit.

PZS Architects was founded as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) in 1993. Since then, PZS has established a diverse portfolio of educational, corporate, commercial, and residential work. Approaching every project as a unique challenge and allowing its uniqueness to present opportunities has earned commissions varying in size and scope. Each reflects our design team’s shared attention to detail and commitment to involve all of a project’s stakeholders.

Partners David Polatnick, AIA, and Mario Zacharjasz, AIA, share practice management responsibilities and lead a staff of 15 design professionals committed both to the highest quality design and to our clients.

The firm’s collaborative approach creates motivation and energy by the design process. We measure project success by the relationships we develop with clients and the way architecture enhances our clients’ lives and businesses. Our clients often share with us their repeat projects – and their friendship – for just this reason.

The Principals

DAVID POLATNICK, AIA - It was David’s entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm that started PZS Architects. David is known to the office and to clients as a dedicated and sensitive designer with a great eye for details and the ability to take every stakeholder’s needs into consideration. His honest passion for his work has endeared many clients with whom he has made lasting friendships. David’s more than 25 years of professional experience have included the planning and design of large-scale retail shopping centers as well as historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects, where he is particularly adept at breathing new life into old or outdated buildings. David received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Temple University.
MARIO ZACHARJASZ, AIA - Recognized by many as the face of PZS Architects, Mario Zacharjasz exudes an energy that inspires the firm and its clients. His 25 years of experience include an emphasis on educational, multi-family housing, and civic architecture for clients ranging from the School District of Philadelphia to the Army Corps of Engineers. Born in Cuba, Mario moved to the US when he was three years old and continues to maintain strong ties to his heritage and the local Latin American community. Mario is dedicated to Philadelphia’s non-profit organizations; actively working with groups such as Esperanza, the Salvation Army and Aspira, Inc. Mario is a former President of the AIA, an executive board member and past board president of the Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Mario serves on the Mayor’s Commission for Construction Industry Diversity, and was recently appointed by the Mayor to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Board. He serves on the Board of Managers for Moore College of Art and Design and is a former board member with the United Way of South Eastern Pennsylvania.
MICHAEL SKOLNICK, AIA - A partner in PZS Architects since 1998, Michael guides the firm’s design philosophy. He quietly and efficiently encourages the office and its projects with his critical thinking and organization. Michael’s keen understanding of programming and planning sets the tone for each projects success. Whether working to further refine a design to meet a client’s needs or steering a project to proceed as planned, he is committed to high levels of client service and architectural excellence. His 30+ years of professional experience have included pharmaceutical, institutional, and corporate projects, as well as designs for high-end multi-family residential projects. Michael earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Temple University and is a member of the Urban Land Institute and the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

The Experience

Temple University Morgan Hall; Philadelphia, PA; 2 residential buildings (27-story tower and 10-story mid-rise) and 1, 3-story dining building totaling 656,000 SF + 45,000 SF terrace (parking/loading below)

PZS Architects is part of the project team who designed Temple University’s newest residential and dining complex which is comprised of 1,285 student beds organized in several suite configurations. Both the Tower and Midrise lobbies are entered from an elevated terrace that was constructed over a plaza deck above a parking/service level situated at and below street level.

The primary goal of this facility was to house students, but just as important, the University wanted to provide a better sense of community for the students. The facility is one of the largest student residential complexes in the city, and has added to the Philadelphia skyline.

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center; Philadelphia, PA; 130,000 SF; $72 million

The Salvation Army Kroc Center is located in North Philadelphia. This facility features a worship and performing arts center, teen activities center and game room, aquatics center, sports training, recreation center, and recording studio. The Salvation Army Kroc Aquatics (SAKA) swim team is Philadelphia’s premier competitive swimming program and one of the top teams on the East Coast. This facility earned a “Citation of Merit” from the AIA Pennsylvania. The center serves as a hub of community activity in what was formerly a blighted urban landscape. According to the AIA, the building “appears to devote all its energy to creating a great experience for the kids who use it.”

The center was designed with LEED certification in mind, however the Salvation Army chose not to pursue the certification process, instead they chose to use that funding for the programming at the facility. Approximately 95% of the existing material was recycled and reused on-site including concrete foundations soil and asphalt paving. Materials from demolition provided the fill under the building alleviating the load on the region’s landfills. Passive solar shading, a 2-acre white roof, high performance glass and mechanical systems were used to reduce energy consumption. PZS Architects worked with MGA Architects and Andropogon Associates on this project.

St. Joseph's University Villiger Hall; Philadelphia, PA; 116,000 SF (415 beds); $26.5 million

This student residence hall was designed to maximize student interaction. The facility includes study lounges, social lounges, laundry, a kitchen, and fitness center. The building's massing and stone exterior keep in line with the traditional feel of the campus. It is sited to respect the adjacent chapel and form an open space for student activities.

The design combines a granite base and limestone base with a field of coursed ashlar stone blend. Limestone was used at the building’s entrance and to clad the study towers at each end of the building. Limestone bands surrounds the windows, and were also used to break down the 6-story mass of the building. Each floor includes lounges and study areas and common bathroom areas. Positioned at the corner of Cardinal and City Avenues, Villiger Hall serves as the southern gateway to the campus.

Sugar Estates Senior Housing; St. Thomas, USVI; 95,700 SF

When complete this two-building complex will contain 80 residential units and common spaces including a clinic, community room, fitness center, library, computer room, and laundry facilities.

The design incorporates sustainable features including a single-loaded corridor and is sited to capture prevailing winds, roofs and cisterns to capture rain water, and a roof-mounted solar array to generate electricity, as well as use of native adaptive vegetation.

10 Rittenhouse Square; Philadelphia, PA; 561,000 SF, 35-story residential tower

PZS Architects, in association with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, designed a world-class residential condominium tower on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. The project consisted of three historic buildings, that together occupy the site’s entire Walnut Street frontage, were preserved and restored. Two of these, the Presbyterian Ministers Fund for Life Insurance Building, known as the Alison Building, at 1805 Walnut Street and the Fell-Van Renssalaer House at 1801 Walnut Street, remained as they existed except for judicious façade restoration. The third building occupying the site’s Walnut Street frontage is the historic Rittenhouse Club of Philadelphia at 1811 Walnut Street. The façade of this building was preserved while the original building’s volume was replaced by a new five-story building housing ground-floor retail with four full-floor residential condominiums above.

The high-rise tower is set back behind these three buildings by approximately 110 feet and rises with a series of setbacks which provide roof terraces to a height of 396 feet. Entrances to the residential tower are located on Walnut Street, through the preserved Rittenhouse Club façade, and on 18th Street through an east-facing garden courtyard. Other than these two residential entrances and enclosed loading docks and a parking entrance located on Sansom Street, the site’s entire frontage on Walnut, 18th, and Sansom Streets opens to retail storefronts.

Rittenhouse Club Façade and The Alison Building; Philadelphia, PA

The Rittenhouse Club, located at 1811-1813 Walnut Street, serves as the front door to Rittenhouse Square and is the centerpiece of our 10 Rittenhouse Square condominium project. The Rittenhouse Club façade was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by the architectural firm of Newman Woodman & Harris, c. 1900. The building consisted of five stories; the first four stories were masonry bearing walls and wood framing, the fifth was a steel framed structure on masonry bearing walls. It is believed that two townhouses were combined and a limestone façade was added to create the Rittenhouse Club.

Philadelphia Rittenhouse Developers, a joint venture of ARC Properties and Wheeler Brothers Holdings recognized the importance of maintaining the historic fabric of Rittenhouse Square, and was committed to preserving the façade of the Rittenhouse Club and incorporating it into the project. Due to the building’s inability to meet modern building codes and the deterioration of the existing structure, it was not feasible to preserve the entire building. Instead, the existing façade was restored and integrated into a new structure which connects to the 10 Rittenhouse tower via the lower level parking, first floor building, and shares a garden courtyard on the third floor.

The Ayer; Philadelphia, PA; 130,000 SF; $26.5 million

PZS Architects' design of The Ayer building complements the building’s original historic fabric while introducing contemporary amenities. The main lobby, recognized as one of the most majestic lobby spaces in Philadelphia, was preserved with a forensically-accurate paint scheme, including restoration of the original silver gilding. A new floating bench and shelf element crafted of eucalyptus wood reduces the grand scale of the lobby. The unusual asymmetry of the space was modified with ceiling interventions, while subtle lighting was used to highlight sculptural details. The modern materials palette introduced in the lobby is carried forth into elevators cabs and upper floor lobbies to create a consistent look and feel. The building was renovated and converted into 60 luxury condominiums, including a fitness center, business center, and interior parking.

Residential interiors feature an ultra-modern design, differentiating the building from other traditional and transitional style residential developments in the city. Details reinforce the integration of modern design within a timeless building. New energy efficient building systems and MEP equipment were incorporated into this project. The design and construction included replacement of MEP systems while maintaining the ongoing operations of the first floor restaurant tenant. In addition, construction and occupancy of the residential units were completed on a phased basis.

MIXED -USE: RESIDENCE + RESTAURANT The Ayer Building houses two restaurants at street-level. Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily - both of which are visible from Washington Square.
The Lofts at Bella Vista; Philadelphia, PA; 198,000 SF; $25 million

The Lofts at Bella Vista was a renovation and conversion completed by PZS Architects. Built in 1911 and originally used as a five-story warehouse and publishing facility for Curtis Publishing Company, the building is located in the heart of historic South Philadelphia. In designing the new complex, PZS Architects inserted interstitial mezzanines on each floor, giving each unit two floors of living space. These units range from 1,000 SF one bedrooms to 2,500 SF penthouses. In addition, eight new ultra-modern villas, each with three levels of terraces and green roofs overlooking the city, were constructed on the existing roof. This project also features a ground-level lobby and greeting spaces, fitness center, conference room, and 78 parking spaces and loading facilities located in heated garages.

Esperanza Campus Expansion and Master Plan; Philadelphia, PA

PZS Architects completed the master plan for Esperanza's campus located at Fifth and Bristol Streets. The 8-acre campus includes three former industrial buildings totaling 210,000 SF of space which houses Esperanza’s headquarters and administrative offices, a technology based high school, and a junior college, a medical practice, Esperanza Academy Charter School, and a workforce development program.

PZS is currently working on the design of a 100,000 SF middle school which includes the development of a new 18,000 SF building for performing arts and physical education, as well as additional parking facilities. The project will also modify site circulation patterns to accommodate vehicular and pedestrian access to the new facilities and to increase parking on site.

PZS is also recently completed a 40,000 SF expansion of Esperanza's Junior College that includes energy-saving design improvements to accommodate students from the sixth grade through junior college, and will also provide office space for social services agencies to serve the community.

Esperanza College opened in 2000 as a branch campus of Eastern University. The campus is located in North Philadelphia’s Hunting Park neighborhood, an area categorized as being “severely distressed” by the New Markets Tax Credit criteria.

Congreso Trujillo Center; Philadelphia, PA; 60,000 SF; $13 million

The Trujillo Center is a dual purpose facility, home to the Pan American Academy Charter School and the North Philadelphia location of Harcum College Congreso de Latinos Unidos. Harcum College launched their accelerated associate’s degree program in 2005 with one concentration: Leadership studies.

Since then, Harcum has added additional majors and satellite campuses throughout the region. Harcum has partnered with Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a nationally recognized community based non-profit organization primarily serving eastern North Philadelphia neighborhoods. They have been providing human services for more than 30 years with a focus on education and employment. early childhood education, human services, law and justice and leadership development. The center was designed with two entrances to accommodate the vast age range of students. Older students enter the through the two story lobby accessed from North American Street. Kindergarten students enter through a separate entrance accessed from the courtyard. The Cambria Street wing holds the administrative and counseling suites, kindergarten rooms, ESL and special education rooms. The North American Street wing contains the music classroom, kitchen and cafetorium. The three-story wing includes administration and kindergarten classrooms on the first floor and classrooms for older students on the second and third floors. The two story blue form contains the school’s art classroom and technology center on the second floor and the Library on the third floor. The lower wing houses music classroom and a combination auditorium/cafeteria with additional classrooms above. The building’s materials reflect the reality of trying to maximize academic spaces on a limited budget and alludes to the areas industrial legacy. Contrasting colors and materials are used throughout to energize the interior spaces and create depth on the façade.

The Shops at Valley Square; Warrington, PA

The goal was to create a lifestyle shopping center that evoked the feeling of a traditional, small town main street. PZS created a small town square featuring gathering areas, restaurants with outdoor seating, green space for concerts and community events.

To distinguish each building, the proportions and rhythms of fenestration have been slightly altered. Each building has a distinct footprint, massing, height, profile, shape and plan to provide a comfortable human scale. Using a shared vocabulary of materials, each retailer has an individual identity, yet the center as a whole exhibits a feeling of continuity and cohesion.

Veterinary Specialty + Emergency Center (VSEC); Levittown, PA; 21,000 SF

PZS Architects designed this state-of-the-art animal healthcare facility, which provides 24-hour emergency medical and surgical services. The facility accommodates a staff of surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, emergency care doctors, and an acupuncturist. The facility includes generous reception and waiting areas, workspaces, and support space for 25 doctors and staff, along with 12 exam rooms.

The technical spaces include two surgical suites, a radiology room, a CT room, an MRI and Specialty Procedures room, a Linear Accelerator room and two laboratories with medical gasses as well as intensive care wards. The facility also features a large conference and presentation center for continuing education for veterinarians and technicians.

VSEC provides advanced care in oncology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, cardiology, dermatology, critical care medicine, surgery, imaging and acupuncture. It offers radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats and is the first private veterinary specialty hospital in the Delaware Valley to offer radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer in pets, previously only available at the University of Pennsylvania.

PZS Architects also designed this 6,700 SF urban satellite facility on Front St in Philadelphia to support the same functions as VSEC's Levittown hospital.

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