AVONDALE — In many ways, Avondale was a perfect fit for 34-Ten Architecture.
"For me, it was really about just getting back to the basics. I try to keep the office as authentic and honest as possible — simply solving the problem and stripping away the corporate feeling of a firm," said founding principal Josh Hutchison.
Avondale, he said, has a similar vibe.
"It still has its grit, and I can appreciate that," Hutchison said. "I live in Logan Square, and Logan is getting insane with its fancy restaurants and cocktails. I like it, but I like getting away from it."
It's been almost a year since Hutchison launched 34-Ten, which opened at 3010 N. California Ave. a few months after it got started.
To celebrate its first year, 34-Ten is looking for artists to transform its storefront into a visually engaging installation. Through March 13, artists can submit drawings of their proposals, which are centered on the theme of renewal and the seasonal change of urban landscapes.
Three winners will be displayed on a rotating basis starting in May.
"There are very few things right now in our little stretch, so for me, it was this notion of being kind of a bright spot along this less lively portion of California," Hutchison said.
In 34-Ten Architecture's first year, business "just kind of snowballed" to the point the one-man operation needed to add two more architects to keep up with the workload.
It's a complete turnaround from the struggling industry a decade ago, Hutchison said.
"The recession came along, and that changed everything," said Hutchison, whose Downtown firm laid him off amid downsizing. Hutchison found work as an in-house architect for developers and fine-tuned his skills.
"It was frightening, and then it was exhilarating, and it just became really fun once I developed my own identity," Hutchison said. "It's scary, but when you don't have any other options, you just make it work."
Across the country, development came to a standstill until about 2012, when "the flood gate opened," he said.
"I've never seen so much construction," Hutchison said of the current state of the industry. "It's incredibly busy."
When Porch Masters left the storefront at California and Wellington, Hutchison decided it was the perfectly imperfect time to launch his firm. And Avondale, he said, was the perfect spot to do so.
"I like to be off the beaten path," he said. "And there's never a perfect time for anything. You always figure, 'I'll be settled and older,' but life doesn't always work that way."
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