Architect Puts A Little Jazz Into Innovative Designs

October 15, 2007
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Isaac V. Norris is a jazz aficionado by choice and an architect by design.

His passion for jazz music and saxophone playing is outdone only by his love of architecture.

"I really enjoy the fact that architecture can serve as a positive-change element in our communities and neighborhoods," Norris said. "I have always had a love for the visual arts and music. I enjoyed drawing, painting, model building and music as a child.

"To me, architecture encompasses all of my passions. I strive to create buildings that seem to be kinetic and moving, are of constant change and visually stimulating. I see architecture as jazz music. I also value the challenge of designing within a budget, exceeding project expectations and developing positive relationships."

So while Isaac V. Norris & Associates PC could be the name of an onstage ensemble, it also happens to be the name of his architectural firm, which is actively involved in the creation of local neighborhoods and educational institutions.

"I am optimistic that our city will continue to develop communities and neighborhoods that will encourage our ambitious youth to build career and family roots here," Norris said. "Grand Rapids must continue to learn to value diversity, as other world-class cities are doing so."

Isaac V. Norris & Associates will be honored Oct. 23 at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce's 26th annual Minority Business Celebration.

"This is a great honor, and we are indeed thankful," Norris said. "This is a time to celebrate minority businesses, as we share in the growth and development of the entire Grand Rapids business community.

"I was born and raised in this community, and I appreciate the fact that I was able to attend college and come back to this community to pursue my architectural career."

The innovative, four-employee architectural firm has been involved in the design process for many recent Grand Rapids projects, including Uptown Village Apartments and Town Homes, The Avenue Senior Apartments, Browning Claytor Town Homes, Brown Hutcherson Ministries Center, The Housing Center of West Michigan, Huntington Bank, Gerald R. Ford Middle School, Fifth Third Bank and others.

"Isaac V. Norris as an architecture and planning firm is not only a great business and very successful, but (Norris) has also dedicated his time and talents to different community projects," said Jeanne Engelhart, executive director of Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's a company that gives back to the community to make it a nicer place to live and do business."

For Norris, it's a labor of love.

"We are committed to meeting the needs of our clients in a creative, practical and cost-effective manner," Norris said. "We develop positive relationships with our clients based upon a common goal of improving our communities and our environment.

"I would like to see our company grow in capacity to provide more extensive project leadership on larger-scale projects," Norris added. "I like the idea of being a business that stays small successfully."

Isaac V. Norris and Associates has served the West Michigan community as a full-service architectural design firm since 1993 by successfully completing a wide range of projects varying in size and complexity.

"I believe that we will continue to seek projects that have a major positive impact upon neighborhoods and communities. I also believe that we will continue to seek relationships with like-minded individuals and organizations," he said.

"I always believed that I could own and operate my own business. There were models in the community that inspired me to believe that I could be successful. My parents have owned several businesses, so I was able to benefit from their experiences. I was also mentored by local architect Judson Jones. During my high school and college years he was very supportive and encouraging of my pursuits."

The 44-year-old Norris, in turn, is passing his knowledge on to future generations of architects.

"Mentoring is important, and we embrace opportunities to share our experiences as architects and designers with interested youth," he said.

Norris said his architectural firm has been able to remain competitive during recent downturns in the housing industry by providing services as a flexible and competent team member.

"The key is to remain optimistic," he said. "We truly believe that we offer the best value for our clients. We offer quality design at a competitive price. We also share our clients' optimism. I am thankful that we have maintained a steady flow of work over the past few years. We manage well to remain competitive and productive.

"We truly believe that we offer the best value for our clients by offering quality design at a competitive price," Norris added. "Our associations and partnering with local larger architectural and construction companies has helped us to gain involvement in larger projects, because we have the ability to design, prepare construction documents and administer construction contracts that generate successful projects, completed on time and within budget."

Norris was born in Grand Rapids and attended Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Junior College before going on to attain graduate and post-graduate degrees from the University of Detroit Mercy and Western Michigan University.

"West Michigan is a community that values relationships," Norris said. "We are involved in the West Michigan community beyond the reach of our business. We value opportunities to become involved in various community activities."

Married with three children, Norris said he enjoys sports and playing music on his saxophone — jazz music, of course.

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