Princeton and Philadelphia-based firm KSS Architects works on a wide range of projects, from industrial vertical farms and co-working complexes for entrepreneurs to mixed-use developments for low-income communities and arts centers for universities. But whatever the project, KSS puts the focus on human relationships and building communitya mindset that merges seamlessly with the firm's philanthropic work, creating a culture where helping the community isn't required, but it's basically automatic.
Two of KSS's leaders here are Jason Chmura and Sara Nordstrom, both 34. "It was one of the reasons I came to the firm," says Chmura of KSS's spirit of giving back. "Most of the people in the firm do something that is philanthropic or volunteer." "It's part of our thinking," adds Nordstrom, whose heroes include architects famous for their humanitarian buildings, like Cameron Sinclair and Shigeru Ban. She readily calls herself "earnest," and says she applies a "human rights framework" to all of her projects. It's a sentiment echoed by principal Ed Klimek: "There's so much more we can do in the design professions."