Thomas Sykes

Like many architecture firms, SOSH Architects’ chosen moniker stems from the surnames of its principals. The first ‘s’ belongs to Thomas Sykes, who founded the firm alongside Thomas O’Connor, William Salerno, and Nory Hazaveh in Margate, New Jersey, in 1979. After years contributing master planning and design to Atlantic City, SOSH Architects now wields a broader focus. Yet though its portfolio spans the country, it also includes unique and forward-thinking projects closer to home, such as an eco-friendly residence / nature center set in the woods of New Jersey’s Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Here, Sykes talks about the origins of SOSH and the Atlantic City neighborhood he calls home.

We started in Margate and had a lot of residential and planning initially but wanted to grow into hospitality and education and municipal work. We wanted a broader scope. So when we moved our offices out to Atlantic City in 1986, we have been focusing on hospitality and education. What’s good about hospitality is it helps us grow away from our hometown. At home we’re a very diverse practice and can apply for a lot of different work. Farther away from home, you need a niche. Our niche has been hospitality. We’re quite busy in hospitality right now in upstate New York, in Mississippi, in California, in Ohio, and we’re doing two concepts for projects overseas right now.

Up Close and Personal

What was your first job?
I was working for the US Department of Justice doing prison reform work for the northeast region of the United States. It was fascinating work.

If you weren’t an architect, what would you be?
I would be in oceanography. I would be diving somewhere.

What inspires you?
An early appreciation for the arts and growing up in a coastal community, for the environment.

Describe yourself in three words.
Hoping to grow.

What is your hidden talent?
To bring calm and control into uncalm situations.

I live in Atlantic City, in a 100-year-old boathouse I renovated. When we renovated that building, there was no one living there. Now it’s a really nice north-side neighborhood that’s regenerated itself called Gardner’s Basin, which is a really lovely area not a lot of people get to see. We’ve got a long way to go in Atlantic City, but it’s a pleasure being part of the process.

I don’t think being environmentally conscious is an industry change. I think the industry has responded to a recognition of responsibility from all aspects of civilization. The sensitivity to sustainable principles is now not just an industry principle but … a client principle. The people who are developing the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge project and many others have reassessed their priorities. That’s what’s really matured not only the industry, but the education of our children and the improvement and sensitivity of the materials.

My father had a roofing business in Atlantic City when I was growing up. My father—I loved him dearly, but he hated architects. He literally cried when I told him I was going to be an architect. His words were, “I spend my life fixing architects’ mistakes. Promise me if you’re going to do this, you’ll associate with good people.” I said, “I promise.” I’ve tried to keep that promise. That’s why I’m sitting here.