Make no mistake: Vibe Coworks is a massive group effort. It's a place, a space and a community of people being brought to life by an army of smart, creative do-ers from around the Sound. Steve Rice is one of those people. And as principal at Rice Fergus Miller, he also happens to be ringleader in chief of the architectural and design team that is pouring its heart and soul into making Vibe unforgettably inspirational from the minute you walk through that door. Don't blame us if you don't want to leave the place. Steve and his team are masters of their trade, and we're pretty okay with that. This week, we sat down with Steve to get his take on how environment impacts the work that we do, what's been happening behind the scenes at Vibe and what he loves most about living+working right here in Kitsap.
Vibe: What inspired you to get into architecture and design?
SR: When I was 11 years old, my parents hired an architect to design a house for our family on the Key Peninsula. We visited the site every Saturday during construction—it was spellbinding for me. I could see my future from right there.
Vibe: As a human, as a designer and as a business leader, how does the environment you're working in impact you and the work that you do?
SR: The environment I'm working in should be inspirational. I think that's especially true for anyone involved in creative, connective or 'thinking' types of work. My team and I were reminded of that in 2011, when we renovated an abandoned Sears Auto Center building in downtown Bremerton, transforming it into RFM's office and studio. It's a joyous space, and we like being here. It absolutely contributes to the quality and spirit of the work that we do. That is exactly what will happen at Vibe, too.
Vibe: What was your first thought when we, together with Tim Ryan Construction, first approached you about taking on the design of a revolutionary new coworking space in Kitsap?
SR: Honestly? It was a wow moment—a thankful wow moment. Over the course of your career you find a few special projects that stretch boundaries: boundaries of place, type, method or the edges of one's imagination. I could see right away that Vibe and the building its housed in would be one of those projects. There is great reward in working on these [types of projects].
Vibe: That first encounter was back in April 2016. What's been happening behind the scenes since then?
SR: First, we established a design identity for the building, and visual positions for the interiors. Now, we're bringing detail into the picture, documenting everything, while staying true to the overall design intent. We've also been working closely with the City of Poulsbo's Planning & Building Department to make sure that our design plans exceed their requirements, and that the needed building permits can be processed as quickly as possible.
Vibe: What's your favorite element of Vibe's new building?
SR: The deliberate notion of craft. As developers and tenants, all of you at Tim Ryan Construction, Vibe, ChocMo, High Spirits and Crabtree Kitchen+Bar presented several challenges around how you want people to interact with the building and your respective businesses. Craft will appear on several different levels, but especially where people experience the building in a close way—like touching a handrail, holding a well-designed menu, meeting with people around a kitchen hearth or thinking it out with clients or business partners on the 'porch' at Vibe. We're trying to translate into physical form what owners can usually only describe with words. I think visitors will appreciate how everything is crafted carefully and related in a seamless way.
Vibe: On a more personal level, what's your favorite thing about Kitsap?
SR: I love the proximity to nature and its beauty here in Kitsap—that I can hop on my bike and get in 50 beautiful miles on a Saturday afternoon, and then have oysters for dinner that I gathered on our Hood Canal the night before. In the dark and rain and wind, of course.
Vibe: What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
SR: For our firm, I am looking forward to seeing our practice continue to develop and evolve. I get a lot of joy from seeing great young professionals rise up and share the firm's leadership. For me personally, I am looking forward to another long bike ride—this time from Detroit to NYC. And of course seeing Vibe and the partner businesses open in the new building. I love the celebrations around a new place, and all of the possibility that it represents.