Patri and John are two of our Builders and run an architecture firm in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Name: Patri Acevedo and John Riker
City/Town: Rapid City, South Dakota
Where else can we connect with you online?
Twitter: @JM_Riker, @Patri_AcV2
Who is your community?
We live in Rapid City, and it’s definitely where we call home. Patri was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and that’s where half of her heart is. John is from Upstate New York, a small town called Sodus. Both our parents and siblings are now scattered across the US.
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
Our day starts by Patri getting up earlier than she would like (and earlier than the rest of the family is capable of) to go to the gym. The only other thing about our day that is constant is that we show up to the office at about the same time every day. Our days vary greatly — we could have a quiet day working in the office (those are great), or we can be running between meetings all day. Our team takes our absences personally, and they think we don’t like to spend time with them. Kidding aside, a day at the office can go from writing contracts, to visiting construction sites, to discussing design solutions with clients, to updating our social media, to meeting with consulting engineers, to answering questions from contractors in the field… Let’s just say it’s an art to dress for an average day because we are often running between a variety of situations (including climbing on roofs, which John refuses to do). Also, we get to spend all day, every day with our favorite person — each other. At the end of the workday, we gather our awesome daughters and go home to make dinner together. It’s pretty close to both chaos and perfection.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
At the office, we work on an average of 10-20 projects at a time that vary in terms of scope, duration, and intensity, some of which can be quite modest (unlike many architects, we do not turn down projects because they are too small). Right now, we are working on 12 diverse projects that fall within three basic specialties: residential (typically single-family), hospitality (hotels, restaurants), and commercial renovations, with a focus on historic preservation. The projects include a handful of single-family residences (located all over the Black Hills), an existing lodge and guest cabins in Spearfish, and a historic manufacturing building in Rapid City.
Truthfully, we hit the jackpot — what we do in our career actually fulfills most of our passions — eliminating the need for too many extra hobbies. One of those hobbies Patri loves the most is entertaining — having friends over for dinner. As transplants, it’s the way we “make family” in Rapid City. If you do join us for dinner, though, be prepared to try something new. We almost always ignore the old adage that says you shouldn’t try new recipes with guests (oops). John’s favorite hobby is playing golf, which is (now) a relaxing experience for him. As he will tell you, he’s been playing since he was 12 years old and it’s not always been relaxing.
If you could do any job, what would you do and why?
Honestly, we have it. We love solving problems and finding three or five different answers to resolve the same situation. That’s what we do for a living as architects. Patri especially enjoys a remodel — the messier, the better. Our friends joke that if the building has 2 inches of pigeon poop and asbestos, it’s perfect for her. It will sound insane, but her heart races when the contractor in the field calls with an unforeseen circumstance — they see an issue, she sees a challenge.
What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?
The impact. We think that we can have a bigger impact with our projects and the organizations we volunteer our time with than we could in much larger, less community-based markets.
At what intersection do you live your life?
We live at the intersection of Transplant and Innovation.
Where do you think good ideas come from?
Good ideas come from everyday life, from observing the natural and built environment and learning from what works and what doesn’t work. We love walking into a beautiful space, but we also enjoy walking into a space that falls short of it’s possibility — they are both opportunities to learn.
What’s one current trend you think will change the world?
Integration. We have to get over the work-life balance thing — we believe in integration. To me, life can be so much richer when you can incorporate both sides of your life.
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
Connection. For us, when something is brewing, we talk about it. We try to think of who can improve or amplify a particular project or idea. In our experience, when we are able to connect the right people around a great idea, it always takes flight.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
Starting AcV2 architecture. It was a huge personal and professional risk. At the time, John was serving on active duty , and Patri had always worked in an architecture firm. In other words, life was comfortable … but we wanted more. By starting AcV2, we decided to grow roots in the community — we determined we were “home.” John and I put all our eggs in the same basket. Not to overstate the obvious, but we alone are responsible for the ups and downs AcV2.
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Not all of our projects execute smoothly from start to finish, and we have found that we get in trouble when we try to “help people out.” On one project, we sent drawings out to bid, but all the builders we contacted were too busy to meet the client’s timeline. In response, we hastily lined up a carpenter to try to meet a tight deadline. We failed to consider how well that person fit the project, and how well we could manage the construction process. On another project, we tried to help our (way too busy) builder manage the cabinet maker. We had been taking a hands-on approach with this particular client, and we did not want her to be let down by delays. In the end, we were blamed for not managing the cabinet maker well, which wasn’t a task we were under contract to perform. In both cases, we were trying to help someone (whether client or builder) rather than trying to serve a client. While we always try to be easy to work with, we are sometimes reminded that Architect-Client and Architect-Builder are business relationships. We fell down when we stopped making good business decisions.
Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?
Whatever community we are working in. We position our projects to be catalysts of smart growth and progress. We strive to design with a community’s full potential in mind, rather than simply settling for the status quo.
The OTA Builders are a group of individuals who thrive on possibility and use all opportunities they are given to grow both in their careers and in their passions. We seek creatives who are tenacious and strong-willed movers and doers and are driven to make a significant impact on the people around them and the community they call home. These people recognize their talents and capabilities and find ways to continuously grow and learn from them. Why is this you?
We are dogged workers and learners. Patri is a successful business owner, board president, community advocate and parent. John is a successful business owner, civic volunteer, military officer and parent. Neither of us sit on the sidelines. We are active in the community and, if we may say so, sacrificing our own personal comfort or time to make Rapid City — and the OTA region — great.
What project will you focus on as part of the OTA Builders Program?
A high-tech business incubator/accelerator in Rapid City. We as a community/state/region need to do a better job capturing local and locally-trained talent. Specifically, the School of Mines turns out innovative and creative graduates every year, most of whom move away. We want to help make the area a more fertile place for innovative businesses — we want Rapid City to be the next Boulder. Any meaningful growth in Rapid City will be the result of capturing just a bit of the talent that escapes every year. The local innovators need space, capital and business-friendly environment. Through OTA Builders, we will create a call to action for other community leaders to create a proper incubator/accelerator. We will make this call by highlighting the existing high-tech businesses we do have, while also highlighting success stories in other comparable communities.
What change / advancement do you hope to achieve as part of the OTA Builders Program?
Regional economic development. Period. That will lead to a wave of support economies — housing, culture, arts, leisure, etc. We need young professionals who will grow and invest in the community.