Mitchell Kunik graduated cum laude from NYIT School of Architecture and Design in 1980, but architecture wasn’t always on his mind. “As a kid, I always wanted to design boats,” he says. “In high school I was introduced to art and drafting which allowed me to consider architecture.” Ultimately, he chose NYIT because of its small school atmosphere. Success quickly followed, and by 1983, Kunik was running his own firm, Affiniti Architects, in Boca Raton, Fla. He now has more than 350 industry awards under his belt (and counting). Kunik spoke to The Box about his career and what it takes to own his own company.
What was your first job after graduation?
Actually, I got my first job while still in school. It was through a referral by my professor, Milton Petrides. I worked for his firm for six months until I moved to Florida shortly after graduation. I decided to move there for several reasons: 1) the weather; 2) I was able to take the AIA exam sooner; and 3) I saw better opportunities in Florida.
Why did you decide to start your own company?
I discovered a niche that was not being taken advantage of: single-family residential architectural design. We started out with one or two houses that were simple in design and on a small scale. This became a footprint for us and created a demand that builders and developers wanted to be a part of.
Which project(s) are you most proud of?
Affiniti Architects is one of the largest residential architectural firms in the United States with a portfolio that includes international work in Dubai, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas.
We have created communities that are timeless. These community designs have become a footprint for community planning. Instead of just designing a community entrance, we expanded the design throughout the entire community planning process. This created an industry standard.
Affiniti Architects is known for its community projects. Moderne Boca is a luxury contemporary modern townhome community in Boca Raton, Fla. Photo by Christopher Fay Photography.
Who was your first major client? What was it like working with them?
Our first major client was eventually bought by Disney. We partnered up with Disney and the builder to create part of a new town they developed outside of the park. It was a team effort, but the process was slow moving and methodical. Overall, both Disney and the corporation were very loyal once we were in the loop.
Your firm has received wide recognition in the industry. What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of?
Our firm has won more than 350 national and international industry design awards. Many designs have been featured in numerous regional and national architectural publications. Over the years we’ve been published regionally in Luxe Interiors + Design and Florida Design. We have won architectural design awards from the Gold Coast Builders Association, the Southeast Builders Conference, and the National Association of Home Builders.
What did you love about NYIT?
The ability to create and work in my style of architecture. At the time, schools like Columbia were teaching a neo-classical style of architecture. Notre Dame taught classical and Yale was more progressive and academic. At NYIT, every professor was practicing architecture while teaching so this allowed them to have their own personal styles. This, in turn, helped them keep in touch with the architectural trends of the time.
What advice do you have for architecture students?
Learn the art of business and marketing in addition to constantly learning [about architecture]! Also: You are only as good as your last project.
Intra Contempo Cove is a contemporary style intracoastal home located in the Admirals Cove community in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Ron Rosenzweig Photography.
This interview has been edited and condensed.