Hard Work Pays Off
John Sorrenti (B.Arch. ’72, M.B.A. ’78) didn’t anticipate the level of success he would find as an architect. In fact, he almost became a bartender. After earning his Bachelor of Architecture in 1972 and an M.B.A. in 1978 from New York Tech, he found the job market inhospitable. After six months of unemployment, he was feeling discouraged and was about to look for other kinds of jobs when a family connection helped him join a firm that designed buildings for the financial sector. After seven years, he became a partner. Three years later, the founding principal wanted to retire, and the business closed.
“At the time, I didn’t think I wanted my own business. I actually applied for and got a position as a facilities person at one of the banks,” recalls Sorrenti. “But two of our biggest clients reached out to me and said if I opened my own architecture firm, they would make sure I had enough work to sustain it. After a week’s worth of contemplation, I thought, ‘Okay, let’s try it.’”
Despite the vote of confidence from his clients, Sorrenti still struggled that first year to make it work. Along with six associates, he worked out of his garage for the first month until he could find office space. Then he was paying out-of-pocket for rent, salaries, insurance, and all other expenses involved with starting a business. “For the first three months, I collected no salary. I think I was down to about $1,500 dollars to my name before any money started coming in.” From those humble beginnings in 1986, Sorrenti has built a solid and continually growing practice. JRS Architect, P.C., has been in business for 37 years, boasts 20 employees, and has offices in Princeton, N.J., and Long Island. In addition to financial services, they work extensively in the healthcare field, higher education, the defense sector, corporate, retail, and hospitality.
As busy as he is at his firm, Sorrenti has found many ways to enhance and support his community of fellow and aspiring architects. He has served on the boards of the local, state, and national chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), including serving as president for the New York State AIA chapter and vice president for the national AIA. He served as the chair of the New York State Board of Architecture, State Education Department and was the chair of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board. For his alma mater, he is a founding member of the FRIENDS of the School of Architecture and Design, a group he helped form to promote a working relationship between the school and architecture, construction, and interior design professions.
“I always thought it was important to give back to the profession,” says Sorrenti. “In some ways, the greatest time of my career was when I had $1,500 and was starting out in the business. I loved that time of creativity and seeing the possibilities. Being a mentor keeps me connected to that excitement.”
Sorrenti is impressed with the industry’s new focus on protecting the environment and has adopted ways to minimize his projects’ carbon footprint. As he looks ahead, he is also interested in preserving the past. From 1993 to 2023 he served on the committee of the Town of North Hempstead Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission. From 2015 to 2023 he served as chair of the commission. In 2007, JRS Architect established Design Preserve Build Architecture, PLLC, a wholly owned subsidiary that specializes in historic preservation. “If something has a history and is a good example of architecture you can learn from and enjoy, I believe we should do our best to save it,” he says.