The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, in New York City
Photo courtesy Ennead Architects
The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, in New York City, is one of the firm's recent projects.

The firm has been renamed several times since its founding in 1963.

  • James Stewart Polshek Architect (1963-70)
  • James Stewart Polshek and Associates (1970-80)
  • James Stewart Polshek and Partners (1980-94)
  • Polshek and Partners (1994-98)
  • Polshek Partnership (1998-2010)

Polshek Partnership, which has been named for its founder, Jim Polshek, in one form or another for almost five decades, is now Ennead Architects. The new moniker, a Greek word for a group of nine Egyptian deities that has come to mean any group of nine, is in reference to the firm’s nine partners. The change becomes official today.

“We are changing our name to something that suits us better, and we want to broadcast that message to the world,” says partner Richard Olcott, FAIA. “It’s not revolutionary, but evolutionary.”

Indeed, the 47-year-old firm, which has been planning the rebranding for a year and a half, will maintain its sole office, in New York, and not shed any of its 145 employees, Olcott added. And Polshek himself, 80, will continue to function as a design consultant removed from day-to-day operations, as has been the case since 2005.

The only major difference is Ennead Lab, a new in-house research and advocacy arm that will also provide pro bono services. “For years we have preached about a non-profit practice, and now we can actually have one,” said Polshek, whose clients have almost exclusively been universities, museums, hospitals, and other not-for-profit institutions. Those projects include President Clinton’s library in Little Rock, WGBH’s public television station in Boston, and the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.

Plus, with the exception of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, perhaps, many eponymous firms drop the founding principals’ names when they’re no longer running the show—and even that firm became SOM, explains Polshek, whose firm has had five names since 1963.

“I don’t know of many [firms] that have had a successful transition from one generation to another,” says Polshek, adding “it’s better to do this now, because there comes a point where it’s too late to deal with it.”