Jonathan Kuhn has been creating inviting spaces and innovative structures for almost 20 years. His ability to listen to and understand people have made his collaborative approach to design a natural extension of his personality. From modern urban condos to quaint suburban homes to edgy office space, he begins every project with a conversation then applies his extensive experience and passion for design to create a space that is aesthetically engaging and approachable.
Jonathan’s engaging approach coupled with his expertise and industry knowledge have led to a diverse portfolio of award-winning residential, commercial, retail, and multi-family projects. He started this journey at Perkins and Will (formerly Ai) where he was engaged on a wide range of projects; designed high-end, modern residential projects at ColePrevost as a project architect; then took on the role of principal at the Wicomico Development Corporation, a design-build firm in Maryland. Before owning his own practice, he was a founding principal of LangKuhn Architects • Builders where he oversaw design-build services for residential, retail, and small-scale commercial clients. He’s accomplished in all aspects of running an architectural business, but what he enjoys most is developing relationships with his clients – and bringing their dreams to life.
Growing up in a small industrial town in northwest Pennsylvania, Jonathan was surrounded by railroads, textile mills, and machine shops. He was intrigued by his grandfather who generated drawings of parts he would later fabricate at the local mill. Jonathan and his father, who studied architecture in college and was a welder on the railroad, would often work together in the home workshop. Through all of these hands-on projects, Jonathan discovered how ideas become tangible objects that shape the environment – and began to define what “pride of craftsmanship” really means to him.
After summer jobs at a lumber yard and tool & die company, Jonathan pursued a formal education in architectural studies. He holds dual master’s degrees in architecture and construction management from Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to his extensive architectural experience, he is also an active member in the architectural community. Jonathan is on the steering committee of the AIA affiliated Capital Area Custom Residential Network (CRAN) group that hosts events promoting the residential sector and has been LEED-certified since 2009. He can change hats as needed since he often needs to mediate differing opinions, organize disparate ideas, and ease the stress and anxiety that sometimes accompany a project.
Jonathan’s experiences have shaped the way he approaches each project – as an open dialogue and on-going conversation. He focuses on understanding how people live and work – and how to create spaces that work with their unique design and emotional needs. He sees himself as a trusted partner and capable guide, and clients appreciate the balance of approachability and design competence Jonathan brings to every project. His knowledge and collaborative approach help get things right – and his pragmatic understanding of the building industry helps get things done.
John Choi has over 10 years of experience in architectural design, focused on high-end residential and small-scale private institutional projects. He’s managed all aspects of architectural practice from design concept to construction details – for detached single-family homes, condominiums, and townhouses, as well as commercial improvements and small school projects. And his talents don’t end with architecture. He also has an incredible flair for interior design.
John found his way to JKA via San Francisco where he worked for Huang Iboshi Architecture. He was drawn to JKA because of the collaborative environment and attractive project portfolio – and he was also excited about the opportunity to touch on every aspect of an architectural project. While at JKA, John has especially enjoyed working on multi-family projects where social and economic values are intertwined with creative design.
A natural problem solver, John finds the challenge of designing architectural solutions, with given constraints, extremely rewarding. As part of a prestigious Los Angeles competition called Small Lots, Smart Design, John designed a prototype for multi-family housing. Entrants were asked to design affordable housing on a narrow lot, and his team was one of the 12 finalists in the competition. It was extremely rewarding for John to be able to create affordable spaces for first-time home owners, given a very limited amount of space.
Another aspect of architecture that John enjoys is the ability to design something that can actually get built. Of course, he’s a fan of beautiful design, but he employs a very grounded approach. This applies to the way he works with clients too. He believes listening to the client is always paramount, but he takes his role as an educator seriously – and clients appreciate his ability to articulate the pros and cons of different architectural choices.
While working in San Francisco, John also taught design studio at the Academy of Art University. Prior to his architectural career, he worked for an international market research firm for over nine years. To top it all off, John is also fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
Emily Hirst has always harbored a love for old houses and buildings. From an early age, she noticed and appreciated the aesthetic and craftsmanship of DC residential neighborhoods and turned this love of design into a career adventure. Now at JKA, she enjoys marrying the preservation of historic architecture with modern design and jumps at any opportunity to incorporate the natural world into an architectural project.
Emily studied Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During the summer breaks, she interned at Traditional Builders where she learned specialized preservation techniques and loved working in the field – and at Commonwealth Home Remodelers (a design/build firm) where she assisted project teams with research, code analysis, and site inspection. At Commonwealth Home Remodelers, she continued to enjoy her work in the field and gained a deeper understanding of the architectural process as she managed several construction projects. While completing her degree, she also spent an enlightening semester traveling through many European countries and learning about architecture through sketch, photography, and discussions. During her last year, she drew from her childhood experiences and love of the natural environment to design an iconic, sustainably-driven Montessori school in Baltimore Harbor for her thesis.
After working in customer service for a couple of years, Emily received her LEED certification. Then, for many years, she was a very successful freelance designer. She found great pleasure and honor in creating intimate residential environments that reflected the needs of the inhabitants and complemented the natural surroundings. The variety of her daily tasks – expediting permits, collaborating with developers, analyzing schematics, and coordinating with clients – also felt like a great fit for her. She thoroughly enjoyed what she was doing, but also felt pulled towards a more collaborative studio environment.
In taking the next step, Emily found her way to iStudio where she contributed to larger community projects, commercial endeavors, and residential renovations – all within a project team environment. This opportunity helped Emily to deepen her technical skills, while also learning a great deal from her gifted colleagues in the process.
All of these varied experiences plus extensive knowledge of the permitting process in DC, Maryland, and Virginia enable Emily to bring her unique talents and special flair to JKA. She’s managed projects ranging from single family residences and multi-unit condos to elementary schools and commercial shipping containers – and genuinely appreciates the collaborative culture at JKA where every person is respected and valued. Residential architecture is where Emily’s heart lies, and because she is able to guide people through the intimate process of creating a sacred home space at JKA, she feels very “at home”.
In her spare time, Emily is often out admiring the architectural landscape or hiking in the woods with her dogs, enjoying the natural environment. She is also an avid music and arts supporter, and can often be found at a live show in the DC area or tending bar at a local music club.
Portia Strahan has had numerous and diverse architectural adventures over the past 10 years, bringing a unique perspective to every project at JKA.
Portia studied architecture at Cornell where she took every opportunity to travel to new places by studying abroad in Rome, participating in design workshops in Bratislava, Slovakia, and getting hands-on field experience in Nairobi, Kenya. Through these new and humbling experiences, she realized that, for her, interacting with real people and understanding their challenges was the most meaningful aspect of the architectural process.
After graduating, Portia ventured into the professional world where her time at iStudio Architects stands out as the most impressionable. At iStudio she enjoyed constant client interaction while participating in an interactive, studio-based working environment. Exposure to a diverse array of projects that included school additions, residential renovations, community center designs, retail locations, and an international visitor center also kept her thoroughly engaged. She even had the opportunity to compete in local DC design competitions.
Craving a new experience and an opportunity to explore a different part of the U.S., Portia’s next step was graduate school at the University of Utah to participate in its unique Design Build Bluff program. Portia and her fellow classmates lived in the small town of Bluff, designing and building a “flexible assembly space” for the community. The result, Cedar Hall, is complete with solar panels and a water-catchment system and was extremely influential in formulating Portia’s practical architectural philosophy.
Portia’s desire to work in close proximity with clients through all phases of a project make her a natural fit for JKA – and her unique experiences enable her to bring a wealth of knowledge to every project. When she’s not collaborating with a client, you may find her on a long bike ride or relaxing on her porch with her puppy.