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are a group of architects and craftsman with interest and experience in traditional mortise and tenon timber framing. It is our professional belief that a sustainable and energy efficient building should co-exist with the natural environment by taking advantage of the characteristics of the land, solar orientation, and by using as many indigenous materials as possible. Therefore, we offer custom design and construction services to clients on an individual basis.

Aaron ValentinRob Newbold Image

ImageSAM MARTS: I grew up in a small Ohio town that saw its architectural zenith in the Greek Revival period. As a paperboy, I associated these grand homes with history, and I created my own stories about them. My home town was also the county seat of an agricultural community, and so I was fascinated with barns and their structures. I went on to study architecture at Miami University (Ohio) and the Architecture Association in London, and after graduation went to Pittsburgh as a VISTA architect. In 1974 I came to Chicago to join a great community of past and present architects. I have worked in Chicago's biggest offices on huge, complex projects. I have worked in a small office designing restaurants to be people-oriented places which are exotic and yet functional. I was commissioned by Robert Foulkes of White Oak Timber Frames to design a passive solar "Cape Cod" in Ann Arbor, and I started Sam Marts Architects in 1987 with the plan of continuing to work alongside White Oak Timber Frames. Our relationship blossomed and I formed Sam Marts Architects & Planners Ltd. in 1991 with Robert Foulkes as the Planner (and framer). Today I believe that timber frames should serve their users well. I am lucky to have had the experience of designing multiple timber-frame homes and barns, a restaurant and even a folly or two. Timber frames should be efficient, handsome structures that allow for the dramas of life. I want timber frames to tell their own stories and to become their own history.

I am a licensed Architect in Illinois and Michigan. As an active member of Chicago's architecture community, I am a board member of the Chicago Architecture Club and the Chicago Chapter of Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility. I am an active member of the exhibition committee of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Senator Newhouse Architecture Competition for high school students. I am a regular critic at the School of the Art Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago. I take time to create my own garden oasis in the city, and I collect American art pottery.


ImageROBERT FOULKES: I started life as a child of the baby boom - 1953 in St. Joseph, Michigan. I grew up half of the time in that small town on the shore of Lake Michigan and half the time in the country with my Irish American farmer aunts, uncles and cousins. The farms that were settled in 1848 are still being farmed. The barns and houses that were built still require care. One barn was moved by my grandfather and his brothers using horses in 1900. My great grandfather's timber framed house is still in use. I have left the locale but not the love of farm life and honest, simple buildings. I own 40 acres near Suttons Bay, Michigan where White Oak Timber Frame is based. We cut new frames there as well as restore old barn frames, church steeples, and anything else built of heavy timber. My other interests are Urban Planning, film, music and writing.


ImageROB NEWBOLD: As early as I can remember, I have always been interested in the way things go together. As a child, I loved to create buildings and little villages with my Lego and Lincoln Logs. I remember at a very young age helping my father renovate our two-flat on the north side of Chicago, where I was born. Chicago had a great influence on my understanding of buildings and the spaces that they create; it was quite an education taking the train back and forth to school every day and looking at what the city had to offer in terms of places and spaces.
After high school, I went on to attend Andrews University, a small Seventh-Day Adventist university in southwest Michigan. My education was mainly a traditional one in architecture and urban planning, focusing on smaller more personal buildings and environments. In the Division of Architecture, I was quite involved with our local chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students, serving as treasurer and president. In the fall of 2000, I was selected with a group of other AIAS members to attend the Jimmy Carter Blitz Build 2000 in Americus, Georgia. During that week the 100,000th Habitat for Humanity house was built. It always is a true honor to help those in need. During my time at Andrews, I had the chance to travel extensively throughout Europe and other places. To date I have been to over two dozen countries around the world. In the spring of 2003, I graduated with my BArch and MArch. After I graduated I felt the need to volunteer my time at my home church to improve various structures on the campus, and I did so for a couple of years.
At the beginning of 2006, a good college friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Sam Marts Architects and Planners to start my internship. In my time here, I have come to appreciate working in a small office, where we have a diversity of projects and challenges. Every day brings different opportunities to interact with clients and fellow architects.
In my spare time, I volunteer my design services for various projects at my church and its summer camp. I am quite active in my church, where I serve as an Elder as well as a leader in our Pathfinder club. I?m also active in various sport leagues and an avid bicyclist.


ImageAaron Valentin: At a very young age I found myself fascinated with my built surroundings. Even by the age of four, I remember looking up at the ceiling of the gymnasium where my aunt and uncle graduated from high school and thinking, ?Wow, those [beams] are big. This place is big!? Every new structure that I experienced impacted my perception of the built environment.
At the time, I thought I wanted to be a construction worker since my uncles were, and they were the only people I knew who built buildings. It wasn?t until I was in junior high that I found architecture as a profession, and from that time on, I made it my goal to enter into that profession.
Growing up in a small town in the northwest of Wisconsin provided me with a sense of the intimate, small communities and neighborhoods it fosters. The everyday lives of its people and the way they engage in its society have long been an interest of mine. On another level, a couple of times a year, my family would travel to Chicago to see relatives. This is where I discovered buildings and neighborhoods of a whole new magnitude. Understanding the juxtaposition of these two levels of the built environment provided me with a balance that strongly developed my intuition and increased my perception of architecture and its environments.
I went on to study architecture at Andrews University in southwest Michigan and received a BArch in 2001 and a March in 2003. After my studies, I came to Chicago with the expectations of entering one of the world?s greatest cities of architecture. I have never really sought a job in the large ?factory? firms. I was more interested in getting down to the everyday lives of people and their local, built environments. I believe there is a large responsibility for the architect to design for the betterment of communities, and people as a whole. This is a position I found shared by the people in this office. Whether it is the small addition to a house or a civic building for the neighborhood, designing and defining a more pleasing built environment for the social lives of the client, and the public at large, is a personal goal of mine in each project.
Having worked at the office of Sam Marts Architects and Planners has broadened my education beyond the standard internship usually offered after graduation. Working here has provided me with the opportunities of joining workshops for town planning in such states as Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Alaska. I have also enjoyed the activities of mentoring students of a vocational academy, and on-site timber framing in northwestern Michigan.
I am an unlicensed architect intern with the expectations of soon passing the exams and becoming licensed. I keep myself busy outside the office by studying local architecture and people while on walks, or by sketching and photography. The rest of my time is spent on raising a very cute and ambitious puppy.


ImageRand Van Vynckt: I grew up in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago but closer to Gary's steel-mill culture. Hammond offered very little architecture in the '60s, so I invented my own. From the age of eight, I spent lots of time with a set of miniature plastic bricks, building houses or sprawling floor plans filled with homemade furniture. Domesticity and people's idiosyncratic ways of containing it have always fascinated me; I made my own houses real by inventing families to occupy them and drive the Matchbox station wagons. I spent my allowance on booklets of 101 favorite plans, and longed to live in one of those split-level dream houses.

Despite my interests, I worried about the related math, and studied journalism. I graduated with a B.A. in that and German from Indiana University in 1979. Aside from my rare childhood visit to Chicago, junior year in Europe exposed me to REAL architecture, and I eagerly photographed every bit of it. Later, in eight years as a journalist in Chicago, I worËked in publication design, the closest I could get to the act of designing floor plans, I suppose.

I fled the world of throwaway newspapers for something more permanent: book publishing. For three and a half years I edited two huge volumes called the International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture. After a couple of tries at calculus, I finally began the three-year master's program in architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago in August 1992, about a year before the dictionary was actually published. It was tricky editing a book and attending architecture school at the same time, but both the publication and my education survived.

After graduation in 1995, a good friend referred me to Sam Marts Architects. Working in a small firm has been like getting a third education, learning a lot close up about the practice of architecture. And here my work on house remodelings, additions and new multifamily housing has me once again thinking about domestic uses of architecture.

In the summer I am an avid gardener and a willing bicyclist. In the winter I create and solve word puzzles. I live (happily) in a brick Chicago two-flat, not a split-level.



BUILDERS White Oak Timber Frames
P.O. Box 115
Suttons Bay, MI 49682


Sam Marts Architects & Planners Ltd.
1474 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622


For information on Sam Marts Architects & Planners LTD's urban design and planning projects, click here:

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