Architecture is sometimes called “an old man’s profession” where designers, by unwritten rule, must spend years toiling for others in preparation for opening their own independent studio.
Architects Michael Horton and Westleigh Harper bucked that trend, collaborating on separate projects while employed at local firms, then striking out on their own when barely out of their 30s. Today, the duo are principals of Horton Harper Architects, an award-winning contemporary studio known for an eclectic portfolio of custom residential, multifamily and mixed-use ventures.
Headquartered in the Caxton Building downtown, the practice has six employees and a 30% year-over-year growth rate since its 2011 launch. Specializing in urban residential design, Horton Harper sketches out townhomes and single-family residences for a growing list of builders and homeowners.
A drive through Tremont and Ohio City reveals more than 100 units carrying the studio’s stamp, including a series of cube-shaped townhomes in Cleveland’s emerging Duck Island neighborhood. New Horton Harper designs are also appearing in Chagrin Falls, Beachwood and Shaker Heights, coinciding with out-of-state endeavors such as a 100-unit apartment complex in Green Bay, Wis.
Considering the burgeoning scale and variety of their recent work, the partners voice no regrets about taking a slightly skewed professional path.
“We didn’t stay at firms until age 40 or develop relationships with big clients to take them with us,” said Harper, a Mentor native and Kent State University graduate. “We decided early on this was something we wanted to do in our own way. Luckily, the economy grew around the same time we were trying to take that step.”