Meet the Minds – Jason MaringolaOctober 23, 2017
In high school, Jason Maringola interned with architect Maria Decosimo every summer for three years. She taught him how to think about design beyond paper, and the rest, you could say, is history. He studied architecture at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), where he was introduced to the world of hospitality. An internship at ICRAVE led to his first job at Riscala Agnese Design. “Both firms taught me how to think beyond the norm of what is expected,” he says. From there, he was hired by New York-based residential architecture and interior design firm Rosenberg Kolb Architects, followed by a stint at SOSH Architects “where I found my true voice as a designer and built confidence in my skills,” he explains. “That was a turning point in my career because confidence in the design profession is what steers our clients to feel comfortable and trust in our vision.” His tenure at Streetsense in Washington, DC has solidified his love of hospitality. Here, Maringola talks about designing food halls, being a team player, and sharing a meal with Anthony Bourdain.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to be in a profession that would allow me to use my creativity. I loved performing in community theater and was constantly drawing in my school binders—creating cities, floor plans, and sketching in the margins of my notes.
What are some of your first memories of design?
When I was eight years old, my Aunt Anna took me to her office in Manhattan on the Avenues of the Americas and one day we visited the Stephen A. Schwarzman New York City Public Library on 42nd street. I was in total awe of the grandeur of the space—especially in the large entry hall—and loved the smell of old books. Ironically, when I attended the NYIT, our assignment was to visit that same space to sketch and understand all of the elements of its detail. I came to appreciate the classic frescos and dental moldings surrounding the study hall. I could still spend hours there and get lost in its beauty.
Did where you grew up influence your career path?
While I grew up as a loud, artistic boy with strong Jersey roots and an affinity for New York City, I was most influenced by the people in my life. My mother and aunts encouraged me to express my art through sketching, crafting, writing, and performing and I will be forever grateful to them for guiding and supporting me along the way.
Why and how did you join Streetsense?
Three years ago, I was looking to make a change in my life and career. I came across an article on Streetsense that explained how their mission is to create experiences for their clients. I was also intrigued by the collaboration within their own teams. Their designers worked with brokers, marketing teams, and even the firm’s own food and drink consulting studio. There was so much talent and expertise under one roof and that excited me—I wanted to be part of it. Luckily at the time, they were looking for a hospitality designer with hotel and large-scale project experience.
Before I knew it, I was on a train heading to Washington, DC to meet the team. For the first time, I was on an interview where I felt like I was among friends talking about design, favorite cocktails, and music. Two weeks later I made the move. Streetsense changed my perspective of the business, allowed me to be a part of the conversation at their growing company, and be a part of an incredible group of designers. This is more than just a job, it’s a family and culture I have been very lucky to be a part of.
Can you discuss some of your recent projects?
Recently, our team worked on the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan to create a modern and elegant social hub in the lobby, complete with aqua and chartreuse tones, tropical furnishings, and chandeliers reminiscent of aquatic life. A newly expanded bar with ocean views and a private garden with terrace seating allow guests to feel like they are immersed in a natural extension of the location’s surrounding coral reef.
Streetsense also created a new experience for both the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale and its restaurant Burlock Coast [where we] created a dining destination that appealed to locals and hotel guests. Our design team tapped into the city’s vibrant past, drawing inspiration from coastal Florida’s role in the illegal rum trade in the 1920s. The concept is clearly communicated by design decisions throughout the restaurant’s indoor-outdoor dining area, bar, and marketplace, which are unified by an authentic, rough-around-the edges vibe.
Is there a project you are especially proud of?
My most challenging project has been a true labor of love—Isabella Eatery. For the past three years, I have been working with General Growth Properties on this 10-concept dining experience that is set to open in November 2017. The eatery spans 41,000 square feet in Tysons Galleria, a luxury retail mall in McLean, Virginia. General Growth Properties originally came to Streetsense seeking a refresh of its 2,000-square-foot food court as a solution to drive people to the third floor of the mall, but we quickly realized the potential to revolutionize the space.
Streetsense researched the statistics and growth of Northern Virginia, and due to the demographic of Tyson Galleria’s clientele and the need for more dining options in the area, we concluded that this project needed to be much more than a normal mall food court. We wanted to create an experience-driven food hall with several rooms that would allow patrons to pick and choose their dining experience and essentially become a must-see destination. With this unique idea in mind, Streetsense reached out to chef Mike Isabella, a Washington DC-based chef and restaurateur that owns several successful eateries. His team took our concept to the next level and created ten outlets, each featuring a different menu and design. Quickly, our 2,000-square-foot project turned into a 41,000-square-foot project—taking over the entirety of the third floor.
As you can imagine, the design of each space to fit cohesively together and match the luxury caliber of Tysons Galleria was challenging but incredibly rewarding. A few interesting tasks we faced included engineering a 25-foot-wide ring chandelier to fit within the existing structure. We also had to make this space more accessible from the street, so we blew out the existing exterior wall of the mall and created a two-story canopy that leads to the main entry of the third floor.
What are you looking forward to at your office?
We have some incredible projects that will be opening in the next couple of years. We are rebranding and reimagining the F&B programming for JW Marriott as well as creating a new brand from the ground up. We also have the opening of the fully designed Curio Hotel in Seattle. There are also several food halls that will be opening across the country, including Aventura Food Hall in Miami.
What do you find are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your job?
My priority for every project is to make sure that my client is happy and proud of their new space. It can be a challenge to convey the vision of the design, because some clients are very visual while others are statistic-driven. Once they see the hard work and, even more importantly, the passion we put behind each project, they get inspired too.
What is the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant—both in terms of branding and interiors?
The most important part of designing a restaurant is conveying the narrative. As experience creators, Streetsense’s mission is to make sure that the entire design mirrors the brand and vice versa. It’s also important that the patrons feel like they are part of the story.
Is there an architect or designer you most admire?
I am truly inspired by our designers at Streetsense. They are an incredible group of people that humble and inspire me every single day. Their innovative skills, ability to think outside of the box, and their constant pursuit to challenge the norm is the reason why I am proud to be a part of this collective.
What is your dream project?
A hospitality project that our entire collective collaborates on from conception through final design, branding, and delivery. An unlimited budget wouldn’t hurt either.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I would have to say Anthony Bourdain. Between his worldly perspectives and pessimistic New Jersey sarcasm, the two of us would have an entertaining evening filled with lots of laughter, food, and Scotch. I would also request that his friend and colleague Gabrielle Hamilton join us. She is an amazing chef who makes inspiring dishes that push culinary boundaries.
Where would you eat and what would you be having?
Based on our shared love of Italian cuisine and culture, we would have to have a tasting menu produced at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Chef Massimo Bottura would serve traditional Italian dishes with ingredients from the region and wines selected by his sommelier while jazz plays in the background.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A chef, without question. Not only do I love designing restaurants, but I also have a passion for cooking. I would have never gone into hospitality design had I not worked as a restaurant host while in college. I was able to meet up-and-coming chefs and witness amazing spaces that ultimately led me to become a designer.