Field: architecture + design
Est: 1993

In the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, a vibrant architectural hub is emerging. Architecture Research Office (“ARO”), founded in 1993 and led by Stephen Cassell, Kim Yao, and Adam Yarinsky, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in a brand-new space at JEMB’s One Willoughby Square (1WSQ) in Downtown Brooklyn. The firm was founded with the belief that curiosity and inquiry could be the basis of a new type of architecture practice. After nearly three decades on Varick Street in Manhattan, the move signifies both an embrace of change and consistency in the firm’s values.  

Why Downtown Brooklyn?

ARO’s decision to move to Downtown Brooklyn was carefully considered. The company was in search of high-quality office space to accommodate its growing team of nearly 40 employees. After a search across Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, ARO landed at 1WSQ. The building features state-of-the-art design, column-less floors, great light and views, proximity to a wealth of public transportation options, and amenities such as City Point and the upcoming Abolitionist Place. 

Stephen Cassell, one of ARO’s founders, notes that a shift towards virtual meetings due to post-pandemic trends made Brooklyn a more attractive alternative, particularly because it offers a shorter commute for the majority of their employees, with more than 60 percent residing in the borough. He underscores the relocation’s significance in enhancing the quality of life for ARO’s employees.  Like its former home in one of SoHo’s old printing buildings, Downtown Brooklyn is characterized by a blend of new and old buildings and is home to a variety of design industry peers.  

a brooklyn firm with national reach

ARO’s approach is evident in their diverse portfolio, spanning universities, K-12 schools, arts institutions, public, residential, and commercial sectors. Among its many notable projects are the restoration of the Rothko Chapel and the expansion of its campus in Houston, the design of Dia in Chelsea, and the design of the Donald Judd Home and Studio in SoHo. 

ARO has contributed much to the urban fabric of Brooklyn, having designed neighborhood landmarks like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Gateway Building; Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and Education Center; and the Welcome and Educational Center that is currently under construction at Green-Wood Cemetery. Additionally, its design for two public schools at the Alloy Block at 100 Flatbush Avenue, a few blocks from the new office, is nearing completion. The building housing the schools, set to open in Fall 2024, will be the largest Passive House school in the country, and meets the city’s rigorous new energy efficiency and indoor quality standards. ARO is also designing two other Brooklyn K-12 school projects. In Brooklyn Heights, the adaptive reuse of a bank building will support an independent school’s arts-based pedagogy. On Floyd Bennett Field, ARO is working with Colloqate and SCAPE to reimagine the former airfield as the home for Launch Expeditionary Learning School’s new high school to advance equity and sustainability. 

ARO has also branched into product design, with a line of acoustic, architectural felt paneling for FilzFelt. Inspired by their decade of collaborations with the furniture company Knoll, these commercial products transform felt into innovative acoustic solutions, to enhance both aesthetics and comfort in interiors.   


ARO’s move mirrors a broader trend in architecture and engineering. The past decade witnessed a 44% increase in the number of engineering and architecture firms and a 10% employment growth in Downtown Brooklyn. This growth is fueled by an abundant talent pool, with over 80% of New York City-based architects residing within a 30-minute commute to Downtown Brooklyn. As ARO steps into its fourth decade, the firm’s move to Downtown Brooklyn represents not just a change in location, but a testament to Downtown Brooklyn’s metamorphosis to a thriving mixed-use neighborhood, where class-A office space and desirable residences exist side by side. 

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