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PROFILE

In practice since 1986, Belmont Freeman Architects (BFA) is a New York City firm that creates timeless, modern spaces where people live, learn, gather, and work. 

Serving academic, civic/cultural, commercial, and residential clients, the firm produces elegant solutions for functional, technical, and contextual design challenges. 

Expert in the sustainable practice of historic preservation and renovation, BFA embraces environmental responsibility as absolutely essential to architecture.

Believing in economy of means both material and aesthetic, BFA is committed to innovation, highly personalized service, and efficient project management, enhanced by experienced subconsultants.

Beyond the studio, Founding Principal Belmont (“Monty”) Freeman and other firm members foster the next generation of architects, teaching at leading institutions including Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), and Parsons School of Design. BFA is also a proud supporter of The Architecture Lobby, which promotes equity in the workplace and the profession.

Within a broadly diverse portfolio, the firm’s seminal projects include the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the LGBT Carriage House at the University of Pennsylvania, and the renovation of the Ezra & Cecile Zilkha Art Gallery at Wesleyan University.

BFA has built work in North America, Europe, and Asia, and has received awards from multiple American Institute of Architecture chapters as well as the American Society of Interior Designers, the Historic District Council (NYC), and other notable groups for outstanding design and historic preservation achievements. BFA is certified by New York City and State as a Minority Business Enterprise (Hispanic). 

Founded as Freeman & Pizer Architects with Max Pizer, the firm became Belmont Freeman Architects in 1994.


OUR TEAM

Led by a founding principal committed to workplace equity, our compact, cohesive team delivers refined design solutions with economy of means and efficient management. We devote close, personal attention to every client.

Equally skilled at new construction and historic preservation, we are expert at fusing past and present to meet today’s diverse design aspirations.

Designing with the future in mind, we also embrace environmental responsibility over the lifetime of our projects. Our complementary skills, educations, and experience provide a wellspring for inspiration and innovation in practice.

Belmont Freeman, FAIA, Founding Principal

University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts: Master of Architecture, 1976 
Yale University: BA, Urban Studies and Art History, 1973

Belmont Freeman, informally known as Monty, established his eponymous firm (BFA) in 1986 with a mission to fulfill his clients’ visions through elegant and appropriate design across diverse practice sectors.

Monty is dedicated to enlightened solutions that synthesize complex functional, technical, and contextual issues, delivered with economy of material and aesthetic means. He is equally committed to environmental responsibility and sustainability, particularly expressed though his expertise in historic preservation, restoration, and renovation.

Recognized as an innovative designer, progressive practitioner, and a scholar, Monty is regularly featured in the media and is a columnist for Places journal. He speaks widely on his work and related research and has received numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Interior Designers, and other professional and civic organizations. He was named a Fellow of the AIA in 2009.

A dedicated educator as well as practitioner, Monty taught for many years as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, and is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, where he teaches a design studio within the Historic Preservation program. He is a frequent guest critic and lecturer at schools across the country.

Monty is on the board of directors of New York’s Storefront for Art & Architecture, an internationally known not-for-profit design gallery, of which he was president for a decade. He has also served on the board of directors of the Society of Architectural Historians and the board of governors of the Yale Alumni Association.

An American of Cuban descent, Monty is regarded as an expert on Cuban architecture, about which he speaks and writes widely. He co-produced the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s landmark exhibition Architecture and Revolution in Cuba, 1959-1969, and has conducted many celebrated architectural tours of the country. He recently acquired and renovated a midcentury modern home in Havana as a base for professional and family activities on the island.

Monty conducts business in English, Spanish, and French. He is licensed as an architect in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and holds certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Haan Chau, LEED AP, Managing Principal

Southern California Institute of Architecture: Master of Architecture, 2008
Purchase College, SUNY: BA, Art History and Contemporary Art, 1998

Haan joined BFA in 2010 and holds a leadership role in the firm’s design, company culture, and business development practices. Highly attuned to the complexity and technical challenges of each project, her responsive work style delivers clarity while guiding clients through the design and construction process.

Specializing in higher education, cultural, and civic design, Haan’s significant projects include offices for Columbia Business School, an international research center for Teacher’s College at Columbia University, and ongoing projects for New York University.

The minimalist palette she incorporates into each project embodies a carefully considered use of space and materials. Her work continually draws on a sensitivity to visual arts and materials, fostered by prior work as an independent curator and gallerist, managing the fabrication and installation of contemporary art in museums and galleries. These projects were recognized by the New York Times and Artform International.

Prior to joining BFA, Haan worked as a designer on a new campus for San Francisco State University, and One Santa Fe, a mixed use project in Los Angeles, at Michael Maltzan Architects.

Haan has led academic, cultural, and civic projects including:

Alex Gryger, AIA, Principal

Pratt Institute: Bachelor of Architecture, 2007

Alex joined BFA in 2013 and was elevated to Principal in 2020 for his record of leading some of the firm’s most important and technically complex projects through construction. As Principal and Technical Director, Alex collaborates with the entire BFA team on all aspects of technical design, detailing, and coordination of building systems, and comprehensively addresses quality control, compliance with codes and regulations, and advances the firm’s sustainable design efforts.

Specializing in projects with exacting construction requirements, Alex’s significant projects include the historic preservation at the Yale Club of New York City and the environmentally-sensitive development of an expansive oceanfront residence in Martha’s Vineyard.

A craftsman’s sensibility, deep care for materials, and a passion for drawing as a means to explore ideas with clients define Alex’s professional identity. His “hands on” building experience with framed houses, built furniture, and welded steel fosters advanced solutions to technical detailing and coordination challenges.

Alex believes that protecting the environment through sustainable design is his most vital social responsibility as an architect. He continually seeks to ensure that the firm’s practices align with the American Institute of Architects’ greater goals for sustainability, resilience, and inclusivity.

Licensed as an architect in the State of New York, he also holds certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Alex has served as lead project architect on BFA’s commercial and residential projects including:

Tom Negaard, Project Designer

University of Minnesota: Master of Architecture, 2022
University of St. Thomas: BS, Civil Engineering, 2019

Tom joined BFA in 2022 as an architectural designer. His duties range from schematic design through construction administration. Before joining the firm, he worked on a variety of residential and commercial projects across the Midwest and Western U.S.

Tom’s curiosity extends beyond the project site alone to include the design of material ecologies and geographies. He believes that architects have the unique ability and responsibility to design landscapes as well as architectural spaces. Tom brings these ideas to his projects whenever possible, and shares his research through his writings. He is an advocate for resilient design, sustainable selections, and material research. Inspiration finds Tom while he's hiking in the forest and wandering the busy streets of Manhattan.

Tom is currently working on these BFA projects:

Maddie Schimmel, Administrative Assistant and Office Manager

New York University, Tisch School of the Arts: BFA, Dance, 2016

Maddie joined BFA in her current role in 2019. Their previous experience as a production and operational assistant at industrial design studio Smart Design, as well as in the performing arts as an artist, choreographer, and self-taught costume designer, provided them with rich creative problem-solving skills. These talents in addition to their passion for peer collaboration solidly “set the stage” for Maddie’s transition to BFA. 

An adventurous spirit, Maddie feels most comfortable when they are learning a new skill or trying something they have never done before. This resourcefulness has proven to be a valuable asset to the firm. Leveraging their diverse work skills and experience across a host of responsibilities, they seek to optimally support and develop their colleagues’ visions for the benefit of BFA’s clients.

Avocationally, Maddie still pursues costume and clothing design, realizing them for themself as well as other performers and choreographers. Discovering their love for working with textiles has expanded their appreciation for all design processes rooted in researching the behavior of materials, an integral aspect of BFA’s work.


AWARDS

For more than 30 years, BFA has received design awards for its higher education, residential, and civic/cultural projects. Leading professional organizations including the American Institute of Architects chapters in New York State, New York City, and Connecticut; as well as the American Society of Interior Designers New York Metro have recognized its work.

The firm has also been acknowledged by the Historic Districts Council (NYC) and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia for its expertise in historic preservation, restoration, and renovation, and the Brick Industry Association and International Association of Lighting Designers have saluted its related accomplishments.

  • Historic Districts Council Design Awards, Honorable Mention
  • Brick Industry Association Brick in Architecture Award, Bronze
  • AIA New York State Design Awards, Merit
  • AIA Connecticut Design Awards, Honorable Mention
  • Preservation Achievement Award, Preservation Alliance for Great Philadelphia
  • International Association of Lighting Designers Award (with Ann Kale Associates)
  • Illuminating Engineering Society of New York City Lumen Citation (with Ann Kale Associates)
  • AIA New York Chapter Interior Design Award
  • ASID Interior Design Specialty Awards, Best Retail
  • Feltman Lumen Award (with Ann Kale Associates)

SELECTED CLIENTS

ACADEMIC

Columbia University

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Irving Medical Center
  • Mailman School of Public Health
  • School of Business
  • School of International and Public Affairs
  • School of Journalism
  • School of Nursing
  • Teachers College
  • Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Institute for Culinary Education
International House
New York University
Ogaki Women's College, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
State University of New York at New Paltz
Stevens Institute of Technology
The City University of New York, Baruch College
The City University of New York, Lehman College
The Rockefeller University
Trabajamos Community Head Start
University of Pennsylvania
Wesleyan University

 

CIVIC/CULTURAL

Art Start
Brooklyn Arts Council
Brooklyn Public Library
Flushing Town Hall
Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center
New York City Department of Design + Construction
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
New York City Economic Development Corporation
New York City Housing Authority
New York City Opera
New York Public Library (NYPL)
Riverside Memorial Chapel
Riverstone Senior Life Services
The Cosmopolitan Club
The James Beard Foundation
The New York Public Library
The Yale Club of New York City

 

COMMERCIAL

Columbia University Press
Freelancers Union and Iora Health 
Grand Central Optical
Jeffrey Ruesch Fine Arts
La Crasia
Pellegrini Vineyard Demonstration Kitchen
Repetto
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Shapiro Wisan and Krasner
Staples
Staten Island Ferry Terminals
Sushi Yasuda
Tape House
TGE Associates
The Apartment
The Four Seasons
The Park Slope Brewing Company
Westprint
YAR Communications
Zimmer Lucas Partners

 

RESIDENTIAL

Institutional Housing 

  • International House
  • New York University
  • The Rockefeller University
  • Columbia University

Cooperatives and Condominiums 

  • 315 West 70th Street (Presidential Towers)
  • 720-730 Ft. Washington Avenue
  • 936 Fifth Avenue
  • 200 East 74th Street
  • 459 West 19th Street
  • 315 Riverside Drive 

Numerous Private Clients 

  • Apartment Renovations
  • Townhouse Renovations
  • Lofts
  • Suburban and Country Houses