Aha!'s seminal moment (our "aha" moment) came when friends, working steadily in our respective firms, realized that by working together we were much more than the sum of the parts .... and that we would have a heck of a lot of fun.  We had complementary and overlapping skills with equal amounts of experience in design and architecture.  Excited with the thought of what was possible, we have been consistently drawings others of like ilk towards us and have been building a core group with which you will walk during your project.

The best description for aha! is that we are a small, highly responsive, community based architectural practice with offices in the Pacific NW and on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  We endeavor to help people grow their idea, to give them easy access to professional design assistance, to establish an understandable strategy through the normally complex design process, and to enable the coexistence of our natural environment with design that is extremely responsive to human needs.  

Because of the nature of our collaborative approach, odds are you will end up meeting many of us as we spend time helping you bring your project to fruition.  Depending on the project’s needs, we have a large breadth of like-minded designers and subcontractors from which to draw expertise.  We are great with computers, use technology to save time and money, and are adept at many of the nuances of bringing an idea to fruition.

We love interesting and complex projects that allow us to sink our teeth into creative solutions.   We love to design, but we also love to craft a project process that is as stress-free as possible, creating drawings that result in easy permits, accurate project bids, and which bring your ideas to physical form.  To sum it up, we like to have fun in life and we delight in bringing that joy to our work.

 

Paul Ries
Paul designed and drew his first house at age 20 and for the last 38 years has been designing residential, commercial and public projects.  For the most part, these projects are regionally located in the Pacific North West and the Gulf Coast of Florida, but there is an increasing breadth to the practice with projects completed as far away as Oamaru, New Zealand, and Bamaku, Sevare, and Timbuktu, Mali, West Africa.

During his professional career, Paul has worked in firms of varying sizes, gaining critical experience in many building types and in many cultures.  He founded the Design Counsel Group in 1995, eventually changing the name to ries.architecture.  In 2009, he co-founded ahha architecture llc; a progenitor to the current and locally rooted architecture and design company, aha! 

Paul has a Bachelors degree in Design from the University of Florida and a Masters degree in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He has an architectural license in five states as well as the NCARB (national) certificate.  He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Oceania, has bluewater sailing experience in the Pacific, has competed in regional triathlons (great effort was given and much fun was had, but the results ... well, they were rather embarrassing :-) and rides his motorcycle as much as he can.  If you click on the following link, you can read about his recent travels and work on a project in Mali, West Africa.   http://bamakototimbuktu.wordpress.com/ 

 

Jean Luc Dufrene
Jean Luc has had a pretty robust and adventurous life, not only in the field of design (architectural and interior design and project management), but with other experiences that generally make your hair stand on end.  We could no more write his short bio than we could craft the the next great thriller/movie.  Though whether that movie is something like "Caddy Shack" or one of the Indiana Jones flicks we really can't tell you as it would spoil the suspense.  You'll just need to check back here when he finishes writing about himself!

 

Ellis Curry
A fourth generation native Floridian, Ellis has more than 25 years of architectural experience throughout Central Florida.  Ellis received his Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Florida and has focused recently on educational design and construction.  This educational design and construction experience ranges from building additions to existing campus renovations to entire new campuses.  This depth of knowledge provides integrated solutions touching on design, efficiency and economy.

 

Britany Jay Stevenson
Britany grew up designing elaborate tree forts and tinkering in her dad's woodworking shop. She later honed her design skills while receiving a BFA in Interior Design from Ringling College of Art and Design. She also grew her love of woodworking by attending a furniture making intensive at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in coastal Maine.

After college, Britany jumped into the NYC film industry designing and building movie sets as well as elaborately creative retail and events spaces. She later set her sights on design with more permanence. She started a custom furniture company which later brought her back to her hometown of St. Petersburg, FL. While growing her furniture business, she continued her passion for design in the creation of Buya Ramen, a local restaurant, and later took an in house position designing projects within St. Pete's EDGE District including new restaurants, bars, and a boutique hotel.

 

Steve Podraza
Steve has over 18 years of experience in the design and documentation of residential, commercial, and industrial projects. A St Petersburg native, Steve has deep roots in the community and is able to serve our clients with not only technical expertise, but local knowledge as well.  Steve is intimately familiar with the expectations of the local building permitting jurisdictions, the members of the local building industry, and the techniques and systems that are required for building in this climate zone.  

 

Ryan Gorman
Ryan's course in the industry has taken a different path than the normal.  After spending many years in the local St Petersburg building industry learning the intricacies of building assembly and processes, Ryan has taken his skill set in design and construction and combined it with his skill with computer aided design.  This combination has allowed Ryan to be the teacher of our next generation of design professionals, creating curriculum and classroom studies for autoCad, Revit and other CAD programs used in the profession.  Ryan has brought that skill set here and is central to our studio not only in design, but in bringing us all into the 21st century with our ability to document and illustrate the ideas.

 

Sven M. Dolling
Sven came to Florida via New Jersey (interrupted by a 17-year stay growing up in Germany) and a 5-year stint as cartographer for National Geographic in Washington, DC., before raising his three now-adult children in his adopted home state (all St. Petersburg natives, and all Gators!).  Living near the beaches, his outlet is volleyball, but also his newly discovered game of golf (if time allows:-), along with traveling – either to local breweries or faraway places. He plays hard and works hard, being no stranger to the graveyard shift and great attention to detail. Play or work – team spirit is a big part of it, and this is a great team!

 

 Jack Barnes
Jack Barnes has been practicing architecture since 1995, and settled in Portland in 1999. His focus is on sustainable design for residential and light commercial projects. Clients include homeowners, non-profits, and local businesses. He thrives on the challenges of updating and adapting Portland's older structures, but is also enjoys the freedom of designing new custom homes. 

Jack earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the UNC Charlotte, and has been licensed as an architect in Oregon since 2002.  He is also certified by the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB) and has achieved Sustainable Homes Professional (SHP) certification through the Earth Advantage Institute. Jack is recognized by the Passive House Institute US as a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC). He is a supporting member of Passive House Northwest and is an enthusiastic adopter of the Architecture 2030 Challenge.

 

Michelle Jeresek
Michelle studied architecture at North Dakota State University, and has since worked in both Oregon and Minnesota, accruing over 20 years of experience in all project phases.  With experience in civic, retail, restaurants, schools, office, hospitality, multi-family and single-family residential, Michelle brings a strong background to any project in which she's involved.

While working in Minnesota, Michelle was the project architect for the Andover YMCA Community Center, which was awarded AIA Minnesota Honor Award, the highest state award for architecture.  Since her return to Oregon in 2006, she's gained local attention for her for deeply sustainable projects, including the Full Plane PassiveHouse, which features net-positive energy and net-zero water. Her work has been published in Portland Monthly, Architecture Minnesota, The Oregonian, NW Renovation, featured on Green Science Oregon TV and online media including Dwell, Portland Monthly's Design Blog, Jetson Green, and Sustainable Business Oregon.

In addition to her design work, Michelle is often asked to share her experience and expertise, and so frequently adds public speaking to her schedule.  She has authored numerous articles for the online design resource, Houzz, and is a current board member of the Build Local Alliance.