Former Mattituck classmates open architecture firm where their start began

Across the street from Mattituck High School is a small architecture firm where three alumni are now using what they learned in a mechanical drawing class there to bring their ideas home to the North Fork.

Anthony Portillo, who graduated in 2000, and classmates Brooke Epperson and Kyle Edstrom, both 2001 graduates, remember that the class expanded their interest in architecture and gave them the skills to start down that path and eventually form AMP Architecture.

“The school recommended you took it for one semester,” Ms. Epperson said. “The three of us took it every semester, every year until we graduated.”

One of their assignments was to draw up plans for three-dimensional wooden blocks in dozens of different ways, a challenge all three recalled being excited about.

“I believe you should be able to communicate graphically and that’s the stuff that I taught,” said their former teacher Bob Fisher, who is now retired and works as Southold Town’s fire marshal. “We had pictures a lot sooner than we had a spoken language.”

Mr. Fisher deserves a lot of credit, Mr. Portillo said.

“He basically taught us from the beginning everything we know,” he said, adding that students learned how to use drafting software, create elevations and visualize three-dimensions in two-dimensional drawings.

“It was one of the few classes I enjoyed,” added Mr. Edstrom. “Maybe the only.”

After college, the former classmates and friends found themselves living and working in Brooklyn and Manhattan. For three years, Mr. Portillo worked at the Institute for Building Technology and Safety, which participated in New York City’s Build It Back program, helping to rebuild homes destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Sandy. But in September 2015, he decided to make the leap and start his own firm.

“I called Brooke and Kyle and said, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to do this. Do you guys want to do it with me?’<\!q>” said Mr. Portillo, whose grandfather was an architect. The three opened their office in Mattituck last September.

Now, the partners are looking to bring their knowledge of Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, flood-resistant construction and energy-conscious design back to the place it all started for them. It’s expertise they hoped to apply to older homes in the area, Mr. Portillo said. The firm has already completed projects in New Suffolk, Mattituck and Southold.

The trio also recently started a business called AMP Development, which is working on a FEMA program in Texas to elevate about 30 homes that were hit hard by Hurricane Ike in 2008, Mr. Portillo said.

Bringing the firm to the North Fork was not a tough decision. Mr. Portillo said he grew up building here and worked with a few contractors, learning how a structure works. He said he likes how the homes in the area are designed and are close to the water.

“The aesthetics really draw you to want to continue designing out here,” Ms. Epperson added.

Plus, it’s close to friends and family, they said.

They will add to a portfolio that began when they were teens, including their senior project to design Pike Street Park next to the Broken Down Valise in Mattituck.

“I remember being younger and wanting to get out of here very badly, but now I come back and I’m like, this is where I want to be right now,” Mr. Portillo said. “It just makes sense to me.”

They grew tired of the city, Mr. Edstrom said, turning away from plans pulled up on his computer screen. He said one focus of AMP Architecture is community development, such as creating affordable places to live.

Ms. Epperson remembers a critique she received from classmate Mr. Portillo on an elevation she drew, suggesting she change up the windows. She said working with her former classmates today “just kind of flows.”

“We all look at each other like, ‘We’re all getting paid to actually do this now’,” Mr. Portillo said. “Because we did it for fun. Now people actually hire us and we’re doing it for a living and it’s pretty amazing.”

Mr. Fisher said it’s a “good feeling” to know his former students are working in the field they wanted.

“That’s what you’re trying to get them to do, to be successful in whatever they want to do or whatever they choose to do finally and sometimes you can help push them in one direction and sometimes you can’t,” he said. “It’s really nice to see them be successful and it’s definitely nice when they remember that you had a small part in it.”

Photo caption: Kyle Edstrom (from left), Brooke Epperson and Anthony Portillo at their office across from Mattituck High School, where they first learned about architecture. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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