About Jonathan Kuhn Architect

A passion for great design

Jonathan Kuhn Architect was established in June 2012 in Washington DC, with the belief that every client deserves unique attention. Whether it’s a residential remodel or small commercial design project, we bring an unwavering passion for great design and years of experience in the industry. Residential projects have included new homes, additions, and renovations ranging in style from modern architecture to historic structures. For commercial projects we have collaborated with clients to create inviting office environments, design luxury condos, and craft engaging public spaces. We serve Washington DC and the surrounding area but are also licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New York.

Creating an emotional response

The way we work is really an extension of Jonathan’s personality – honest, open, and engaged. Some clients come to JKA inspired with a vision while others only have a general sense of what they’d like to achieve. We love to work with both – and everything in between. It’s an ongoing conversation and why our collaborative approach is key to our success. By carefully listening to our clients’ stated (and sometimes unarticulated) goals, we hone in on key design elements and strategies to incorporate. We take into account every detail, from materials to lighting, that contributes to the physical and emotional response to architecture. It’s only after understanding how our clients interact, both physically and emotionally, with their environment, that we can create solutions that exceed our clients’ goals and expectations.

Established and respected by peers

Jonathan Kuhn has been called a “creative and passionate architect” and featured in many publications including The Design Bureau 100, The Washington Post, Houzz, The Washingtonian Magazine, Opad, and Pine River Group. JKA has also won many prestigious awards such as 2015 District of Columbia Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation, Capital COTY (Contractor of the Year Award),  AIA|DC – 2015 Chapter Design Award, HBAM Remodelers Gold Award of Excellence for Exterior Remodel up to $50K, and HBAM Remodelers Silver Award of Excellence for Commercial up to $150K.

With every project we aspire to create a physically and emotionally inviting environment – and we believe our role is to facilitate the right conversations and provide professional guidance as we help to achieve your vision.

“Creativity is the human capacity to transform something into an emotion.”

— Chef Alex Atala

Jonathan Kuhn

An open dialogue

Jonathan Kuhn has been creating inviting spaces and innovative structures for almost 20 years. His ability to listen to and understand people have made his collaborative approach to design a natural extension of his personality. From modern urban condos to quaint suburban homes to edgy office space, he begins every project with a conversation then applies his extensive experience and passion for design to create a space that is aesthetically engaging and approachable.

Knowledge and experience

Jonathan’s engaging approach coupled with his expertise and industry knowledge have led to a diverse portfolio of award-winning residential, commercial, retail, and multi-family projects. He started this journey at Perkins and Will (formerly Ai) where he was engaged on a wide range of projects; designed high-end, modern residential projects at ColePrevost as a project architect; then took on the role of principal at the Wicomico Development Corporation, a design-build firm in Maryland. Before owning his own practice, he was a founding principal of LangKuhn Architects • Builders where he oversaw design-build services for residential, retail, and small-scale commercial clients. He’s accomplished in all aspects of running an architectural business, but what he enjoys most is developing relationships with his clients – and bringing their dreams to life.

A curiosity for the craft

Growing up in a small industrial town in northwest Pennsylvania, Jonathan was surrounded by railroads, textile mills, and machine shops. He was intrigued by his grandfather who generated drawings of parts he would later fabricate at the local mill. Jonathan and his father, who studied architecture in college and was a welder on the railroad, would often work together in the home workshop. Through all of these hands-on projects, Jonathan discovered how ideas become tangible objects that shape the environment – and began to define what “pride of craftsmanship” really means to him.

Developing an architectural perspective

After summer jobs at a lumber yard and tool & die company, Jonathan pursued a formal education in architectural studies. He holds dual master’s degrees in architecture and construction management from Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to his extensive architectural experience, he is also an active member in the architectural community. Jonathan is on the steering committee of the AIA affiliated Capital Area Custom Residential Network (CRAN) group that hosts events promoting the residential sector and has been LEED-certified since 2009. He can change hats as needed since he often needs to mediate differing opinions, organize disparate ideas, and ease the stress and anxiety that sometimes accompany a project.

A collaborative approach

Jonathan’s experiences have shaped the way he approaches each project – as an open dialogue and on-going conversation. He focuses on understanding how people live and work – and how to create spaces that work with their unique design and emotional needs. He sees himself as a trusted partner and capable guide, and clients appreciate the balance of approachability and design competence Jonathan brings to every project. His knowledge and collaborative approach help get things right – and his pragmatic understanding of the building industry helps get things done.

John Choi

John Choi has over 10 years of experience in architectural design, focused on high-end residential and small-scale private institutional projects. He’s managed all aspects of architectural practice from design concept to construction details – for detached single-family homes, condominiums, and townhouses, as well as commercial improvements and small school projects. And his talents don’t end with architecture. He also has an incredible flair for interior design.

John found his way to JKA via San Francisco where he worked for Huang Iboshi Architecture. He was drawn to JKA because of the collaborative environment and attractive project portfolio – and he was also excited about the opportunity to touch on every aspect of an architectural project. While at JKA, John has especially enjoyed working on multi-family projects where social and economic values are intertwined with creative design.

A natural problem solver, John finds the challenge of designing architectural solutions, with given constraints, extremely rewarding. As part of a prestigious Los Angeles competition called Small Lots, Smart Design, John designed a prototype for multi-family housing. Entrants were asked to design affordable housing on a narrow lot, and his team was one of the 12 finalists in the competition. It was extremely rewarding for John to be able to create affordable spaces for first-time home owners, given a very limited amount of space.

Another aspect of architecture that John enjoys is the ability to design something that can actually get built. Of course, he’s a fan of beautiful design, but he employs a very grounded approach. This applies to the way he works with clients too. He believes listening to the client is always paramount, but he takes his role as an educator seriously – and clients appreciate his ability to articulate the pros and cons of different architectural choices.

While working in San Francisco, John also taught design studio at the Academy of Art University. Prior to his architectural career, he worked for an international market research firm for over nine years. To top it all off, John is also fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.

Emily Hirst

Emily Hirst has always harbored a love for old houses and buildings. From an early age, she noticed and appreciated the aesthetic and craftsmanship of DC residential neighborhoods and turned this love of design into a career adventure. Now at JKA, she enjoys marrying the preservation of historic architecture with modern design and jumps at any opportunity to incorporate the natural world into an architectural project.

Emily studied Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During the summer breaks, she interned at Traditional Builders where she learned specialized preservation techniques and loved working in the field – and at Commonwealth Home Remodelers (a design/build firm) where she assisted project teams with research, code analysis, and site inspection. At Commonwealth Home Remodelers, she continued to enjoy her work in the field and gained a deeper understanding of the architectural process as she managed several construction projects. While completing her degree, she also spent an enlightening semester traveling through many European countries and learning about architecture through sketch, photography, and discussions. During her last year, she drew from her childhood experiences and love of the natural environment to design an iconic, sustainably-driven Montessori school in Baltimore Harbor for her thesis.

After working in customer service for a couple of years, Emily received her LEED certification. Then, for many years, she was a very successful freelance designer. She found great pleasure and honor in creating intimate residential environments that reflected the needs of the inhabitants and complemented the natural surroundings. The variety of her daily tasks – expediting permits, collaborating with developers, analyzing schematics, and coordinating with clients – also felt like a great fit for her. She thoroughly enjoyed what she was doing, but also felt pulled towards a more collaborative studio environment.

In taking the next step, Emily found her way to iStudio where she contributed to larger community projects, commercial endeavors, and residential renovations – all within a project team environment. This opportunity helped Emily to deepen her technical skills, while also learning a great deal from her gifted colleagues in the process.

All of these varied experiences plus extensive knowledge of the permitting process in DC, Maryland, and Virginia enable Emily to bring her unique talents and special flair to JKA. She’s managed projects ranging from single family residences and multi-unit condos to elementary schools and commercial shipping containers – and genuinely appreciates the collaborative culture at JKA where every person is respected and valued. Residential architecture is where Emily’s heart lies, and because she is able to guide people through the intimate process of creating a sacred home space at JKA, she feels very “at home”.

In her spare time, Emily is often out admiring the architectural landscape or hiking in the woods with her dogs, enjoying the natural environment. She is also an avid music and arts supporter, and can often be found at a live show in the DC area or tending bar at a local music club.

Valentina Paolini

Born and raised in Venezuela, Valentina Paolini’s narrative is marked by an unyielding love for design and an insatiable curiosity and global perspective that have led her to explore educational opportunities worldwide.

After high school, Valentina moved from Caracas to Miami, where she graduated with a master’s degree from Florida International University and had the chance to study Italian and Japanese architecture for a couple of semesters in Genova, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan, respectively.

Afterward, she immersed herself in her work with Antoniazzi Architecture, a multi-family firm in Downtown Miami. During the pandemic, she returned to Venezuela as a freelancer, where she developed first-hand experience in all stages of the projects she took on, from schematic design to plans and 3D renderings. Having the urge to learn new construction methods and historical aspects of buildings, she sought a new location until eventually settling in Washington, DC, where she was drawn by JKA’s collaborative approach and creative vision.

Valentina has a passion for languages, having studied English, Spanish, and French from an early age. She is excited to learn and take on new challenges and is very much a people person, always with the client’s best interest at heart.