think! is a partnership between Martin Kapell, Ernesto Vela and Jack Esterson.


Martin Kapell, AIA, Founding Principal

Previous experience: Studio A, TEK Architects, Kapell and Kostow Architects. Education: MArch, Yale University; BA, MFA in Theater Directing, Scenic and Lighting Design, New York University.


Marty loves adventure. Whether it's checking out a metal fabricator for a new material, cracking open a book of new global architecture, or getting in a car to explore a new neighborhood, for Marty it's about the excitement and the discovery of something unknown, unusual and fresh. And it's this love of adventure that informs the way he leads our clients and staff in search of unexpected design with unexpectedly delightful results. A consummate collaborator, Marty knows the best ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. Our 15 years working together has been a truly fulfilling creative partnership. With his generosity of spirit, Marty embraces the world and is committed to making it better, one design idea at a time.

— Jack

Marty is a thinker as much as he is an artist. He always risks to dream. He is constantly searching and questioning not only architecture but, most importantly, its significance and enrichment in everyday life. Marty comes to architecture via the theater, a world that informed much of his creative approach to the design process. The evidence of this synergy is in beautiful and ingenious solutions that reach out and engage the emotional side of its users. A loyal leader and tireless cheerleader, Marty inspires respect. He honors the creative essence of each person, inspiring the people he works with to bring their best to each project.

— Ernesto

Ernesto Vela, AIA, Principal

Previous experience: Dattner Architects, Perkins Eastman, Kapell and Kostow Architects. Education: BA in Environmental Studies, University of Manitoba; BArch, Cornell University.


Ernesto is a quiet force within the office—a rigorous seeker who inspires his partners and staff with his devotion to the art of architecture. In addition to his solid technical skill as an architect, Ernesto is the guardian of think!'s design integrity and our adherence to our basic principles of practice. He is unflappable and firm. Truly, when the going gets tough, Ernesto gets calm and focused, a treasured skill that allows him to effectively lead, mentor and motivate the staff. To the extent that think! remains on track with regard to its mission and philosophy, it owes a great deal to Ernesto's perseverance and dedication to architecture and our firm.

— Marty

Ernesto operates from a strong focused center. His contemplative nature is a reflection of his willingness to listen and consider carefully before putting forth design ideas that are as much about the client's aspirations as about his own considerable artistic ambitions. Those ambitions originate from a humanist world-view and an inherent empathy for people, the way they live, work and find enjoyment. Ernesto is also a teacher, a behind-the-scenes motivator who is masterful at understanding design's impact on the world and its inhabitants. His wealth of knowledge is considerably enhanced by his collaborative nature, pushing the think! team to a place of greater authenticity.

— Jack

Jack Esterson, AIA, Principal

Previous experience: Studio A, TEK Architects, Thanhauser & Esterson Architects, Kliment & Halsband Architects, Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Education: BArch, Pratt Institute. Polytechnic of Central London.


Jack truly operates from the belief that architecture can improve the lives of all people and, by extension, make cities more livable and vital. Jack's entire career has been an example of how buildings can be made functional, accessible and beautiful regardless of the project type, the project's budget, its constituency or all of the practical and cultural challenges that conspire on an almost daily basis against vision and quality. In a career that has already spanned more than 40 years (with no end in sight) Jack has developed the type of hard won wisdom that allows him to always go straight to the heart of the matter and create designs of enormous clarity – always buildable and compelling.

— Marty

Passion. This quality that best defines Jack comes with an open-minded approach to architecture refined over a long dynamic career. His sincere commitment to improving our city's civic life through thoughtful architecture is evident in every project he designs. In his work there is an unabashed belief that the beautiful in architecture is as essential as any other functional requirement. His passion for beauty and its rewards infuses his designs with integrity and timelessness. His design approach is always positive, encouraging and self-critical, bringing clients and collaborators closer to his vision of a sustainable and humanistic urban life.

— Ernesto

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When we started think! four years ago, we contacted our favorite former employees and collaborators and asked them to join us in our new endeavor—a surprising number of them did. Over this same time we have added to this core staff with seasoned experienced professionals, well rounded practitioners and enthusiastic recent graduates all of whom share our commitment to design, our values and our pursuit of quality in all areas of our practice.

The design of the think! office reflects the firm’s attitude toward design and it fuels our creative process. Its pragmatism defines its aesthetic, its intelligence makes our lives easier, it leveraged the maximum design impact from a challenging budget and, most importantly, it promotes collaboration and vanquishes hierarchies. It looks like us and we love working here because it’s just right for who we are, what we do and what we value.