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It's a Living

Woman-owned architecture firm celebrates milestone


“Transforming dreams into buildings. It’s what we do,” is the motto of Ford 3 Architects, a woman-owned business, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The three partners that make up Ford 3, Moira McClintock, Quinn Schwenker, and Erin Monaghan, have designed for organizations and residential homeowners too numerous to list. They include the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, and other educational institutions, commercial buildings, several public libraries, community centers like Girl Scouts of America, veterinary hospitals, and public housing, as well as projects for their preservation work on many venerated local edifices.

Still much of their work is on family homes, and their website is full of impressive photos of kitchen and bathroom renovations, decks, and other additions.

Talking to the three partners puts me in mind of the aphorism, “All roads lead to Rome.” In this case, all their roads led to architecture and the Bucks and Hunterdon County areas, though the paths they took were very different.

Moira McClintock was practically born to architecture. “I grew up surrounded by educators and artists. My mother taught architectural design and theory at Parsons School of Design.” Circumstances converged to point all arrows toward one end. As a child, Moira would often accompany her mother to the design studio and listen as she taught. Her high school had an excellent art department where Moira felt particularly engaged with the work. The natural segue was to a pre-college program in architecture and then a professional degree from Cornell.

Where Moira now lives also seems fated. “My grandparents owned an historic farm in Bucks County, where I spent a portion of each summer growing up.” After working with firms in Washington, D.C., and New York, she now lives in what was once her grandparents’ home. “I wanted the opportunity to work locally and for clients I could engage with personally.”

Quinn Schwenker took another route. “I started making furniture for sculpture classes as an undergraduate. I enjoy the act of making, but I am more practical than a sculptor. I concluded that the best 3D education was architecture.” Quinn had grown up working with historic wooden sailboats, and that shaped his design work.

Quinn got a fresh perspective when after college, he served a year with the Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) program, working with chronically homeless youth. “That experience has influenced my understanding of how our built environment influences its inhabitants.”

He discovered Bucks County through his wife when they both were attending the University of Pennsylvania. They live now in Washington Crossing. He says of our area, “The breathtaking natural landscape harmonizes seamlessly with its iconic historic architecture, providing unparalleled inspiration for an architecture firm that values past lessons, embraces the challenges of the present, and envisions a future where tradition and innovation converge.”

Erin Monaghan first became interested in architecture in high school when a friend showed her plan drawings from their drafting class. “I had already been taking elective art classes and quickly decided I also wanted to design and draw floor plans.”

What Erin relates next is a reminder not all memories of high school counselors are warm and fuzzy. “At that time, I was the first female student in my high school even to consider a drafting class. The guidance counselor tried to detour my decision and called my mother to convince me to take a sewing class or “home economics” instead of “mechanical drawing.”

“With strong support from my mother who told the guidance counselor that my grandmother had already taught me to sew, and I needed to take a drafting class to learn something new,” Erin signed up. “The drafting class led to a deeper interest in design, and ultimately, I pursued a career in architecture. I’m grateful that my mother supported my decision back then, and I feel fortunate that I didn’t need to consider other careers.”

And the rest is history. Happy Anniversary Ford 3!

"It's a Living" is a weekly column showcasing residents who are making a living in an interesting way, or people who’ve reinvented their careers because they could no longer ignore the voice in the back of their heads telling them to start over, take a risk, chase a dream or set out on their own.

These are stories of bravery, persistence, resilience, and vision.

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