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@Work: Rob Crane

Aug. 12, 2008 — Rob Crane, owner of the St. John architectural firm Robert F. Crane AIA, got his St. John start when in 1986, he flew down to design an addition for his sister, longtime St. John resident Mary Ellis.
He was working at The Architects' Collaborative in Cambridge, Mass., when his sister, Mary Ellis, asked him if he'd design an addition for her St. John house. That led to a request from Ellis to oversee the building.
Crane took a six-month leave of absence from his job at The Architects' Collaborative, a move that left his colleagues incredulous. They marveled at the fact he would leave a job where he oversaw major projects to build a $60,000 addition.
Once he got his feet wet on St. John, he was hooked.
"I decided I really liked it here and there were opportunities here," he said.
Crane, 58, runs his office with the help of a designer/draftsperson. His firm focuses on homes and vacation villas.
"Every house is unique to its site," he said, taking in the view of Frank Bay and St. Thomas from the patio at his office and home.
He encourages clients to gather photos of things they like — a door, a whole room, or of a feeling they like.
"Then I begin to get a feel for what a person is looking for," he said.
He faces challenges, though. For starters, St. John has a limited pool of tradesmen. This means there's no competition to drive prices down.
"You've got to work with what you've got and make it work," he said.
When he first arrived on St. John, business was slow, but once it began to pick up, he soon learned that unlike the consultants available at The Architects' Collaborative, he was on his own.
"Here there was no backup — I couldn't call on the experts," he said.
Born in Hingham, Mass., Crane grew up in Yarmouth, located on Cape Cod.
Crane started his working life as an office boy at his father's firm. After hanging around the office when he was a youth and seeing firsthand interesting projects such as the construction of a bank vault, he decided on architecture as a career. And the rest, as they say, is history.
By 1970, he was a project manager and a registered architect.
After his move to St. John, he got involved in the community by joining the St. John Community Foundation. He's served as president, is still a board member and continues to work on its projects.
He's on the board of the Island Green Building Association, an organization formed to promote environmentally friendly building.
Single, he makes time for sailing when he's not at his desk or working on community endeavors.
Call Crane at 776-6356 or visit his website.
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