AIA Contract Documents Help Scharly Designer Studio Stand Strong

About Scharly Designer Studio

Scharly Designer Studio is an award-winning architectural firm in Brooklyn, New York. They’ve gained an extensive client list due to their flexible and diverse range of work in New Construction and Architectural Renovation. Their work includes engaging designs for residential and commercial buildings, exhibits, and cultural institutions.                      

“AIA contracts helped me to secure opportunities with global brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton.”


Founded in 2007, Scharly Designer Studio quickly developed a stellar reputation for creating responsible designs with an eye toward climate sustainability and innovation. Whereas most firms view themselves as cogs in the building process, Scharly thinks differently. “We don’t see our work as simply erecting structures. We focus on designing art for people that innovate and make the world a better place,” said founder Lionel Scharly.

The Missing Piece

When he began this entrepreneurial journey, Scharly was confident. A graduate of Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Harvard with certifications from Princeton and MIT, he was ready. He felt he had what it took to succeed, except for one crucial piece.

He had drafting tables, measuring tapes, scales, and training from some of the most hallowed halls of academia. Scharly had all the requisite tools, but he didn’t have a robust contract partner. “We started small but quickly scaled and began securing diverse projects. The nature of those opportunities meant I needed to build a relationship with someone wielding a versatile contract portfolio. I reviewed my options, but when I read those written by AIA, I knew I had found everything I needed,” said Scharly. The rest is history as he continues using contracts from AIA and encourages his clients to do the same.

“I always feel protected when I use AIA Contract Documents. They’re strong and give me the peace of mind I need to do my best work.”

The Velvet Underground Experience Exhibition

Strength and durability are two reasons Scharly chose to build a relationship with AIA Contract Documents. Both attributes were needed in 2018 when his firm became the architect of choice for the highly coveted Velvet Underground Experience Exhibit.

After receiving rave reviews abroad, the immersive exhibit highlighting the cultural impact of the 1960s American rock band hit New York City. From start to finish, Scharly managed the mechanical and architectural aspects of the project, but it wasn’t always a smooth ride. “I’ll always cherish the opportunity, but dealing with celebrities who are living icons brought a unique set of challenges,” Scharly shared. “There were several instances where exhibitors asked us to go outside the scope of work. Each time I pointed them back to our contract, the one from AIA. It clearly outlined what could and couldn’t be done. From there, no further discussions were necessary.”

"There’s a certain level of respect an AIA Contract commands."

Providing Security During the Most Uncertain of Times

During uncertain times and events, you need to know whom you can trust. COVID was one of those events, ushering in uncertain times all over the world. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the global economy, with some experts projecting more than $8.0 trillion in losses. No segment was immune, including architecture, where business owners saw opportunities canceled or halted indefinitely. Scharly was able to weather the storm due in some measure to their relationship with AIA Contract Documents. “Just before the pandemic, we signed on to do a series of grant-funded public works projects using a pro bono contract from AIA Contract Documents. The contract mandated payment. So, while other projects in our pipeline stalled, these continued driving revenue and sustaining our business,” explained Scharly.

The work done during COVID led to many other high-profile public works projects. From the Museum of Telescope and Vacuum to the Jewish Center of Brighton Beach to the Aware Wildlife Center, all these and many others. They are all now part of the Scharly portfolio and are sure to help drive future opportunities.

“The AIA Contracts agreement was instrumental in helping us build the public works and non-profit design arm of our business.”

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Lionel Scharly studied and taught at some of the finest institutions in the world. His arsenal has leading-edge tools that he uses to create structures of all types. While credentials, education, and tools are all essential, he is a man who also recognizes the value of a firm contract. “Contracts set the tone for the project, making sure everyone is on the same page and understands expectations, “says Scharly.

Regardless of the size or scope of a project, a sound contract is necessary. When Scharly Designer Studio engages in an opportunity, they are comforted by the fact that an AIA contract is there to guide them. The partnership continues to drive trust and value and the documents are staples of their business, serving as catalysts in their quest to deliver innovative, responsible designs that inspire the world.