Children make the best spies when toting cameras.

On family vacations, architects Miguel Fuentevilla and Sonya Sotinsky put their two daughters to work snapping photos of buildings and rooms with original designs that catch their parents’ eyes.

“They’re our No. 1 spies,” said Fuentevilla, 46, who owns and runs FORS Architecture + Interiors with his wife, Sotinsky, 43. “They can photograph anything anywhere, and no one said ‘no.’”

Fuentevilla and Sotinsky have designed many of the restaurants in downtown Tucson, snagging inspiration from around the country. In past visits to Sotinsky’s grandparents and father in New York, for example, they toured some 50 restaurants and 30 hotels.

They bring those ideas back to Tucson, pumping them into residential and commercial projects such as the Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery, Zinburger Wine and Burger Bar, and the Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. By December, they’ll have wrapped up 14 projects in the downtown area alone.

“With all these restaurants coming (downtown), people will say, ‘When is it too much?’” Fuentevilla said. “But it’s never too much, because you have to create more need and bring more people.”

The couple met in 1990 studying architecture at the University of Arizona, and married in 1997 in Berkeley, Calif. When they returned to Tucson two years later, they had dreams of seeing downtown revitalized. Neither imagined their designs would feature so prominently.

Now their 2-year-old downtown office features ForsSHOP, a storefront that keeps their daughters involved in the business. Siena, 13, wants to work in fashion when she grows up. Elapilar, 11, wants to be a chef.

“Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not,” said Elapilar. “But if you look at all of our other friends, they don’t really get to do the stuff that we do.”

The family lives and breathes design — which can be a perk or a problem.

“You never escape your work,” Sotinksy said. “You’re never really off. ... You get sick of hearing about (the business) and you’re like, ‘Just don’t talk about it anymore.’”

Fuentevilla and Sotinsky lead their own projects but collaborate on everything. Business hours never end.

The couple worked out of their home for years: “You can’t have a 3-year-old running around downtown,” Sotinksy said.

So the girls grew up around the business, which gave their parents the best of both worlds. Fuentevilla might take Siena to a volleyball tournament in Phoenix, and after a day of volleyball they swing by to see a client for an hourlong meeting.

“Traditionally, having your kids running around in your business was always standard,” Sotinsky said. “It was part of the way of life. It’s what people did. It seems pretty normal to me.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at or 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.