studioutte

Exploring the roots of studioutte: a conversation with founders Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola

In the heart of Milan’s Central Station area, the modern charm of rationalist architecture is experiencing a renaissance under the touch of studioutte. Led by the dynamic duo of Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola, who established the studio in 2020, studioutte is not just about architecture—it’s a multifaceted practice that delves into interior design, decoration, and the creation of collectible designs.

Deriving its name from ‘hütte’, a term that evokes images of huts, cabins, and shelters, studioutte’s ethos is rooted in a blend of distinct Italian tradition and harmonious, integrated design principles. The studio’s approach is informed by a deep engagement with vernacular architecture and varied regional influences, striving for a design language that eschews redundancy and extremity for clarity and expressiveness.

Guglielmo and Patrizio, nice to meet you. It’s exciting to learn more about studioutte, which you established in 2020. To start, could you tell us what inspired the founding of your Milan-based practice?

We were led by the idea of restoring a certain cultured and gentle minimalism that have always been present in the Italian history but recently disappeared in favour of an eclectic ultra – decorative approach. 

If I asked you to show me a place uniquely Milanese, where would you take me?

We are truly fascinated by the powerful presence of the Angelicum by Giovanni Muzio in Piazza Sant Angelo.

The name “studioutte” is quite unique. Can you explain the meaning behind it and how it reflects your approach to design?

Hütte means hut, shelter. We are always linking the idea of architectural composition to a sense of protection and retreat.


Your work emphasizes a hybrid design of architecture research and influences from various regional practices. How do you incorporate these diverse elements into a cohesive design language?

It is a kind of spontaneous digestion of an infinite accumulation of images, observations, travel experiences that naturally flow towards the final object. Always guided by a precise research of proportions and materials.

What does the idea of a “waiting room” evoke for you?

A sense of suspension and tension towards something assertive and definitive, that for us means timeless Architecture.

I understand that studioutte aims for a design aesthetic that reaches beyond simple forms to express a primitive essence. Could you expand on what this means in your creative process?

It is an instinctive path towards simplicity  and mute forms of a space or an object. It is taking a lot of energy and time while aiming to reach a balance of shapes and material that leads to a sense of metaphysical anonymity.


Lastly, how do you envision Milan’s evolution over the next decade as a cultural hub for designers and artists?

Milan is a great hub, the challenge will be being more and more open to different cultures and paths intersection without loosing its own rational introvert dark and magnificent identity 

In order of appearance

  1. Milan Design Week 2023, studioutte x district eight. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  2. Bedroom, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  3. Entrance, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  4. Rootine Wellness Club, Munich, studioutte, , Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  5. Master Bedroom, Antwerp House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  6. Stair View, Moncucco House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  7. Steel Lamp, Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  8. Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  9. Bathroom, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  10. Entrance, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.

Studio HAOS

Through the Lens: From Photography to Design with Studio HAOS

Sophie Gelinet and Cédric Gepner didn’t have formal training in furniture design, but they shared a passion that led them to create their first lamp. That lamp became the foundation for a collection, and in 2017, Studio HAOS was born.

They believe in keeping things simple, using materials like oak plywood and sheet metal to create thoughtful furniture and lighting. They focus on clarity and proportions, avoiding unnecessary complexity. Now based in Lisbon, their work is recognised worldwide, and they’re represented by galleries in major cities like Paris, New York, and London.

Sophie and Cédric, thanks for being here with me. Could you narrate the journey of Studio HAOS, from its inception with the creation of your first lamp to evolving into a fully-fledged design studio?

We had the desire to work on something together, on the side of our regular jobs. We had a shared interest in photography, and that led us to a few personal projects in France and in the north of India. At some point I wanted to try something new and started working on the prototype of a first lamp, and Cedric soon joined me. It was just something we were doing for fun on the side of our regular jobs. From what was initially a single lamp we made a small series, we then reached out to the press, got some publications, started getting some orders, etc. It started like that, quite randomly. We created the studio in 2017, and a couple of years later reached the point where we could both work full time on HAOS. 

How did your previous exploration in photography inform or shape your approach to design?

Looking back at it I think it helped in three ways. The first one was learning how to collaborate on a creative endeavour, which is not simple especially when you are also partners in life. The second was that it helped us develop our understanding of what makes a good picture: just as much as in photography, design is about arranging shapes, finding harmony, playing with light, shadows, shades, textures… The third and maybe most important is that it’s usually fruitful to be exposed to as many fields as possible. It’s often at the intersection of seemingly unrelated interests that cross pollination or creativity happen. Trying to understand and replicate the appeal of pictures by Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld or Alec Soth, to name a few, that must have permeated into our practice of design in many positive ways that we don’t necessarily understand.

Your design ethos revolves around elevating humble materials such as plywood and sheet metal. What attracts you to these materials, and how do you integrate them into your designs?

One key feature of photography is that the most vernacular subject matter can be transformed into singular, poetic images. And this kind of transmutation can be achieved with the most basic equipment. All that is required is an understanding of colour, form, and composition. We believe design should work in the same way. Very intricate and time-consuming savoir-faire applied to opulent materials, that’s where craftsmen can shine. In our view the focus of designers should be on shape and form. The more accessible the materials and techniques, the better, as it is the thinking process that then takes center stage. If a piece is thought-out, it doesn’t need to be loud to catch attention. On the contrary, we believe there is a particular form of elegance that lies in the ability to express or evoke emotions with restraint and with purposely limited means. It’s not exactly a new idea, it has been exemplified by many designers and artists for more than a century, just think of Gerrit Rietveld and his crate chair, Achille Castiglioni’s floor lamp based on a car headlight, or the works of minimalists such as Donald Judd or Charlotte Posenenske. But this conversation is not over and it’s especially relevant today.

What does the concept of “slow design” signify for you, and how does it manifest in your creative process and final products?

Actually our practice tends to go in the opposite direction. We are now trying to experiment faster, because the more experiments we undertake (with new processes, new materials, etc.) the more chances we have to stumble upon something worthwhile.

How has the environment and atmosphere of Lisbon influenced your creative process and the direction of your designs?

Lisbon happened by accident. The initial plan was to relocate to Tangier in Morocco, but as the pandemy picked up again late 2021, we decided to make a stopover in Lisbon until things settled. It’s a city that’s hard not to like, and the stopover turned into a long-term installation. Being here enabled us to open a large-scale workshop, where design, prototyping and production can happen side-by-side. We can go from an idea to a finished piece in a matter of weeks instead of having to wait months for a first prototype. And we now have a lot more freedom to play with materials, processes and finishes. 

Studio HAOS is known for embracing simplicity while eschewing unnecessary complexity in design. How do you navigate the delicate balance between minimalism and functionality in your creations?

It can be tempting to free oneself from the “functionality” constraint, and make pieces that have more value as a work of art than as a functional object, and some do it very well. As for our way of practicing design, we feel it’s important to keep it because ultimately constraints are essential to the process of creation. Paradoxically the more constraints you have and the more creative you have to be, and besides functionality, we don’t have that many of them. We indeed have to balance this with quite a minimalistic approach, but they are not necessarily opposites. Minimalism for us is not about stripping everything out, it’s about achieving the desired effect with restraint, trying to be subtle rather than loud, leaning away from frivolous complication. In that sense ornament can be necessary, and functionality is not a cross to carry.

Reflecting on your journey so far, what advice would you offer to yourselves when you were first embarking on this path?

We were quite self conscious when we started, not having a product design background, and we would spend way too much time on each object. It usually doesn’t make them better, quite the opposite in fact. Looking back I would tell myself to be more confident, build more pieces, because with each new piece we make mistakes, learn, and get better at what we do. In other words, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.

As Studio HAOS continues to evolve, what are your aspirations and goals for the future of the studio?

I hope we’ll always have the curiosity to experiment with new ways of doing things, and that we will keep doing so surrounded by a team of talented and fun people. And above all, I hope that we always get to keep the immense privilege of being allowed to spend our days making beautiful things, and be paid for it. 

In order of appearance

  1. ANTIMATIÈRE Exhibition, 2024, Paris. Photography by Depasquale and Maffini. Courtesy of CONTRIBUTIONS Design
  2. Aluminium Side Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  3. Aluminium Dining Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  4. Grid Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  5. Leather Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  6. Aluminium Lounge Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  7. Aluminium Arm Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  8. Aluminium Bench. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  9. Steel Lamp 3. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  10. Steel Lamp 1. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.

Frederik Fialin

From Denmark to Berlin: Frederik Fialin’s Unique Approach to Furniture Design

Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Frederik Fialin, a designer hailing from Denmark but based in Berlin, specialises in crafting bold yet whimsical minimalist furniture using durable, frequently recycled materials. He enjoys playing with contrasts, blending elements like sturdy construction steel with vibrant velour upholstery. Despite his traditional training as a cabinet maker, Fialin consistently challenges conventions and explores new possibilities in his work.

Frederik, your furniture pieces are characterized by their bold yet playful aesthetic. Can you tell us more about your creative process and what inspires your designs?

I’m usually content with my work when it makes me laugh and wonder at its oddness. I aim for it to be disproportionate or unexpectedly shaped, yet maintain a clear and simple structure. I find great beauty in simplicity and honesty, and I strive to infuse these qualities into my furniture. I often make only minor tweaks to the original concept, mainly to address functionality and overcome technical hurdles. I enjoy exploring extremes and using the full range of sizes available, whether from ready-mades or custom fabrications. Why stick with a 50mm pipe when you can use a 270mm one? It might be unnecessary, but it’s decorative and adds a touch of humour.

How does your background influence your approach to furniture design and craftsmanship?

Clearly, my background as a classically trained cabinetmaker must have some importance, but never in any directly noticeable way. If anything, not having a theoretical background has probably benefited me in some ways and has potentially given me a more naive approach, which I think is clear when you look at my furniture. Starting out not knowing design history, theory and the mere fundamentals has both been challenging and rewarding. I think not taking it all that seriously is probably the main one. After all, it’s just furniture, and theorising on a particular piece or subject is generally pointless. Either you like it or you don’t.

Your pieces often challenge the notion of industrial design. What other design categories or influences do you draw inspiration from?

Do they? I don’t see it like this at all. My furniture makes use of very well- known and often basic materials. I usually try to simplify as much as I can and remove all unnecessary elements. I don’t take inspiration from anyone or anything in particular and I work based almost solely on gut feeling, but almost always to make myself happy. I like the framework that using mainly common geometric shapes gives me though. For me, it’s about combining these well-known shapes and placing them in unusual ways, adding or decreasing thickness, changing the diameter, or something else that can turn a simple circle or cylinder into something interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and most importantly, a functional piece of furniture.

How has Berlin’s dynamic cultural scene influenced your creative process and the development of your designs?

I doubt that Berlin has had any particular influence on my work. It’s more a place I happened to be while maturing and realising how I want to spend my time professionally.

Could you tell us about any specific challenges you’ve encountered while experimenting with materials or pushing the boundaries of design?

As with everything; finding the balance between beauty, functionality, humour and self-interest.

What role does sustainability play in your work, particularly considering your use of recycled materials?

I haven’t used recycled materials in quite a while; instead, I try to make use of materials that are not transported thousands of kilometres and should they eventually be thrown out, it would probably be aluminium (which is infinitely recyclable) or wood. I don’t believe that what we do in my studio has any particular influence on the status of the world. We produce furniture in very small quantities, sometimes in exotic materials, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things and is not something I worry about.

Looking ahead, what are your goals or aspirations for your furniture studio, and how do you envision the evolution of your designs in the future?

At the moment, we are planning the next year. There will be some shows and design festivals as well as further developments of already existing pieces and new ones. I simply hope to be able to continue doing what I do and have fun with it.

In order of appearance

  1. Flagpole Lamp, Elephant Tripod Table, AC01 Dining Chair, Spaghetti Shelf System, Monteverdi Daybed. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  2. Flagpole Lamp, 2023. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  3. Elephant Tripod Table, 2023. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  4. Springloaded Light, 2024. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  5. Hefty Table, 2024. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.

MOCK Studio

The Art of Furniture: Insights from MOCK Studio

Upon encountering the products of MOCK Studio, a palpable aura of tranquility enveloped me. The seamless blend of wood and aluminium spoke volumes of the meticulous craftsmanship behind each piece. Specialising in bespoke furniture and interior installations, MOCK Studio boasts a diverse portfolio that spans from individual items to entire interior environments.

What sparked MOCK Studio’s foray into crafting furniture and interior installations?

We are architects who wanted to create a furniture line for our commissioned projects that follows our design ethos, we simply wanted to extend our design thinking into furniture that was rooted in simplicity, proportion and material selection. Once we started making our own pieces we received an overwhelming response and so we decided to launch a furniture brand. Our focus has always been on accessible and easy to manufacture furniture.

MOCK: each letter an adjective.

Modest, Obvious, Clean, Kind

Could you walk us through the process of ideating and crafting your pieces?

We tend to start with a material we like and think of ways that it can be manipulated with the least amount of effort, our process is very intuitive but we are always striving for effortlessness. We are constantly questioning our processes and how they can be simplified to achieve the most satisfying results with the least amount of physical effort. 

Given the shifts in the human-home dynamic observed during the recent Milan Design Week, how do you foresee the role of furniture and interior installations evolving over the next 5 years?

We feel like this is both overdue and inevitable as the design community struggles with notions of sustainability and resource scarcity. Where it will go in the next 5 years is anybody’s guess however we can only hope that it only continues to grow in prominence because it is an ethos that really resonates with us and the way we approach design. 

If you had the chance to gather three influential personalities for a dinner soirée, who would you extend the invitation to, and what draws you to them?

Donald Judd because we are so inspired by his work and how it was able to make such simple things be so iconic. Dieter Rams because of his commitment to intentional design thinking, functionality and reason. David Attenborough because of his ability to engage our curiosity about the natural world. 

Could you spotlight a project that serves as a prime example of MOCK Studio’s guiding principles and ethos?

There are moments that embody our ethos on a project called TBSP and some more in our 2023 NYC X Design installation but we are still evolving as a practice and there is still a lot left unexplored which we are very excited about.

Peering into the future of MOCK Studio as it strides into 2034, what visions do you behold?

We behold a strong vision of life in the Mediterranean, we mean that both metaphorically and literally, as we are starting to shift our focus towards Europe, specifically Greece, and we are continuously drawing inspiration in the way we design from aspects of life in that part of the world.

Credits

Photography · Sean Davidson
Courtesy of MOCK Studio

Nifemi Marcus-Bello

Crafting Contemporary African Design

Nifemi Marcus-Bello, a Nigerian designer based in Lagos, specializes in product, furniture, and experience design. Celebrated for his talent in crafting sustainable products that originate from local ecosystems while making waves in international projects, Nifemi is the creative force behind nmbello Studio. He is at the forefront of shaping Africa’s design landscape with his innovative and unconventional designs. His work seamlessly blends historical perspectives with contemporary influences, resulting in conceptual products that marry artistic expression with practical functionality. Nifemi Marcus-Bello’s approach to design aligns with the emerging trend that explores the intersection between producing individual pieces and small series. His creations are deeply rooted in culture and often serve as vessels for profound meanings.

Hi Nifemi, thank you for joining us for this conversation. Can you share more about your childhood experiences that sparked your interest in product design and manufacturing?

My story into design is a bit of a cliche to people who eventually chose a path of creativity. As a kid I was curious and got excited around dismantling any object I could, so at the age of 13 my mum introduced me to a welder who I would have an apprenticeship with for a few years after school. Even with all of this, I never thought of design as a career path, I gravitate more towards art and architecture because contextually, they were a lot more familiar at the time. After staying back home for a few years after high school, my mum eventually would be able to send me to school in the United Kingdom. Here I stumbled on to design as a practice and profession and it was love at first sight. 

Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self as you embarked on your design journey?

I have been described to be a “cynic optimist”, a trait I had in my younger years and still have till now. For me I think all good designers possess an energy of optimism when creating any piece of work in the sense that you are presenting an idea into the world with the thought of changing what or how the world currently sees itself. So my advice to my younger self would be to remain optimistic and hopeful. 

In today’s society, what role do you believe design should play in addressing contemporary needs?

I think design is already playing a very important role in contemporary society and is helping to enhance experiences within technology and even the analogue world. I think it’s easy to forget that everything around us and that we use in our daily lives has to be designed by someone or people, from the chair you sit on, to the laptop you use, to the medical devices you use. So we as a people wouldn’t survive without design, it’s everything to us. I just hope that pushing forward design plays a role in the consideration of ethnography, where design solutions are culturally considerate to users and systems. 

In your view, how does the concept of “the society of fatigue,” as described by German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, manifest in contemporary design, where there’s a growing emphasis on hyper-productivity and efficiency?

I think that design as a practice is and will evolve within the coming years. I think a bigger shift (which is already happening) will see design and designers take greater consideration of systematic, ecological and human sustainability approaches to creating products and design solutions. A good example is a hyperlocal approach to manufacturing, scope of work and distribution. 

What initiatives or partnerships have you engaged in to promote African design globally?

I think the easiest thing to do is to be true to yourself and be as authentic as possible when it comes to your design approach and context. As the studio grows, with both a commercial and artistic approach and collaborations with brands in North America and across Europe. I sometimes have to educate clients that yes, the studio is based in Lagos and the work we do is contextual but we actually live in a global village, where everyone uses an iphone, practically see the same movies via Netflix so consumption of aesthetics and information has become global but with a hint of local context, for example, Kids love Stussy in Lagos, Nairobi, London and New York. 

What motivated the establishment of nmbello Studio, and how does it align with your vision for the future?

Before established nmbello Studio, I did my rounds as a junior and then lead designer for various companies, designing mobile phones, phone accessories, medical devices and furniture across the continent. I decided to start the studio for many reasons but the one that kept me curious was understanding and documenting material evolution and production availability of modern day Africa through a design practice. 

For me the future is in Africa, we have all the resources and with the youngest population in the world, we have the numbers so it is important for us to dictate our on futures and tell our own stories by creating our own products that will eventually dictate how we live and our future aesthetic.    

Can you provide an example of a manufacturing process or technology that has inspired your work?

As a lot of my work is contextual to availability I try not to have too much of an emotional attachment to one material. But one material and process that inspired my way of thinking approach to designing within my studio will have to be sheet metal and laser cutting. I know this might and usually comes as a shock for most designers but a great deal of this process is readily available in Lagos due to the production of electrical products such as generators, and they have become the norm in the streets of Lagos, a few indigenous manufacturers who need to produce casing for such items, popularised the process in the early 2000s.

Looking ahead, what aspects of your practice and the potential impact of your designs excite you the most?

I am very happy to be getting busier and being able to have work that resonates with a large audience. A great deal of the commercial work coming out of the studio sells on the continent and outside the continent as well. With this, I think there is untapped potential when it comes to strategic brand partnerships and special projects and a lot of discussion is being had around these possibilities.  With my artistic practice via the gallery shows getting a lot of museum acquisitions and discussions around the documentation of my work, I am deliberate in taking the right steps to communicate and archive my work effectively when it comes to the design process via mediums as film and photography, which has helped bring another layer into my design practice as a whole. 

In order of appearance

  1. Nifemi Marcus-Bello. Photography by Stephen Tayo
  2. Selah Lamp, nmbello Studio. Photography by Kadara Enyeasi.
  3. Friction Ridge, nmbello Studio. Photography by Kadara Enyeasi.
  4. Waf Kiosk, nmbello Studio.

All images courtesy of Nifemi Marcus-Bello

2050+

Designing diversity: a conversation with Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and the transformative path of 2050+

An architect and curator thriving on diversity and multidisciplinarity, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli honed his skills across various projects at OMA, ranging from the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice to Monditalia, the expansive Arsenale exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas. Four years ago, he chose to return home to Milan from Rotterdam, taking a more independent stance to develop his own agenda. With a team comprising over 15 individuals, including architects, curators, researchers, and art directors, 2050+ has become a hub for diverse talents. We had the chance to catch up with him, delving into discussions about his agency, architectural practice, and vision.

In navigating the intersection of design, technology, environment, and politics, how does 2050+ function as an interdisciplinary platform, and how does the urgency embedded in the agency’s name, ‘+’, influence the nature of its projects and collaborations?

2050+ acts more as a platform than a traditional architectural office. Each project requires a different ecosystem of expertises and perspectives that are either present in 2050+ or are part of our network.

Through the past years we have worked with artists, filmmakers, writers, scientists, philosophers, technologists, etc. in order to dissect and reflect on today’s complexities. For us the only way to remain relevant is to multiply the point of views, to look at crucial and urgent questions from different angles, to constantly negotiate our position as spatial practitioners with other disciplines, while finding a common and actionable ground. We actively look for projects that allow us to remain political and to tackle urgent questions in line with our overall agenda. This is evident in our research work, often commissioned by cultural institutions, but it’s also a goal for the more commercial side of our practice.    

In what ways does 2050+ utilize spatial practices as a medium rather than a goal?

Often as an architect you are expected to imagine, design and build spaces to inhabit, but that is just a small fraction of what architecture means as a discipline. Anything we observe, from politics to technology, from science to policy making, from climate to fashion, etc. has spatial implications. Space is a lens to investigate and understand contemporary dynamics and the formats of such explorations range across writing, film making, performance, digital environments, exhibitions, installations and architecture. For these reasons we prefer the definition of “Spatial Practitioners” to the one of “Architects” as it reflects how expansive our definition of architecture is.     

Given your belief that emotional engagement has been the driving force behind your choice to embark on this new chapter, could you share which project from the last four years of 2050+ has had the most profound emotional impact on you?

It’s a difficult question and there is no straight answer. I develop different relationships with different projects and that depends on many factors: its political potential, the way it relates to bigger questions, its ability to speculate on alternative presents or futures, or simply its mere aesthetic qualities. If I need to really pick, I’m particularly moved by projects involving live performances, where narrative, space and time come together to deliver a powerful message. The recent scenography for Il Diluvio Universale by Gaetano Donizzetti in Bergamo falls definitely into this category.

Together with the duo of artists film-makers Masbedo, we worked on a version of the classic opera that reinterprets the traditional narrative structure of Il Diluvio Universale to give voice to the “unheard prophets” of today: through the trope of the flood, the opera urged us to face timely and urgent issues related to the climate crisis, social injustices and political instabilities. The imagery of the work was entirely based on climate activism and protesters.

It was a way for us to bring inside an institutional theater and through the medium of a classic opera  the instances of climate activists. That’s the reason why we collaborated with Sea Shepherd, a non-profit, marine conservation activism organization, which generously shared footage from their actions that was incorporated into the scenography.   

Which significant projects are currently occupying your focus and attention? 

We are about to open a research and installation at SALT in Istanbul focused on toxicity and the politics of air in Turkey and beyond. For this project we have collaborated with a local toxicologist and with an Italian AI artist, Lorem, who has produced the soundscape for the work. On the other side of the practice spectrum, currently we are also busy with a project of architectural transformation of the XVIII Palazzina dei Principi at Capodimonte in Naples, which will host the Marcello and LIa Rumma collection of Arte Povera. These are two examples of how schizophrenic life in 2050+ can be… 

Originally hailing from Sicily, you grew up in Milan, making your recent experience akin to returning home. A spontaneous question arises: as we look ahead, how do you foresee Milan evolving while maintaining its position in the central space between the Mediterranean and continental Europe?

Milan is a very dynamic city. It’s a relatively small metropolis with a global footprint, where creativity is truly multidimensional, combining design, fashion, art, photography, architecture into a unique social environment. At the same time I’m rather concerned about its recent development after the expo 2015. Milan is a place where real estate speculation is running wild, where inequalities are growing at escalating rates, where bigger and bigger sectors of society are being marginalized and pushed out of the city, where marketing has taken over and environmental policies are insufficient and very fragile. I’d like to live in a city that is open, inclusive, diverse, multicultural…but not just for the rich. Milan should look more to the south and not just to northern european or anglo saxon contexts. I feel Palermo or Naples provide far more interesting models than London in this particular historical moment.  

Discussing Milan, there has been a notable resurgence of interest in 10 Corso Como lately, piquing my curiosity to explore the project further. When considering the Project Room and the Galleria, you liken them to a flexible theater or a “transitory museum.” Could you provide insights into the modern significance of these analogies and explain how their flexibility addresses the ever-changing cultural and social demands that the space aims to fulfill?

“The Transitory Museum” is the title of an interesting book on Corso Como 10 by philosophers Emanuele Coccia and Donatien Grau. It argues that categories that have governed for long our modern lives, such as art, fashion and the museum are being redefined, and that clear boundaries between such categories are being dissolved. As the first ever concept store, Corso Como 10 embodies the notion of a transitory museum, or a space without a fixed role or identity, where the relationship between contents, audience, display and architecture is constantly reinvented. It’s a spatial manifestation of the current state of instability and uncertainty that our society is permanently experiencing – or of a “liquid society” to use the words of another thinker, Zygmunt Bauman – a condition accelerated by the continuous osmosis between our physical and digital interactions. 

Our approach to 10 Corso Como is not based on fixed categories – a retail space, a gallery, etc. – but rather on the underlying idea of a framework able to support a virtually infinite repertoire of curatorial configurations and experiences through a finite set of devices. In this sense, both the Gallery and the Project Room are vague spaces, ready to unlock any potential.      

Beyond their functional purpose, what narrative motivations led to the introduction of micro-architectures like the large pantograph tables in this specific space?

The pantograph tables respond to various needs and sets of inspirations: they refer to the subtle industrial character of the building and they give shape to the idea of machine or “flexible theater” that we had in mind for these spaces. These elements are adaptable, moveable, they can change height and configuration, or they can simply be stored away leaving an empty space behind. They are silent actors on stage, moving according to different choreographies. Like the moveable walls-units for the Gallery, they are tools at the service of our imagination.  

More in general, the entire project was premised on the idea to give a spatial translation to the interdisciplinary character of Corso Como 10, a place where fashion, art, photography, design, urban nature come together into an unicum. To do so we have operated following a principle of “selective archeology”, removing all the unnecessary layers and materials accumulated through time and bringing back the architecture to its original, gentle industrial character. This approach has allowed us to reconnect spaces which were once disconnected and to facilitate the osmotic flows of visitors across all its programs and experiences. In line with this attitude we have inserted a number of “micro architectures” – new stairs, service spaces, accesses, etc. This results in a system of new volumes marked with a different materiality (i.e. steel) that rationalizes the organization of each floor and connects all levels of the early XX building from ground floor to the newly renovated green terrace, through a continuous loop.    

Under the new leadership of entrepreneur Tiziana Fausti, 10 Corso Como appears poised to take a swift step into the future. If we were in 2050, how do you envision the gallery’s transformation?

I’d rather not say. The present is dense enough of challenges. Let’s focus on our time; maybe this the best way to address our future.

In order of appearance

  1. Nebula, 2050+
    Photography by Lorenzo Palmieri
  2. Synthetic Cultures, 2050+
    Photography Gaia Cambiaggi
  3. Henraux Foundation, 2050+
    Photography by Querceta
  4. Il Diluvio Universale, 2050+
    Photography by 2050+
  5. Il Diluvio Universale, 2050+
    Photography by G. Rota
  6. 10 Corso Como Project Room, 2050+
    Photography by Alessandro Saletta, DSL Studio
  7. 10 Corso Como Project Room, 2050+
    Photography by Alessandro Saletta, DSL Studio
  8. 10 Corso Como Gallery, 2050+
    Photography by Alessandro Saletta, DSL Studio
  9. 10 Corso Como Gallery, 2050+
    Photography by Alessandro Saletta, DSL Studio

All images courtesy of 2050+

Frankie Pappas

House Of The Pink Spot, Non-Negotiables and Banishing Egotism

Frankie Pappas is the collective pseudonym for an international architecture and design firm based in South Africa. They describe themselves as “a collection of brilliant young minds that do away with personal egotisms to find remarkable solutions.” NR Magazine joined Ant (I’d rather you didn’t use my surname please) in conversation. Ant is a storyteller, each question revealing more about the work of Frankie Pappas and the ideals and motivations behind the firm, each more interesting and radical than the last. 

Nicola Barrett: What was the process behind the creation of House of the Pink Spot and what were some of the challenges you faced on this project? 

That building came about because a friend of mine, Alicia, heads up this thing called Digital Disruptors. It’s one of her many projects. She wanted something to do in this area, Orange Farm, Drieziek in Johannesburg. She’d gotten some money and she didn’t know what to do with it. I said, well, I would approach it from an architectural perspective. I’m fascinated by how you can make small interventions in parts of the city and see what impact they have.

There are two stories that I told Alicia. One was of Guatemala. They were having these huge drug wars. I went there maybe ten years ago, just after these drug wars had kind of been quelled a bit in the urban areas. They were trying to reinitiate the use of these public spaces. So they just put massive amounts of really fast WiFi into these public places and a lot of light. When I went there these places were so full, everyone was working in their laptops. It was quite amazing. This idea that once you initiate people into a space, it inherently becomes a little bit safer. 

Another story like this that I like, is in Kenya, there is a main road to the airport that is incredibly well-lit. The reason is that the government wanted its dignitaries to have safe passage to the airport and back. I saw this one photograph, and it just stuck in my mind. It’s of these school kids sitting along this road, miles and miles of them because this is the only light they have access to. Doing their homework.  And it was just amazing. 

These two things stuck in my mind. I said, Alicia, this is probably what I would try to do. Bring light to the space and a hell of a lot of WiFi. Let’s find a spot where this could work. When we were there with GBV survivors and activists, they chose this one spot which was a dumping ground. We got that cleaned up and in essence, built this public park. I mean, it’s very small, but that’s what we had available in terms of the fund. We worked for free on this project because the budget was so small.

The construction of it is really interesting. It’s got to be the tallest building in Drieziek. We ordered the longest telephone poles we could get our hands on, painted them pink on the ground and then hoisted them up with solar lights on top of them. The seating is all just brickwork. It’s very simple stuff. All signage is hand painted by everyone. 

The challenges are numerous. The reason why it’s the Pink Spot is because we didn’t want it to be affiliated with a political party. The ANC, which is the ruling party, their colours are green, yellow and black. We went through all the colours of the parties and we were left with purple and pink. 

Nicola Barrett: Was it built on private land or public land?

Oh, my word. You’re going to get me into trouble here. I have absolutely no idea.

Nicola Barrett: Did you not come up against opposition when you start building in unclaimed places?

Well, it’s obviously someone’s land. And by someone, I mean, it’s some state enterprise. So it’s definitely not private property. Let’s call it municipal land for the sake of this conversation. It’s municipal land that is not only being under-utilised, it’s not being maintained. It’s a dumping ground.

Surely the city’s land belongs to citizens. I would expect that to not be a controversial statement. But it is. It’s on the bottom of a street that these activists live on. It is like an inherently unsafe space because it’s not being maintained. They said we’re going to try and make it safer for ourselves. We want a way to activate it, to maintain it. All we ask is leave us alone so that we can. Because our governments are so ineffectual, it has to be done by people who care, the citizens. It is like a type of guerrilla architecture.

Nicola Barrett: There are many unused spaces, particularly in urban areas, what’s your opinion of more radical ways of reclaiming these spaces?

I can only speak to it in a South African context. But I’m always surprised at the amount of legislation in the way between what exists and what I would like the city to be like. The offices that I’m in at the moment, this is our first development, because exactly this problem that you’ve spoken about.  What we are doing is not by the book. We’ve taken an Apartheid-era house that was not being utilised and we converted it into these six tiny little offices. It goes against every single regulation. 

But there’s a market for small office spaces. The smallest office space we can get is 45 square meters. Do we need 45 square meters? No, not really. Then we still have to pay for heating, for lights, for WiFi. Why don’t we do one ourselves where we make a seven square meter spaces and we make five other office spaces for other people with a shared boardroom and we get this thing off the grid so it’s on solar? We don’t need the municipality at all. 

If you don’t have the capacity as a citizen to change the city, I mean, what are we doing? I use the word citizen very deliberately because you choose to live in a city, so truly you should be able to change it in some way. It’s liberating, I suppose, in a weird way, to live in South Africa, where the protection of the law is so bad that you can implement this thing that you want to do.

Nicola Barrett: In what ways do you think people with fewer resources could potentially reclaim under-utilised spaces? 

This is one of the problems we’re trying to solve at the moment. Providing better accommodation and still making it economically interesting. Think £250 for two-bed apartment. That must sound insane to you. But is that achievable? Can we do it? Yeah, I think we can. It means finding spaces that are under-utilised in the suburbs, that’s easy enough to do because you have garages that are not being used. You’ve got people who are 65 years old who have a four-bedroom house whose kids have all left. Utilising those unused spaces could be done very well.

But the Gherkin can never be done well. In no world is that floor plan divisional.  All it supports is big companies.  It’s revered as this great piece of architecture by Norman Foster, but it’s a piece of nonsense. But it’s one of the things that’s so frustrating about the architectural world because it’s all about houses for really wealthy people, or big office buildings or the Line. But something like the Pink Spot, I think is a far more interesting project. If you build the Line, you will never be able to change it if you have a normal salary. The way to do it is to parcel land into small enough quantities that normal human beings can create change.  

And for architects to get involved in the curation of the city. You cannot be the servant of the rich and you cannot be the barefoot philanthropist, that’s the world. The role of the architect, I think, is looking after the health of the city. And so therefore, as an architect, you should be in the role of apportioning capital to projects that you think are valuable to the future city. The city you’d like to live in, as doctors, should be responsible for looking after the health of humans. Right. But we should afford architects this opportunity or this role. But of course, it’s not done that way. The people who are producing the city are developers who are, in essence working for provident funds or some sort of big capital-allocating entity, and that’s chaos.

Nicola Barrett: House of the Big Arch was designed with not only humans but local wildlife in mind. What were some of the challenges you faced doing this? 

I learned to say what is the non-negotiable. And a non-negotiable can be so philosophical and unattainable and unachievable in the beginning and then as long as you don’t move that line, it’s achievable. Can we build this building in a forest without disturbing a tree?

When you produce this very strict problem set, which is; we can’t disturb a tree, we have to get the materials from the closest town, it has to be all be carried by humans. How do we manage these extreme temperatures of 40 degrees? All of these are these very strict parameters that you can’t ignore. And once you are clear about them, it’s almost like linear programming, except not two-dimensional. Like a multidimensional linear programming problem where the problem space is so small that the form produces itself.

This architecture is not a function of invention, it is a function of discovery. Deciding on what those parameters are, that’s the real work. The rest, it just solves itself. Be real about what the problem set is and solve for that. And then you won’t get something boring. Not possible. I’m glad to say that’s the one thing I think all our projects, whether furniture or buildings or artwork, have that in common. Wonderfully similar but beautifully different. Because nothing looks the same. You wouldn’t think House of the Big Arch and House of the Pink Spot and House of the Flying Bowtie are designed by remotely the same people. 

Nicola Barrett: So you state that your collective pseudonym challenges the status quo. How so?

This was a joke. That statement is not a joke. But this was kind of poking fun at architecture firms named after the person who owns them. There is this inherent ego in it all. And I find that laughable. For multiple reasons. First of all, like, you have an infinite choice of names and you resort to your own, which you didn’t even choose for yourself. So you are both arrogant and stupid. Obviously, I’m being a little bit facetious, but I’m also not. 

I’d read a book by Willard Manus called Mott the Hoople, which is quite a funny book. The titular character’s friend was called Frankie Pappas. And I thought, Jeez, that’s my mother’s maiden name, and I’d never seen Pappas in a book. So I was like, oh, this is funny. And Frankie is gender-neutral. And I thought, that’s interesting, maybe there’s something there. Anyone can be Frankie. But I always laugh when there’s a man that comes through asking for Mr Pappas, and then I’m like, well, that person definitely hasn’t read what we’re about.

And the reason we were in search for this collective pseudonym is that there was a mathematician called Nicolas Bourbaki who was releasing all these amazing papers on math, but it turned out like he was ten twenty-year-olds who had decided to collaborate under this collective pseudonym and they just changed mathematics. I think he is still, to this day, the most published mathematician. He’s multi-generational and we liked the idea of a multi-generational architectural firm in South Africa, because there aren’t that many of them. That’s why Frankie is Frankie. 

Nicola Barrett: You state on your website that almost the entire tradition of Western formal architecture has produced sculpture rather than architecture. How so? 

I think for a long time it has been the case. Formal architecture has always been something that you have to sell to someone. So whoever is the client, you have to give them drawings and models. It’s very difficult to make a drawing and make someone focus on the stuff that is inside the drawing. Like how the space solves these issues. Or you discuss the sculpture of the model and someone says, I don’t know how that looks. How do you discuss the space inside a model? It’s impossible. Informal architecture has been one of, what do I need? I need to solve this issue. I have another child. Therefore, there needs to be another bedroom. It’s a very practical thing. 

I was in a competition and one of the guys was discussing the school he had made. This thing was clad in rock from the area and then one of these rock tiles had been removed, and then they put a stainless steel tile there. And he said, because we wanted the stainless steel to reflect the sky, and so, therefore, the sky would be bursting out from between the rocks. Why clad it in rocks in the fucking first place? There’s this obsession with what the thing looks like. 

The most amazing photographs of the Pink Spot are the ones taken by Tshepiso Seleke. He does not give a shit about the architecture. He doesn’t care. He’s just like, there’s a beautiful person. There’s another beautiful person doing something. Doesn’t even look at the building. That shot that he took of those kids with those go-karts is just my favourite thing ever. That’s what I mean. There’s this obsession with what this thing looks like. That’s not the important stuff.

Nicola Barrett: What advice would you give to young creatives working in our architecture and design?

My only advice is that in the contemporary world, I think we are solving a lot of problems that are not actually problems. It’s like this artificial intelligence. This is a problem that is being solved that isn’t a necessary problem to solve. What is the actual improvement? 

I suppose the thing is to see what are real problems and identify those as real problems and then solve those real problems. To actually be honest with oneself what real problems are. That’s not easy. We all get caught up in our own world. Taking a step back and thinking, where should I spend my time… Because you’ve got finite breath, right? 

Many of us are incredibly doubtful in ourselves, stressed and worried. We think we are not big enough to contribute or to change everything, and we see these problems. But I think there are these small little things that we can get right and we can just try. The Pink Spot, just for the photos of those kids enjoying themselves, that makes it worth it. I always tear up when I see them. It’s so beautiful. 

PPAA

An Open Process of Idea’s Rather Than Forms

PPAA Pérez Palacios Arquitectos is an architecture firm based in Mexico City that focuses on “the architecture of ideas and not forms”. Heavily influenced by nature, be it by inspiration or practical site locality, PPAA seek to create projects through an open creative process. Pablo Perez Palacios founded PPAA in 2016 after over a decade-long architectural journey. This journey began with an interest in architecture sparked during his time living in Florence. NR Magazine joined Pablo Perez Palacios in conversation. 

Nicola Barrett: You stated about Infinite Openness that architecture needs to recover the idea of presence, of being part of a place and time. What do you mean by that?

PPAA: When we do architecture, we really put it to the test. Once it’s finished, at least while we’re still doing architecture for humans, you allow the passing of time to become the real judge. The project only starts when it’s finished. So that’s what I meant by that. I have this saying that I believe that really good architecture is one that, with time, it dignifies itself. I always say that there’s nothing more horrible than a new building. You need to allow life to go through the building. It’s really about having an open process that allows multiple actions to happen inside that built environment.

Nicola Barrett: You also said with this project that architecture has lost its connection with nature. Do you think there are ways to regain this connection in pre-existing buildings/spaces/homes? 

PPAA: Architecture has become a fight between artificial and natural. What I believe now, especially for the new generation, is that architecture needs to connect with nature. A very simple example is, developing an office building that has a glass facade with an air conditioning system. It works because there’s the sun outside and you are cool inside. But that’s no longer the way to approach it, because if we keep doing that we end up with the issues we have now. So architecture needs to come back to the basic principles and a primitive way of doing things. That is what has been lost. We can still develop whatever technology we can, but in the long term, we’re messing up the natural environment.

 Also, one thing that I don’t know if I mentioned, as important as the space we build, is the space that we leave behind. The void, the empty space is even more important than the built one. And it was super evident during the pandemic, people were in desperate need of a balcony or a terrace. 

We have to come back to the primitive way of understanding that nature is always better than architecture or the artificial. The more we develop buildings around that idea, the more consciousness and the more sustainable they are going to be.

Of course, it’s harder to do with pre-existing architecture and it’s harder to adapt. But with pre-existing cities or structures that are already there, we can start thinking about the space between those buildings. I don’t think you can possibly change everything that is already there. But there are a lot of things that can be done in this empty space, the void between things. I would think about it as a way to connect things, rather than transform the things that are already there. So it’s more about the space in between or how you deal with the space in between the existing buildings rather than the buildings themselves. When you start connecting all the little abandoned spaces into something, that brings more value to the existing works.

Nicola Barrett: What were some of the challenges you faced when working on the Echegaray project and what was your process when deciding to flip the ‘conventional layout’?

PPAA: The biggest challenge was to try to communicate to the clients the idea that it’s on a rocky slope, it really doesn’t make sense to bring a machine and tear it down. It’s much more appealing than just getting rid of it. So once they understand that the rock has a beauty in itself, then the second challenge was to make them understand that due to the slope of the plot, it’s much cleverer to have the social area at the top. The house itself is in this black rock, then you discover this openness and this view for the social spaces at the top. I think in the end, they bought into the idea and were super happy with it.

Nicola Barrett: So the biggest challenge was getting them to agree with it, not the construction?

PPAA: Of course, if you don’t fight against natural elements, like you don’t need to get rid of all this rock, then it’s easier. Structurally speaking, you use the rock as a support. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. But besides that, the social area at the top has this super light wooden pavilion and we just brought in the structure. Like it doesn’t weigh a lot. Everything starts to align once you understand the natural conditions.

Nicola Barrett: In Moliere the space can be divided by sliding doors. How does this work exactly with people living in this project, or rather how has it worked?

PPAA: You normally have this idea that, okay, this is a living room and this is a kitchen and this is a dining room or whatever. With the possibility of multiple configurations, there’s really something that happens in the natural way of using space. When we did this project, their children were very small, so the houses changes with the user as well. If you want to have an open kitchen facing the dining room, or you want to have it closed because you have small children you can do that with the sliding doors. That they really understood from day one because it just gives you a lot of ways to personalise the space. 

Also, something worth talking about, is that architects have this idea that we kind of control everything. We design and specify, from the door handle to the curtain or whatever. But in the end, people personalise houses, they end up doing what they want, so it becomes a home. In Moliere the possible configurations just give you multiple possibilities on how you make it your own. It’s a very simple approach because it’s just literally a sliding door. But with that simple gesture, you have a lot of ways to inhabitant that space. 

Nicola Barrett: In Las Golondrinas the house is divided into three independent volumes with free space between. Do you think this idea of separate spaces and then communal gathering spaces could really benefit people who can’t afford the current housing market?

PPAA: In that specific case, what we’re separating is the moments of how you exist in the house, like sleeping time or social. So that idea of configuring the house around how you use it, would be something super good to do on a large scale. You can definitely take advantage of sharing more of a public space. At the moment people cannot afford a house and it’s bad because developers are trying to squeeze everything that you need into a smaller space. Before you used to have separate rooms for everything. So the idea of separating the use of the space is much cleverer than rather than minimising everything into one single space. 

And I think that the way to approach the housing of the future should be, okay, we give you the essential spaces that need to be enclosed. Like you need a private room, of course, and a bathroom. But maybe the social area can be something that is shared and adaptable. So, yeah, I think people need to really understand, especially developers, that the answer to the housing problem is not just making everything smaller.

Nicola Barrett: Juan Cano I was designed to blend in with the environment. Do you think that this is something important to consider in projects, partially when building amongst older local buildings?

PPAA: I think this idea that it should blend with the natural environment is not very formal in terms of the way it’s done. It’s more conceptual. It has to be something that really blends not only in terms of architecture and what colour it is. If it’s in an urban location, we have to stop thinking that every single project has to advertise how new and extreme it is. The value is how it blends with the surroundings. It’s about doing an architecture that’s value is not in the formal aspect, but the concept behind it. 

Also, Cano is a townhouse and there were not a lot of townhouses in Mexico City. In the city, there were a lot of houses, the urban sprawl, all over. So they have these huge kilometres of city that is just single homes and then the nicest areas are starting to have flats, one on top of the other. A townhouse is something that is in between. People still want to have their own house with their own garden, but the point is maybe you cannot do that because there’s not enough space. But we can’t just have one flat on top of the other. So by introducing the townhouses in Mexico is something that we believe, in terms of urbanism, is a way of addressing this. It’s about being honest and doing architecture, and it’s about ideas rather than forms. The formal aspect of architecture is something that shouldn’t be the number one priority.

Nicola Barrett: What was the process behind building La Colorada?

PPAA: That’s a super good example for the previous question. La Colorada has this typical a-frame which is a structure that has existed throughout the ages. It’s a shape that is found in every construction from around the world The first part of this project was an a-frame that was brought to the site, and then our clients asked us to make it into a larger home. So we extended the a-frame and we created these covered terraces and put the rooms underneath. So basically here we really forgot about the architecture ego and said, we’re just doing an a-frame.

There’s no point trying to do something extreme in the middle of a nice forest. An a-frame made out of wood really blends with the nature. Forget about the architect’s ego. Just do something that really disappears. Of course, we needed to make the client understand that when you’re going down to your room, you go through an outdoor space. You’re going to go from inside to outside and then inside again. But it’s also a way to disconnect, you force the user to be outside, put on a jacket. It was a simple gesture that allowed us to create a space that really blends in.

Nicola Barrett: What are some upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

PPAA: We have a few. We’re doing this electric charging station for cars, like a system of gas stations for electric cars. It’s really interesting because we’re doing a system that can be replicated many times. It’s freestanding, and it has this solar-powered system. 

We’re also working on a project that’s kind of our first high-rise building in Mexico City, that’s actually a preexisting twenty-five-floor building. Instead of just pulling it down and doing another one with a glass facade and central air conditioning, we’re actually changing the concept of how we do something that is literally one floor above the other one. We are making it public so you can go to the restaurant on the seventh floor and the public bath house that we are doing at the top of the building, like old Russian public baths. We’re very happy to be working on that project.

We are also doing a project in Mexico that is made out of the earth from the site. So that’s really nice. It’s this compressed earth with very thick walls. And we have a lot of things going on.

We’re looking to get one amazing public project, that would be our dream to do. Something that really has a public character, like a library.

And the more we do things the way we believe it should be done, the more happy we are. We need to avoid trends in life. Because when you start doing things by a trend, it becomes almost like fast fashion. It gives a temporality to the architecture and it gives a value that is valid only for a small period of time. We believe there are people out there who value our ideas. I believe that the more time passes, the better the architecture is.

It come to a point that we avoid having architectural references or books or magazines inside our office because we don’t want to see them. Once a year we take all the physical models and break them. It’s like we can have a clear mind afterwards. 

Nicola Barrett: So where do you get your inspiration from?

PPAA: It sounds like a cliche but from nature. I still haven’t been in a place that can replicate having a nap underneath a tree in the park. Our biggest aim is to try to do something as nice as nature. And also to give the exact same value to the space that we left as to the space we built. A simple example of this is a house and a patio. The patio is as important as a house. The empty space or the void or what’s left unbuilt is really what gives value to what you build. We try to start from that openness. Forget about formal aspects, forget about if I want it to be round or square or black or white. It’s really about understanding that it has to be, ideally, similar to what you feel in nature and as open as possible.

Nicola Barrett: What advice do you have for young aspiring architects and creatives?

PPAA: Yeah, definitely do something that is personal. Of course, you need to read about everyone, but the more you try to find your own way of expressing yourself, the better. Of course, you need to learn basic strategies, but study everything else around it. Like, for example, if you study architecture, but at the same time you study medicine or anatomy, then you have a better understanding of how to do things. A very straightforward example, if they ask you to do an aquarium, then of course you need to know a lot about whales and fish. Don’t worry too much about trying to do something like someone else. If you try to get ideas from other architectural examples, you’re going to end up doing things the same way. Worry a lot about finding your own personal way of doing things and dedicate as much time as possible to reading, studying, and learning everything that is not related to architecture.

Credits

CLOUD designed by PPAA. Photography by Maureen M Evans
INFINITE OPENNESS designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
MOLIERE designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
LAS GOLONDRINAS designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
LA COLORADA designed by PPAA. Photography by Rafael Gamo
CLOUD designed by PPAA. Photography by Luis Garvan Located in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA

Ayşe Erkmen

Ayse Erkmen, Luminous, 1993-2015 
Installation view, SMAK, Ghent, 2015 Photography by Dirk Pauwele

Unhooked meanings transcending the worlds of architecture and spatial design

Ayşe Erkmen (born 1949, Istanbul, Turkey) is one of Turkey’s most important visual artists.  Her practice has long examined the social and political implications of physical space including infrastructure, urban planning and architecture. Currently based between Istanbul and Berlin, Erkmen transcends the world of architecture and spatial design and pushes the boundaries when it comes to the transformation of both indoor and outdoor sites. On Water, 2017, a beautiful installation that debuted at the international open-air exhibition, Sculpture Projects, in Münster, Germany, is one example of Erkmen’s visually striking site-specific installations and demonstrates the importance of the audience in the completion of some of her artworks. 

NR joins the sculptor and artist in conversation to discuss the influences that have informed her practice, how her work pertains both in Istanbul and Berlin and how it engages with specific histories and culture. Erkmen delves into the nature of a certain leitmotiv present in some of her work and the concepts behind Plan B, 2011, Pond to Pool to Pond, 2016 and On Water, 2017.

Ayşe is a beautiful name. I have read that it means happily-living one. Would you say you are? 

I think so too, Ayse is a beautiful name and I am grateful to my parents for giving it to me. It not only means happy but also moonshine and life, a very popular name, short and modest, shared by all generations and all social groups. Yes I am a happy person in general with lots of anxieties which strangely do not prevent me from being happy.  Actually I believe that anxieties are one important  ingredient of happiness. Happiness without worries would be a kitschy one.

You are recognised as one of the foremost Turkish artists. What does this mean to you? 

I don’t think I understand myself as one of the foremost Turkish artists. Actually I would not like to be known as a Turkish artist but I guess one cannot escape its origin. I like the fact that I am from Istanbul though, for having had the chance to being very familiar with this amazing, vicious city, an opportunity like my name, something that happened to me. My fame is kind of strange. Young artists know me very well and they appreciate me as I also appreciate very much this fact of being popular among young generations. I had been teaching in Germany for quite some time and I am hoping that I have had some influence on this. As to the  fact of being collected, earning money, being the muse of art fairs, etc.. this is not me. I guess, I have a special place in todays art context: people seem to like my work but they don’t know how to place it in their lives. I am hoping that the reason is that I am giving them something new that they have not yet known, they haven’t seen or did not think about before, therefore not confirmed yet!

Let us Cultivate our Garden (Group) (curated by Fulya Erdemci and Kevser Güler). Cappadox Festival II, Cappadocia (Turkey), 19.05. – 12.06.2016. Exhibited work: Ödül / Prize, 2016. 142 Site-specific installation Photo Credit: Murat Germen

You are currently based between Istanbul where you were born and Berlin. How do these two cities inform your practice? Do you see any correlation between the two?

I have to quote musician/artist Ahnoni here who once said: “I want to go but I don’t want to leave” on a similar situation of living in multiple places. I feel exactly like that, always looking forward to the other place but sad to leave the place I am in. Istanbul being a difficult city as it is, makes me happy by just being there, the shout of its seagulls, the smell of the seawater, the honks of the boats, even the most serious conversations ending with chit-chats, its noble stray animals and endless variations of life style.

Ayşe Erkmen – Half of (Solo). Galerie Deux, Tokyo (Japan), 14.09. – 22.12.1999. Exhibited work: Half of, 1999; Photo Credit: Artist archive

Berlin a contrast but a good companion to this city; being so peaceful, easy and quiet if it were not for the official gray recycled envelopes of bureaucracy which one receives frequently. There, the small talks do not continue long and conversations turn into culture and art which is wonderful. Berlin is a city with so many venues of art, music, theatre, etc that knowing that they are always there one neglects them and gives too much a rain check. Berlin is a city that supplies too and pampers its citizens whereas Istanbul does this only by being there in that location that every time it angers or disappoints the blue sky and the seagulls appear out of nowhere.

Water appears as a recurring element in your work. Why this leitmotiv and what is your relationship to it?

“Water is something I can’t escape as an art location whether it is given to me or chosen by me, be it a river, the sea, a canal or a small pond. I always have the strong feeling that I should not lose this chance of being on water or using water as material whenever I can catch the opportunity.”

Skulpture Projekte Münster, 2017 (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by Kasper König, Britta Peters, Marianne Wagner). Stadthafen 1, North side: Hafenweg 24, South side: Am Mittelhafen 20, Münster (Germany), 10.06. – 01.10.2017
Exhibited work: On Water, 2017
Site specific installation: ocean cargo containers, steel beams, steel grates, 6400 x 640 cm walkway
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

These fortunate offers make the recurrence in my work, unlike other repeating elements like animals, like stones and rocks, archival images, etc that are much more of a choice of mine. Water is not stabile, it moves and makes things move, It has power to create unexpected occasions and coincidences. I am looking for these instances that surprise me as moments that I do not have much control over.  In some works I made buoys in water move balls on land which directly relates to the unpredictable movements of water’s effect on land. This makes continuously changing sculptural moments. In my work this is in general what I am looking for.  Things that happen without the artist’s intention, water is chance. 

“Besides there is the beauty of water that one cannot ignore although I would not want to be in a position of getting advantage from such a glorious appearance. I try to be  as neutral as possible mixing it with contrasting technical vehicles that are invisible, unwatched companions of water.”

Could you delve into the concept for Plan B, the installation at the 2011 Venice Biennale, that transformed the Arsenale exhibition venue into a room for purification?

Plan B was prepared in a very short time, I still cannot imagine how we could achieve that project in four months only. Fulya Erdemci; the curator was selected in December before. She had to think which artist to choose for about two months. After being appointed by her I had to think what to do  for a while but it did not take long as at our first location trip I saw that the place given to us as pavillon location at that time had the only window that opened to the sea/canal unlike the other rooms in Arsenale. This window to water told me that I had to find a way to bring it into this room one way or other. The canals of Venice that surrounds the whole city gave me the form and informed me that the room should be like the city itself surrounded by water. On the other hand the water needed to have an aim to come into this space. The most common thought about water is to drink it. There came the final idea.

Plan B (Solo) (Catalogue) (curated by Fulya Erdemci). 54th Venice Biennale, The Pavilion of Turkey, Artigliere, Arsenale, Venice (Italy), 04.06. – 27.11.2011
Exhibited work: Plan B, 2011
Installation: water purification system, pipes, pumps, cleansing machines painted in specific colors according to their function
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

Then we found a very sophisticated water distilling company in the middle of Germany. Fulya travelled from Amsterdam, me from Berlin, we visited the company and started working to make the plan B exhibition. In four months time realised the work, we made an extensive catalogue edited by Danae Mossman from New Zealand together with Fulya Erdemci and we also made a wonderful tote bag designed by Konstantin Grcic. Our idea was that if people would not want to make the effort to come to our space almost at the end of the Arsenale, would definitely come to get their beautiful Grcic bags! And it happened! We met in London at Danae Mossman’s flat to make the interview for the book. Danae was living in London at the time, Konstantin from Frankfurt, me and Fulya from Istanbul but were in Berlin and Amsterdam at that moment. We met many times, travelled to Venice and to other cities, had lots of fun, all of us from different parts of the world. 

Plan B was created from one unit of a mobile water purifying machine rented for the duration of the biennial. This device was dismantled, its pipes between units  prolonged according to the proportions of the given space, heightened to various levels depending on the advice of technicians and at the end of the installation, we even added minerals for the sea water to became tasty mineral water. The pipes came into the room from the canal and went back to the canal. My first idea to make the visitors drink the water was given up and the title therefore became Plan B. Fulya Erdemci and I had a last minute thought that making people drink water out of this work would be a too easy gesture and make the work too popular and take it out of its real content.

Your work as a sculptor and artist transcends the worlds of architecture and spatial design. Have you ever wanted to also become an architect?

I never thought of becoming an architect. Architecture and design always  has purpose and function. I was and am still interested in purposelessness. I am always trying to achieve the most unhooked sense that aims to make the work be far from serving a reason or expectation.

U2 Alexanderplatz (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by “Arbeitsgruppe U2 Alexanderplatz”, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. [NGBK]: Christoph Bannat, Uwe Jonas, Annette Maechtel, Tine Neumann, Barbara Rüth and Birgit

Anna Schumacher). Alexanderplatz, Berlin (Germany), 27.09. – 29.10.2006. Exhibited work: U8, 2006. Intervention: existing speaker, computer, sensor, two CDs (As each train pulled into the platform of line U8, dramatic-sounding music was played for the time it took the train to come to a stop. Two pieces were played, both in the fashion of trailer melodies used for television series.) Photo Credit: Artist archive

Each of your work engages with specific sites, histories, cultures and societies. How does your work respond to the situations you face?
A very good question and a very commonly asked one. Everyone asks me how my work responds to the site, its history, etc..The situations I face in a place is a very important part of this procedure. For example one of my most site specific work “Half of” for a gallery space of one room only (Galerie deux/Tokyo) was inspired simply by just the plan that was sent to me to introduce the gallery. Plan included the walls as well that when you folded the plan it became the maquette of the space.  This was my simple inspiration for the work I made there which was consisting of five maquettes hanging from the ceiling, one by one becoming smaller, each one being half of the previous one . All was made effortlessly out of rice paper and wooden sticks by competent Japanese hand-workers. 

Every work that engages with specific sites needs its own agenda which can be totally different each time and not necessarily with the expected inspiration. Sometimes it is history but a historical place can also get an artwork that has nothing to do with that because I also can have my kind of plans at the time which I want to realise urgently. Of course I feel the most successful when the work looks as if it had always been there or when I spend very little or no effort to make a work sparkle in the space or the best for me would be if I bring nothing to the space and only use the given elements of a space like my works with elevators for instance.



Pond to Pool to Pond, 2016, Japan and your most recent exhibition in Istanbul, I Insist, 2022 are other examples of your site-specific installations.  How do you channel the premises of the spaces you use into your installation to reveal the space’s previously concealed features?

Pond to pool to pond in Nara, Japan is another version of a water cleansing work. In this exhibition each artist had been given a Temple in Nara to work with. My Saidai-ji Temple had a small pond which was dirty, almost like a swamp with lots of mosquitos. My aim was to clean  this pond and to be able to do that, I installed a pool next to it. The shape of the pool was very much following the borders of nature placed in between trees and holy rocks.  Between the pond and the pool, I installed the water cleaning and pumping system, much simpler than the Venice one because this time it just had to clean the pond. The pipes were installed to go inside the pool and the pond, the cleaning pumps were working continuously and carrying the dirty water back and front. In about a few hours both the pond and the pool were crystal clean and frogs started coming to the pond. The much needed balance of nature came back here and a bright blue colour of water with an unusual shape.

Art Projects at 8 Shrines and Temples – Travelling over 1300 Years of Time and Space (Group Exhibition) (Catalogue) (curated by Toshio Kondo, Art Front Gallery Tokyo). Culture City of East Asia 2016, Nara, Saidaiji Temple, Nara (Japan), 03.09. – 23.10.2016
Exhibited work: pond to pool to pond, 2016
Site-specific installation: already existing pond in site, connected to pool constructed out of wood, concrete, mortar, water and connecting pipes, cleansing and pumping machines
Photo Credit: Keizo Kioku

“I Insist” is an exhibition that follows another exhibition titled “Ripples” in the same gallery and uses the leftover material of the previous show. The previous show Ripples was about the unfair gentrification of an area in Istanbul and also about making a first show in a gallery that is part of this gentrification. I cut out rectangles off the new plaster walls of the  clean, white cube like gallery space and hanged these wall pieces from the ceiling. The left over wooden panels on the walls at the back of these cut out plasters had white small circular traces created by chance.  Aside from this I made a sound piece out of the reading of the names of all the shops and studios on the street leading to the gallery giving reference to the fact that these  places will soon be the victims of this gentrification and will be gone in a short time. This was the sound of their archive, music of memories.

In the five years later exhibition “I insist”, I painted these leftover panels that had been hanging before; each one a different wall colour, each one a different size, handled with their cracks and breaks together and hanged them side by side on the walls of the gallery as if this is how they should behave, as paintings like what a gallery is for.

As can be seen in these three examples I have used the nature of one location/Saidai-ji Temple /Nara whereas I have used the politics of an area/ Dolapdere/Istanbul and in the third exhibition I have used politics of art /Gallery Space.


On Water, 2017, a beautiful installation that debuted at the international open-air exhibition, Sculpture Projects, in Münster, Germany took two years to be realised. People use it daily and the vision of passersby crossing the river whilst seemingly walking on water provides a beautifully striking scene. The public becomes an actor in this surreal scene. Could you talk more about the installation and its concept revolving around urban transportation and displacement?


The idea of the “on Water” installation came from the idea to be on Water. This was my second time of being invited to Sculpture Project Münster. My first contribution was moving sculptures on air by helicopter. The title of that work was “on Air” also giving reference to broadcasting. From being on air the first time around, I thought to be on the ground the second time would be too normal a gesture. In between the two exhibitions (1997 and 2017) I had taught at Kunstakademie Münster, therefore knew the city pretty well including this dead end/one way channel where a lively atmosphere was always existent; on one side art studios, galleries, restaurants, bars etc.. on the other part more industry and offices.  

Skulpture Projekte Münster, 2017 (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by Kasper König, Britta Peters, Marianne Wagner). Stadthafen 1, North side: Hafenweg 24, South side: Am Mittelhafen 20, Münster (Germany), 10.06. – 01.10.2017
Exhibited work: On Water, 2017
Site specific installation: ocean cargo containers, steel beams, steel grates, 6400 x 640 cm walkway
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

As it is clear from the images I made a plan to make a bridge that goes under the water and connects these two shores that people experience the magic of walking on water and to have the miraculous and mystic image of people effortlessly standing on water.

Not only people of course, dogs, bicycles, ducks were also there. Some moms and dads were teaching swimming to their kids. People had the chance to chat on water. It became too popular always full of visitors. The walk on water was slow and thoughtful which made kind of ceremonial and somber at times.



Do you like for the public/audience to interact with your artworks? It feels in some instances such as in that the audience completes the artworks.
Yes, sometimes. In the case of “on Water” without the audience the work would have been invisible. The same goes for the work Shipped Ships where once people of Frankfurt were passengers in boats coming from Turkey,Italy and Japan. These two works and some more carried the risk of being unseen if not for the visitors.

“For some works lack of participants is not a problem. Mostly I like the audience to interact with works hoping they fulfil and feel my purposelessness.”


How influential is the audience’s perception of the themes you explore, to your work?

“I must say it is not very influential. I actually believe that the perception of the audience of the themes I explore should not be strong. I would rather give the audience something that they have not experienced before therefore their judgment as well as mine should not be accurate.”


You have explored the use of acrylic in your very first works (Yellow Plexiglas Sculpture, 1969, Istanbul). Why did you choose this material in particular? Which other techniques and media have you set in place to use?
In 1969, I was a student of sculpture in the Academy of Art in Istanbul and I found these two pieces of plexiglass on the street. Plexiglass was for me a very advanced material at the time. I was fascinated. Without knowing much what I would do with them,I bent them and rolled them in a huge pot with hot water and placed one inside the other and participated in the school exhibition “New Tendencies” with this work. I placed it on the grass outside the exhibition room, maybe my first art in public space and to my surprise got the award of the exhibition with some money involved. This prize was not as important for me as these shiny plexiglass pieces. After the exhibition I recycled them to make other sculptures with the same hot water technique until the two plexi pieces broke down and disappeared. 

I have great  interest in material and have learned a lot from professionals who are experts on these materials. I like to work with professional people and I am mostly ready to change my forms according to their suggestions. Therefore I feel free to work in any media or technique as I wish or as my idea suggests.


What is your approach to form?


The same applies to form. I don’t have a strict or steady style. I have given myself the freedom to work in any material, style, or medium although I believe that I have a good feeling for form as I have had a very classical sculpture education for more than five years.

“I have learned a lot from one of my teachers Şadi Çalık who always said: ‘Forms should be outward rather than inward,  as if they are hiding something inside, as if the inside is pushing from within’”

Kıpraşım / Ripple, 2017; Untitled sculptures, 2017. Site-specific installation, deconstructed plaster walls, revealed wooden walls; 19 aluminium sculptures: variable dimensions. Photo Credit: Hadiye Cangökçe.

He always thought that although we dont see the inside, the inside of a sculpture is as important as outside which meant one should give the same importance to parts that are invisible as the parts visible. This stayed with me and applies to everything in life, in my opinion.



Your body of work shows a dedication to long-term researched based projects. What is source material for new ideas? What books do you like?


I like fiction books. I also like lifestyle magazines to be informed of what is happening. I don’t watch tv these days. I watch a lot of films almost one every night some days. I love to go to cinema salons, even queuing for the ticket or popcorn is exciting for me but I am not doing it so much anymore because of the lazy comfort we have inside our homes now. I also sit on my own outside in a cafe and have coffee and watching the daily life. When I am involved in a project like on Water for example, I make lots of unnecessary research. I am not a research artist in the sense to display the outcome of research or knowledge as an art piece.

This issue’s theme is IN OUR WORLD. In your eyes, what does our world need less and more of?


I will have to give a very classical answer, maybe too much like a slogan but as it has high priority and urgency in these times when we cannot say “Our World” anymore like in earlier years :

“More peace, equality and justice, less discrimination, racism, less starvation.”


What are you working on at the moment?


I am very happy to be working on two permanent projects one for Japan/ Shikoku Island at the tip of a jetty and one for Istanbul right on the sea close to a shipyard from 15th century. The work in Shikoku island is almost ready, for the Istanbul one we will start working in August and will be ready for the 17th Istanbul biennial in September. I am excited for both as they will again happen on water.

Credits

Artworks · Courtesy of Ayşe Erkmen

The Ranch Mine

“Our identity is the fuel behind the best design and architecture”

Architectural studio The Ranch Mine draw inspiration from the rich history of the pioneers who settled in their local state of Arizona in search of a better life. “We chose our name to honour those that have come before us, the humble ranchers and miners, who have paved the way for our opportunities for prosperity today, and to serve as inspiration to design spaces that afford us the opportunity to imagine what’s beyond what we see in the present so we can strive for new experiences.”

In 2018 The Ranch Mine was approached by a family who owned a large plot of land in Phoenix, Arizona to create a home “in which their family could grow and create.” One member of the family is a ceramic artist and The Ranch Mine drew inspiration from the ancient art of pottery when designing the property. The name Foo House is derived from the Chinese character ‘Fu’, which means good fortune and luck, as a nod to the client’s Chinese heritage.

Phoenix is located in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran desert and is known as The Valley of the Sun. With dusty-grey board marked concrete, orange weathering steel, and shades of olive and cream Foo House embodies the spirit of the desert with a sprawling and airy design. NR Magazine joins The Ranch Mine in conversation.

How do you think identity informs design and architecture?

We believe that identity is both the reason for design and architecture and the result of design and architecture. Our identity is the fuel behind the best design and architecture. Architecture is a reflection of who we are, our time, our place, and our culture. Who we are and how we live shapes the form and function of the spaces we create. What is really fascinating to us is that who we are is inextricable from where we have been and where we are. We shape the built environment, and it, in turn, shapes us. This is why it is critical to continue to infuse the identity of people into spaces, and design for opportunities to grow beyond who we are and what we see today.

Foo House is influenced by the ancient art of pottery. How did this factor into the design specifically?

We are fascinated with history and love how pottery has played a critical role in most societies in human history as well as our modern-day understanding of those societies. So we broke down what makes pottery interesting to us, and how could we take those principles to inform a new piece of architecture. The design emerged as a home that is rigid in structure while malleable in use, precise in form while imperfect in texture, and varied in volume while limited in materials.

Are there any new technologies in architecture that you are particularly excited about?

One of the most exciting things about architecture is the development of building science, and how we can use new materials to improve tried and true ancient ways of living. The newest technology that we are excited about is a company based here in Phoenix called Source that has created a hydropanel that is the first renewable drinking water system. It creates drinking water from the air through the use of solar energy. Living in a desert where water is a precious resource, this is very exciting to us.

Given the issues of rising temperatures around the globe and the location of Foo House was this something you had to consider when conceptualising the architectural design of the property?

Phoenix is definitely at the forefront of dealing with extremely high temperatures and has been for a while. Studying the sun, the most powerful element here is where all our designs begin. Foo was designed as a large courtyard house that follows the sun’s day arc, shielding the interior from times of extreme heat. Courtyard houses have been effective ways of living in the desert dating back 5000 years to Kahun in Egypt and possibly earlier. They are self-shading, providing a space to either embrace or escape the sun at all times of day throughout the year.

Other than the ancient art of pottery were there was there any other influences or inspirations that you drew on when working on this project?

We always draw inspiration from our clients, who in this case were a very “hands-on” family, starting with their professions but leading to their kids playing musical instruments, gardening and raising chickens, and making robots. We wanted to go beyond just making a pottery studio and maker space to satisfy the “what” of the scope. We wanted to build on the essence of these items and make an entire home that reflected their family values. So the design uses a combination of the hand made and materials meant to patina and change over time, in an aesthetic some might consider wabi-sabi, that embraces the journey, the imperfections of hand made, and the transitory nature of our world. The other major inspiration in every project is the site, and its location in this world. We are fortunate to have incredible weather for the majority of the year in Phoenix. While the headlines talk about the high heat which can be intense, about 7-8 months a year you can basically live outside.

We wanted to create a home that everywhere you are in the house has a direct relationship with the exterior, and we wanted to create a lot of different types of connections, not just one big opening. The main living space has double-height glazing that faces north towards the courtyard. It has sliding glass doors that open it out onto the covered patio towards the outdoor kitchen, fire pit, and pool beyond. It also has a lofted area that provides skyline views to the south and views of the Phoenix mountain preserve to the north. It provides a different perspective of the landscape. We also created glass connectors between the volumes of the house, so the landscape sort of tucks in around the house, and you are constantly aware of it as you walk from one area of the house to the next. The bedroom wing has smaller openings that frame the olive grove or high windows that look towards the sky. Using exposed aggregate concrete blurred the transition as you step outside and areas where the glass is fixed, the new desert landscape comes right up to it.

What were some of the challenges you faced when working on Foo House and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge is that the house is located in a pretty busy urban area, less than a half-mile from 10+ story towers. To create an oasis-like refuge, we shaped the building to create a large central courtyard, using the building to shield the areas that faced the busy part of the city. The second challenge was overcoming the fact that buildings are generally by their nature static. We wanted to find a way to activate the house to meet the dynamism of the family and their passions. Our approach to doing this was two-pronged. The first was to design the building to be noticeably affected by time. We did this by using materials that would patina like the rusting siding or soften the board-formed concrete joints as well as using vertical floor to ceiling windows that face due south that act like sundials throughout the day. This is most noticeable where we shifted the hallway around the stairwell and added a steel brise soleil to highlight the solar pattern in the hallway. The second way we did this was by creating a campus-like plan, where you walk through communal spaces, outside and inside to get to more specific places. This creates casual exchanges.

When creating a family home like Foo House what are some important aspects to bear in mind?

When creating a family home, the first thing people often think of designing for is durability. While this is of course important, it is not the main driving factor for us. When designing family homes we focus on flexibility over time, spaces that inspire creativity, and a variety of spaces in which you can connect with each other, with extended family and with friends, as well as opportunities to disconnect.

The site contains a chicken coop, a citrus grove, a stone fruit grove, and raised planting beds for growing herbs and vegetables. Are there any other methods of sustainability used on the property?

The house is designed to primarily use stack ventilation in the bedrooms and main living area to use the diurnal temperature swings to help passively cool the house. The house opens up primarily to the north for indirect natural light and uses the height of the volumes to shade exterior spaces for outdoor living. The U-shaped form of the house creates a large courtyard, creating a bit of a microclimate. The roofing is a combination of white-coloured foam or corrugated metal to reflect the radiant heat from the sun. The property used to be almost entirely grass and we changed it to primarily desert and native vegetation on drip irrigation, heavily reducing the water consumption on the property in combination with low flow water fixtures throughout.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to work in architecture?

Find out who you are first. Then put that out into the world. Once you do it will attract people you want to work with. You are uniquely you. Your identity is your gift to the world, it is the one thing you do better than everyone else. Share it.

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what are your plans for the future?

We have about 30 residential projects in the works currently. We are excited that about 1/3 of those projects have taken us into new climates, new states, and outside of the country. Each new location continues to hone our research practices and understanding of place.

Our plans for the future are focused on continuing to grow our residential practice, designing homes that expand people’s creative potential and liberate them from the confines of convention. We look forward to more projects locally as well as projects that take us to new places, new people, and introduce new challenges.

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