Last week PRE met Alejandro Zaera-Polo for coffee and croissants to discuss the begining, and the end, of FOA. Alejandro made a case for luck in a successful architecture practice, something he has certainly had no shortage of in his young and very distinguished career. He and Farshid began FOA in London as part of the post OMA legacy. The practice was financed by teaching at the AA and they spent their time doing competitions, one of which was the Yokohama Terminal competition in Japan. They won. They are both clearly extremely intelligent and savvy, but it was luck. Plain and simple. The presence of that project in the global media launched FOA as a global firm and has begotten numerous noteworthy projects since. Alas, all good things must come to an end. As Farshid and Alejandro prepare to go their separate ways, Alejandro, like us, is staring from zero. His advice was to look to where the world is being made: to China, to Latin America, and to India. The conversations was wonderful, our thanks to Alejandro.
Entries in PRE-Office (12)
- Bernard Tschumi, Bernard Tschumi Architects
- Lindy Roy, Roy Co. Design LLC
- Gregg Pasquerelli and Chris Sharples, SHoP Architects
- Laurie Hawkinson, Smith-Miller Hawkinson Architects, LLP
- Kadambari Baxi, Martin / Baxi Architects
- Karla Rothstein, SR+T Architects
- Scott Marble and Karen Fairbanks, Marble + Fairbanks
- Galia Solomonoff, SAS / Solomonoff Architecture Studio
- Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner, HWKN
- Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, SO-IL, Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu
- David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang, The Living
- Sang Hwa Lee and Jeeyong An, GinsengChicken
- Deborah Berke, Deborah Berke and Partners Architects LLP
- Georgeen Theodore, Tobias Armborst, and Daniel D'Oca, Interboro Partners
- Jürgen Mayer, J. Mayer H.
- Vito Acconci, Studio Acconci
- Nader Tehrani, Office dA Inc.
- Meejin Yoon and Eric Höweler, Höweler + Yoon Architects / MY Studio
- Bjarke Ingels, BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group
- Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Foreign Office Architects
- Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, Lot-ek
- Stan Allen, Stan Allen Architect
- Shohei Shigematsu, OMA New York
- David Fano, CASE Design, Inc.
- Peter Zumthor, Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner
- Wolf Prix, Coop Himme(l)blau
An interesting condition of our generation is the two fold proliferation of architectural images: one, the sheer number of images being produced by a very large quantity offices, and two, the extreme accessibility of these images accessibility offered by the internet and its myriad of design blogs.
In the past you knew which offices were defining the critical discourse because there only a handful of them creating a top-down theory structure. Because of the aforementioned proliferation of architectural images, the structure of the discourse has become very lateral and very sprawling.
18 interviews into the project and with 8 more lined up, we realize that this behind the behind-the-scenes approach to dissecting architectural practice is acting like a search engine. After each interview we ask the participant who we should talk to next and they link us to another interesting office and we continue to crawl the web of contemporary practice. The result, of course, is that as more content is generated there become ever more interesting ways to creatively slice through the conversations or remix them to learn new lessons of success and failure in practice.
Rather than narrowing our search, we will broaden it to include corporate giants, artists, and perhaps even architecture students to continue unpacking the myths and the truths of architectural practice.
After our conversation with Nader at Office dA, we made a second stop in Boston at the studio and home of Eric Höweler and Meejin Yoon. For Meejin, this recession is fundamentally different for our generation of architects than other recessions. In previous recessions the building industry has been crippled by low economic tides, but other creative disciplines were still able to thrive; in this current recession, creative industry across the board is taking the hit and thus young architects cannot jump ship to graphic design, web design, or the film industry. Consequently, many of our peers are embarking on similar pursuits of starting an office and in so doing, testing new strategies for entering practice. (We'll let you know how it goes.) Meejin and Eric graduated from architecture school one year apart and spend the subsequent decade doing very different things: Meejin taught at MIT and pursued installation scale interactive projects while Eric worked seven years at KPF followed by three at DS+R. This ambidextrous background seems to allow their small practice to take on a very large spread of work from high rise towers to fashion and furniture. We were very glad we stopped by. Our thanks to Meejin and Eric.
Nader Tehrani met us at the Boston Office dA studio for an early morning interview before the day started. Office dA grew incrementally, a practice slowly built up by hard work and academic connections. In fact, according to Nader, Office dA, which has been in business for twenty years, has grown by one employee per year on average. Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon are the two founding partners of the practice and it is interesting that their commitment to critique kept them involved in different academic institutions. In the beginning Monica was teaching in Miami and Nader in Providence and their partnership was enabled by the cutting edge technology of the Fax machine. Today, Nader teaches at MIT and Monica is the Dean of the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and their partnership continues via email and webex. The conversation was very smart - many thanks to Nader.
On Sunday, PRE sat down with Vito Acconci at his DUMBO studio in Brooklyn. Vito began his career as a poet: his space was an letter-sized piece of paper. His work evolved off the page and onto the floor and into the street as he became an installation artist. Decades later and in a round-about way, Vito found himself to be making architecture. This was our first conversation with an artist, specifically, with an artist who makes architecture. It was fascinating to hear the substantial differences between art and architecture, both in practical and ephemeral terms, play out over the course of one career. The conversation was wonderful and Vito's hospitality was warm. Many thanks to Mr. Acconci.