Next Progressives: Office of Things

Next Progressives: Office of Things

Based in New York, Chicago, and Charlottesville, Va., the firm aims to navigate architecture’s complexities” to unearth specific clarity within the noise.”

Office of Things principals
courtesy Office of ThingsOffice of Things principals

Firm name: Office of Things
Location: New York, Chicago, and Charlottesville, Va.
Year founded: 2016
Firm leadership: Lane Rick and Can Vu Bui (New York); JT Bachman, AIA, and Katie Stranix, AIA (Charlottesville); and Vincent Calabro (Chicago)
Firm size: Eight
Education: Rick: M.Arch. and B.A. from Yale University; Bui: M.Arch. from Yale University B.Arc.Sc. from Ryerson University; Bachman: M.Arch. from Yale University, B.Des. from the University of Florida; Stranix: M.Arch. from Yale University, B.S. from the University of Virginia; Calabro: M.Arch. from Yale University, B.S. from the University of Cincinnati

A 5-acre project in Central Oregon, Helmholtz—Inside Out reimagines workforce housing and suburban residential planning by establishing social spaces and prioritizing interior access to light and views. Shared courtyards that balance privacy and community within each group of houses create a sense of place.
courtesy Office of ThingsA 5-acre project in Central Oregon, Helmholtz—Inside Out reimagines workforce housing and suburban residential planning by establishing social spaces and prioritizing interior access to light and views. Shared courtyards that balance privacy and community within each group of houses create a sense of place.
courtesy Office of Things
“Roll Play” is a 2021 finalist for the Ragdale Ring temporary theater. Through an ensemble of rolling “Wobblers,” the Ragdale Ring is transformed into a space of play and imagination. Users can sit and rock back and forth on a Wobbler, crawl under one and peer out from its rounded leaves, or roll a few Wobblers together to create an impromptu landscape.
courtesy Office of Things“Roll Play” is a 2021 finalist for the Ragdale Ring temporary theater. Through an ensemble of rolling “Wobblers,” the Ragdale Ring is transformed into a space of play and imagination. Users can sit and rock back and forth on a Wobbler, crawl under one and peer out from its rounded leaves, or roll a few Wobblers together to create an impromptu landscape.

Experience: Adjaye AssociatesStudio Gang ArchitectsRockwell Group, among others.

Firm mission: The heart of the practice of architecture lies in a multitude of voices, ideas, and realities that shape the environment. Our work aims to navigate this complexity to unearth specific clarity within the noise. These days, this takes the form of a growing fascination with the generic and the specific. Somewhere in that friction is the practicality of getting things built and the frivolity of the imaginations that occupy it.

How you came up with your firm’s name: Architecture is deeply rooted in the interplay between ephemeral spaces and the physical stuff that creates it. We are curious about the nebulous nature of this relationship, and the ‘things’ that define it; things are objects but they can also be the things to get you somewhere else.

First commission: “Overworld,” an immersive installation at the 2016 Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up to My Room exhibition in Toronto.

Nicholas Venezia
Nicholas Venezia
A 600-square-foot renovation of a 1920s townhouse in Queens, N.Y., Glendale Townhome is an artful transformation of claustrophobic and dark rooms into a sculptural and airy house arrayed in a palette of golds, greens, and reds.
Nicholas VeneziaA 600-square-foot renovation of a 1920s townhouse in Queens, N.Y., Glendale Townhome is an artful transformation of claustrophobic and dark rooms into a sculptural and airy house arrayed in a palette of golds, greens, and reds.
Nicholas Venezia

 

Defining project and why: “Overworld,” our 2016 installation for the Toronto Design Offsite Festival, remains a project that we return to often. It wove together many questions that we are still exploring: the integration of technology and architecture, the body in immersive environments, smallness and the feeling of immensity, and what it means to escape momentarily into a world set apart.

Another important project and why: While we are deeply interested in the spaces of immersive design, we also believe in our duty as architects. We are currently working on an affordable housing project in central Oregon, where we’re training our focus on how single-family workforce housing can be reevaluated to focus on design and community.

Design tool of choice: Our library. This takes the form of our books, photographs, drawings, memories, recordings, and discussions of everything we have seen and continue to see in the world, for better or worse. We draw from these observations in everything we do.

Designed for the main lobby of YouTube’s California headquarters, Soft Screen is a responsive architectural partition with more than 30,000 LEDs hidden behind a fuzzy acoustical membrane. By standing on medallions distributed throughout the lobby, visitors trigger interactive features within the wall, creating a personalized experience.
Mariko ReedDesigned for the main lobby of YouTube’s California headquarters, Soft Screen is a responsive architectural partition with more than 30,000 LEDs hidden behind a fuzzy acoustical membrane. By standing on medallions distributed throughout the lobby, visitors trigger interactive features within the wall, creating a personalized experience.

The most important piece of criticism you have received: Simplify. Amplify.

Biggest challenge facing architects today: Sometimes, architecture feels incredibly precarious. It is at once inextricable from the social structures and infrastructures that shape contemporary society, while, in many ways, lacking the agency to effect change. Architects need to find a way to navigate that tension.

Biggest challenge in running a successful practice: Embracing the sense that you have no clue what will happen next.

Immersive Space Series: Coves was designed for a Silicon Valley tech company to provide a workplace escape—both mental and physical—through the interplay of color, light, and sound. Each room is a built illustration that invites quiet contemplation through subtle shifts of the environment.
Johnna ArnoldImmersive Space Series: Coves was designed for a Silicon Valley tech company to provide a workplace escape—both mental and physical—through the interplay of color, light, and sound. Each room is a built illustration that invites quiet contemplation through subtle shifts of the environment.

Design aggravation: Describing visual concepts without using visuals.

Which architects or firms have influenced your practice and how?
To paraphrase Robert Irwin, the artist navigates a system built from his intuition. He does this by establishing a basic hypothesis, and making a million yes/no decisions to exhaust all the possibilities before arriving at something that makes sense to the artist.

Our design process embodies every one of our experiences, observations, and memories. From this we begin to establish a means of perceiving the world and design. It’s all built on our own personal interpretations and intuitions.

On the bookshelf: Independently, all of us are reading or have read Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem (Tor Books, 2016) trilogy; proof that world-building isn’t just for architects and that there is always another level of craziness you can reach.

Paul MakovskyPaul Makovsky

Paul Makovsky is editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT magazine.

By Anaya Iglesias
Anaya Iglesias