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Above All, Research

Just over 20 years of practice has proven that Architecture Research Office (ARO) had chosen its moniker well. For this year’s Oberfield Lecture, Stephen Cassell, AIA, and Kim Yao, AIA, two of the firm’s three partners, presented seven projects summarizing the office’s current course and future trajectory.

The smallest structure was a 69-square-foot chicken coop – yes, 20 years on, they still take on projects that require only two pages of contract documents­ – while the largest is a 120,000-square-foot football stadium addition. The micro-project offered the opportunity to study surface manipulations as an architectural expression, while the stadium examined topography and access in wedging in a 500-foot-long building that maintained campus sightlines.

Not to devote all their attention to the exterior, ARO has designed interiors. For Knoll, the firm tackled the problem of dispersing a business over three floors without disconnecting the staff. In addition to communal spaces on each floor, ARO designed elements that tie the spaces together, most notably fabric-wrapped stairs and a continuous ceiling-mounted rail for lights and hangings. The project also included collaborative research into acoustic panels for vertical and horizontal surfaces that use textiles on uniquely contoured panels.

Rising Currents, the firm’s well-known research-based project, explored urban resiliency in Lower Manhattan. As that project enhances the city environmentally, Five Principles for Greenwich South does so socially at an urban scale to reinvigorate the post-9/11 downtown. Avoiding master planning, ARO established a framework of overlapping regions, and invited several firms to examine pervasive topics, such as FAR and street life.

ARO showed other recent projects, such as the Judd Foundation building (which won Honor in the 2014 AIANY Design Awards), the art-laden Lakeside House, and the historic renovation of an 1860s barn for the Hudson River Center – all tasteful renovations. The diversity of typologies, scales, and programs are unified by the firm’s name: Research. As the title of Cassell and Yao’s presentation, “ARO 2033,” indicates, the firm is already looking forward to its next 20 years by taking stock of its current structure and institutional knowledge – a research project itself.

James Way, Assoc. AIA, Marketing Manager at Dattner Architects, frequently contributes to eOculus.

Event: 2014 Oberfield Lecture, ARO 2033
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.29.14
Speakers: Stephen Cassell, AIA, LEED AP, and Kim Yao, AIA, Partners, Architecture Research Office (ARO); and Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIANY
Organized by: AIANY Interiors Committee
Sponsored by: Axor Hansgrohe, Gensler, Icon Interiors