New Practices Preview: Six New Firms in Five Slides

Event: New Practices New York 2008: Winners’ Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.15.08
Speakers: Representatives from winning firms: Baumann Architecture; Common Room; David Wallance Architect; Matter; Openshop | Studio; Urban A&O
Moderator: Olympia Kazi, Institute for Urban Design
Organizer: AIANY New Practices Committee
Sponsors: Underwriter: Häfele; Patron: ABC Imaging; Lead Sponsors: Ibex Construction; MG & Company; Poliform USA; Thornton Tomasetti; Supporters: Fountainhead Construction; FXFOWLE Architects; Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper

Courtesy AIANY

With this year’s New Practices New York jurors’ symposium, exhibition (See On View: At the Center for Architecture), and upcoming individual presentations at the Häfele showroom, undoubtedly, the exposure is invaluable for a new firm trying to gain traction in design-saturated NYC. At the recent winners’ symposium, the founders behind these new practices presented what motivates them: how they view themselves within the context of the city, the profession, and the struggle to succeed as a new firm.

Each firm was asked to prepare five slides and discuss their practice. Not surprisingly, the approaches were vastly different. Some firms carefully prepared slides as though they were interviewing with a potential client, showcasing professionally photographed built projects. Philippe Baumann of Baumann Architecture took this approach, explaining that his firm strives to create “straightforward work in a difficult environment,” exploring designs simultaneously through hand drawing and 3-D computer rendering. David Wallance, AIA, of David Wallance Architect, also discussed his practical approach to residential design cultivated by years of experience working on cultural and institutional projects in large firms.

Others took an indistinct approach, relying on heavily Photoshopped, candid pictures of firm members or random collages accompanied with catchy phrases. While such presentations give some insight into what it’s like working in these firms and what they stand for, they didn’t speak specifically to the practice of architecture. Common Room members, while obviously passionate about their work, spoke in such complex metaphors I was left wondering if they did, in fact, practice architecture. Adam Hayes and Mark Kroeckel of Openshop | Studio claimed to have no pictures of their work and only showed one slide — a black-and-white image of the firm’s two founders sitting nonchalantly on a couch. They chose, instead, to discuss how their firm got started and how they work together.

The jurors selected the firms based on their work, which they considered to be interesting and new. With the upcoming individual firm lectures throughout 2009 (for information go to the Häfele website), this symposium was a preview of what’s to come.