We practice primarily in Northwest Arkansas, a state with one of greatest income disparities, in a country with an ever-widening income gap. Northwest Arkansas is gifted with distinctive natural beauty, but is also as “everywhere” as everywhere else vis-a-vie the built environment. We operate in these worlds, economic oppression/affluence, natural beauty/built banality. This is the binary operation that makes a life in the twenty first century.
The design process always begins with a zero point, to start from a state of “not knowing”, to start without preconceptions or undue willfulness. Every project therefore has the potential to be anything. The Speculation begins as a collaborative process between client and architect, an inquiry into what is “essential”. Site and context are always meaningful contributors to the outcome of the project but it is the supplemental rules and procedures that ultimately give the project its essence.
I recently presented a proposal to a client and the client immediately responded with “I expected boxes”. This was both gratifying and terrifying. Gratifying in that I have reached a moment in practice where there is an expectation and a discernable spatial device that identifies the work, terrifying in that it has snuck up on me. Are we a “box” firm? The box is the most ubiquitous and elemental of contemporary architectural expressions. We are interested in the concealing and revealing of space at its most essential. The box is open. The box is closed. The box is both. It regulates space with a didactic precision.
More things with less things.
We make more things with less things. Whether out of necessity or desire this is a primary fulcrum for arriving at a solution. The primary inquiries in this practice are “Can we do without this?”, “Can this thing do that thing too?”, “How can we make the most space with the fewest things?” This is a way of making that promotes good, sustainable, design, and an economic advantage for the client.
The thing that’s not the thing is the thing.
Architecture is primarily about space making. We explore architecture through the binary operation of universal and discreet space. This binary sets up many of the space making principles common in every building: public/private, servant/served, compression/ expansion, and so on.
Words like “pretty” or “cute” are excellent descriptors of our work, we embrace them. The architectural baggage we carry with us derives from signifiers and tropes which already exist in the built landscape, we associate and elicit response from architectural space based on these preconceptions. Our work attempts to explore how you might successfully make a “cute space” without cultural bias and cuteness tropes. We ask silly questions during the design process like: “Is that a cute window? What makes a cute window?” or “Did you just make a tadpole out of that entry?”. And, most importantly, we strive to make spaces that are not just “cute”, but have a lightness which encourages a certain joy extracted from the experience of the architecture. This is essential to the way we make spaces and the way we operate as a design firm.