Q&A: The Art of Architecture
Many architects stick to designing residences or commercial buildings, but not Suchi Reddy and her New York-based Reddymade Architecture and Design, which recently created a public art installation in Brooklyn. Founded by Reddy in 2002, the innovative firm is known for high-end designs influenced by contemporary art. And while it’s often a struggle to balance an architect’s artistic ideas with a client’s goals, technical limitations, timelines and the budget, Reddy says that these challenges are what draw out truly great work. “You can actually do something absolutely amazing because of the constraints,” she says. “That’s what gives a design it’s particular beauty.”
“I truly believe that it’s the purpose of architecture to uplift and serve the people that it’s designed for.”
In turn, Reddy seeks to challenge her clients, finding bigger and better solutions for projects that range from custom homes to corporate interiors to fabrics. “I truly believe that it’s the purpose of architecture to uplift and serve the people that it’s designed for,” she says. Noteworthy New York projects include a Chelsea apartment covered in rare art, a sleek and modern Midtown abode, and a gutted and redesigned uptown Victorian townhouse. Reddymade has transformed a Japanese-style midcentury vacation retreat on the shore of Rhode Island, adding strategically placed windows that enhance extraordinary views of the ocean, and preserved the legendary exterior of a historic home in Sunset Beach, Fla., while making the interior a “visual exploration” of carefully placed contemporary art. The firm has even designed micro-housing, a growing trend among young home owners in densely populated urban spaces.
This summer Reddymade designed an art installation, the Connective Project, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, consisting of 7,000 yellow pinwheels strategically situated to form an undulating sea of gold. The installation was the brainchild of New York-based Area4, a marketing and production company, which sought to create a community engagement installation and collaborated with Reddymade to bring the project to fruition. Fascinated by pinwheels as a child and seeking a shape that would resonate with people, Reddy devised the concept of the pinwheels in all different sizes with some featuring custom designs. Wrapping around three ponds, the project gave visitors a new way to view the park’s iconic design.
WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND YOUR DESIGNS?
To discover what the potential of every project is and amplify it. Every project has a different “voice.” It’s a question of hearing the voice and saying, “OK, this is really what this can be.” Whether we’re designing a fabric, an installation or a building, what I’m after is undiscovered potential.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TYPE OF A BUILDING OR PROJECT TO DESIGN?
No, actually. I’ve tried very hard throughout my career to never be put in a box. We do a lot of residences, but they all offer particular challenges because they’re being designed uniquely for a certain person or family and with a certain set of conditions. It’s never the same problem twice. It can be challenging, but that’s really what I’m interested in.
WHAT ARE SOME INTERESTING HIGH-END RESIDENCES YOU’VE BEEN WORKING ON?
We’re doing a pre-fab house in LA with a company called Living Home, and we’re collaborating with artist Ai Weiwei on building a house in upstate New York.
CAN YOU TELL US ANY MORE ABOUT THAT PROJECT WITH AI WEIWEI?
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE “GREEN” OR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN STRATEGIES IN YOUR WORK?
Our ethos is we try not to waste things—not just in terms of green materials but in trying to make sure that we make footprint of a project is as small as it can be.
WOULD YOU DESIGN MORE INSTALLATIONS LIKE THE CONNECTIVE PROJECT IN THE FUTURE?
Oh, I would love to. It’s always wonderful to also be able to do something for the public.
Grainne Coen and Rory McEvoy, who run Area4, came up with the concept of doing a community art engagement project and gave me the opportunity to design it. Around the rim of each pond the pinwheels were made out of graphics that people had submitted. The ponds were interactive gallery spaces where people could take photos and look closer at the installation.
The most exciting thing about that was that every single pinwheel went into the community. People could take them on the last day of the installation—and we didn’t have a single one left. So the pinwheels have an afterlife—they moved on. connectiveproject.com, reddymadedesign.com