Typecasting in Architecture / Design

A Posting by Ron Frink, Ronald Frink Architects

Sam Mendes
So often, we all are tempted to categorize people, places, ideas, etc. into respectively preconceived pigeon holes or boxes – seemingly to make our choices easier and/or less risky.  As a result, new opportunities for professionals in the applied and creative arts are all too often constrained or defined by the professional’s prior works and accomplishments.  For architects, not unlike actors and artists, one of the most gratifying creative experiences evolves from the challenge to design a project type or style that is different or beyond one’s prior works.
Certainly, our experience in any specialized design area is of real value and yet, some of the best design can result when one is challenged to work in a new project type or stylistic genre.  Although every project design is unique due to its distinct site, context, client and budget, the design methodology for any given project is actually quite consistent.
Academic curriculums in architecture typically include in-depth study of architectural history through the various periods, styles and technologies of building design, all of which serves as a great foundation for good design in our contemporary times.  Academic design studios focus on design methodologies enabling the architect to develop the respective observation and problem solving skills required to define the realities and creative potentials for any given project.  Having an informed or educated frame of reference for historical precedents seems essential for any architect to find the most appropriate, if not provocative and creative concept in any new design challenge.
A client’s critical question of an architect for a new project might well be, “Can you design this project and how would you approach the design?” as opposed to “How many projects have you designed that are similar to this project?”
Since starting my own practice, some of our best design experiences and projects have come through relationships that generated design opportunities beyond our prior works.   With most of my prior professional experience in the planning and architectural design of larger scale commercial and corporate projects in the private sector, my team’s adventures with new project types have included the successful and recognized designs for the projects such as the following:
·       Geffen Playhouse:  Our project scope included the master planning, architectural and interior design for the adaptive reuse, renovation and historic restoration of a historical building into a “state of the art” live theater complex.  Having not designed a theater previously, the challenge was tremendous and resulting success of the project even more gratifying.  The Geffen Playhouse has since been recognized with multiple design and preservation awards and featured in the book, American Spaces by Image Publishing Group in 2007.
·       Pacific BMW:  Our project scope included the architectural and interior design of a full service multi-story auto dealership and service center in an urban setting.  Although I had prior experience in the design of an auto maker’s corporate headquarters, I had not designed an auto dealership before and like many had some preconceptions about the extent of architecture relevant to a dealership.  With the ongoing increase in land values, for dealerships to expand in their current market, the options don’t always allow for acquiring more land with open auto display parking lots.  To work with the available site area, the successful design of Pacific BMW took on a more urban form and scale, which has since afforded the client a consistent increase in its business.  The project has also been featured in the book, 1000X Architecture of the Americas by Braun in 2008.
·       Montecito Residence:  In our first large custom residence, our project scope included the architectural and interior design of the private residence for a client who had raised their family on a Phillip Johnson house in New Canaan, CT.  By working with the clients and observing the site context, the design has proven extremely successful. The house has been featured in the following books:  West Coast Rooms by Rockport Publishing in 2000 ; Pacific Houses by Loft Publications in 2004 and Another 100 of the World’s Best Houses by Images Publishing Group in 2006.  Subsequently, we have been fortunate to design custom homes in such varied contexts as old Santa Barbara, the Sierra Mountains in Plumas County, CA and rural Weston, VT.
We did not come to design these projects, mentioned above, based on our past experience of designing multiple similar projects, but through relationships and the skill sets to understand the challenges of the projects and to conceive and execute successful designs.  The concept of stretching beyond our past experience is natural to continuing creative growth.

Ron Frink, prior to starting his own practice in 1994 worked with such prestigious firms as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), William L Pereira Associates and AC Martin Associates.
Ronald Frink Architects has had projects published in various publications, including: 200 Houses, Architecture & Design: Los Angeles, American Spaces: An Overview of What’s New, Spaces-Interiors of the USA & Canada, and Another 100 of the World’s Best Houses. The firm is also the recipient of awards, including: LEED Certification (Lakeshore Plaza), Award of Excellence (Southern California Development Forum), Award of Excellence (California Council of the Society of American Register Architects), Preservation Award (Los Angeles Business Council and Los Angeles Conservancy) and Grand Prize (Southern California Development Forum).
For more information:
Ronald Frink Architects website
Please see our earlier postings for Ronald Frink Architects:
Designing a Theater, October 6, 2010
Brief Encounters, July 12, 2010
Designing a Theater - An Architectural Journey, November 11, 2010 

Santa Barbara Remodel, February 16, 2010


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