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Welcome to part two of a three-part series entitled HOME+WORK. In this series, Scott Jarson pondered life without an office and garnered the input from three top design leaders to share their experiences and wisdom. Scott posited the same five questions to each of them:
-What are you enjoying most about the space you are working in?
-How have you made things work under the current circumstances?
-Based on your recent time spent there, are there any changes you’re dying to make to your current design?
-With your recent experiences, how do you think this will affect the future advice and design concepts you’d want to share with clients?
-Do you feel that the pandemic experience in America may affect the future of urban design in the U.S. and even influence a return to suburbia?
He wanted to know how this time may have affected their approach, and how they think the future of design may be impacted as a result of recent experiences.
Today, Part Two features insights from architectural designer Luis Ibarra who with Teresa Rosano, are based in Tucson, Arizona. Since 1999, Ibarra Rosano Design Architects has grown to become an internationally recognized award-winning architecture design firm. Here is Luis’s unique perspective…
SJ: Luis, we’ve all been spending more time in our homes and perhaps isolated in office/studios. What are you enjoying most about the space you are working in?
LI: We began our careers modeling our firm on the philosophies and practices of my mentor, world renown Australian architect Glenn Murcutt.
He is decisive in keeping his practice a one-man-band. But, as a married couple, we were already off-script — and with several associates too. Yet, his method for staying true to his principles and choosing the best projects by running a lean business has always been at the core of Ibarra Rosano’s strategy. Back then, we were lucky to find a large, inexpensive midtown lot with a tiny little house, upon which we cut our teeth and tested our knowledge.
We built a standalone design studio and rebuilt the tiny house bigger. For two recent architecture graduates, our property proved to be the best finishing school. It has also served us as a great backstop for weathering terrible events and economic storms. We’ve been through many: 9/11, the great recession, and now Covid 19. In spite of the constant uncertainty, we still have in the back of our minds to move to a commercial place, but our midtown quarter-acre property continues to serve us well. Clients who visit the studio enjoy seeing all the experiments we’ve tried on ourselves. And, knowing that we have had our hands on those experiments boosts our clients’ confidence in the constructibility of our ideas.
So, for us, it’s business as usual in our 900 square foot studio in the back lot…Well, kind of.
SJ: How have you made things work under the current circumstances?
LI: The unfortunate loss has been the face-to-face meetings with consultants and clients. We are a personable firm that likes to gather with clients, collaborators and colleagues. Covid has definitely changed that. That said, since our firm has a national reach, we were already meeting remotely with several clients. I guess the silver lining in all this is virtual meetings are now easier to have because newly-improved technology has stepped up to serve necessity, and we are all growing more comfortable with it.
This comfort is expanding our teaming/collaborating possibilities. As more and more consultants, creators, and creatives become available on networks and social apps, the more expansive our services and expertise offerings. We are able to offer clients the top engineers and expert consultants, because the cost of travel is a non issue. As the technology improves, the difference between having a collaborator at my shoulder or across the planet will become less and less noticeable. It’s quite remarkable. And probably a better use of the planet’s resources.
That said, I really miss the day’s end round of beers at the neighborhood pub.
SJ: Based on your recent time spent there, are there any changes you’re dying to make to your current design?
LI: Since we built it as a serious studio, the studio is professional, and well-equipped with several stations and work spaces. I wish it had more space to exhibit our models, awards, and publications, but, other than that, it works quite well — at least for now.
SJ: With your recent experiences, how do you think this will affect the future advice and design concepts you’d want to share with clients?
LI: We have always enjoyed designing homes. Of course, we have already branched out into hospitality, multi-family housing, a gallery, a church, and other civic spaces. But, we have always believed in the power of a well-designed house. I can imagine that homeowners are now beginning to understand that idea as well. When a home is truly well-considered, it can be a great servant, providing for many of our human needs. When it is not well considered, its limited set of opportunities can feel like a trap, leaving us feeling ‘safe’ but stuck. For those who are lucky to live in well-considered spaces, no matter what size or what cost, the home can be both a source of productivity and repose.
Architecture is the instrument through which we make connections, connections between people and their place, between people and each other, and between people and themselves. Whether you are in a big city, a suburb, or out in the middle of nowhere, it’s these connections that we yearn for as humans. Ibarra Rosano’s most important mission is to help people make these connections through architecture.
We are already seeing an influx of clients asking for help in strengthening these connections in their daily lives. Some are asking us to modify their places of work at home, others to create new places that work exactly as they should. These momentous challenges force us to reflect and realize that time is our greatest wealth. And we should spend it wisely.
SJ: Do you feel that the pandemic experience in America may affect the future of urban design in the U.S. and even influence a return to suburbia?
LI: Covid as a justification for sprawl? I hope not. Suburbia has its place as all things do, but the civic cost is tremendous.
Ironically, as we can already see, suburbanites insist on being separated and independent, but, as soon as you obligate them to do so, they can’t wait to rush back in and be closer than they should be to people who could be ill.
But that’s just proof of our human nature. We have a need to connect, to be a part of each other’s lives. I think architecture is the stage where that can happen. I think designers, architects, engineers, and artists have a tremendous role to play in the making of great civic space that allows all of us to share our lives with each other — safely, respectfully, responsibly, and with great equity.
This current calamity will one day pass and leave a great lesson in its wake. If we awaken to it, we will be smarter for it. If not, it or something like it, will unfortunately come again. I hope we take this opportunity to learn and be ready.
A huge thanks to Luis Ibarra, Principal Designer & Co-Founder of Ibarra Rosano Design Architects in Tucson for joining us in Part Two of this blog. Stay tuned for part three featuring architect Brent Kendle.
To Be Concluded…