Architect Garrett Ricciardi thinks about materials in a whole new way
Is that rare, in architecture, to have a fine arts background?
I think there are a number of architects with an art background, and I think a lot of them come from more of an aesthetic practice. Our interest was a little bit more theoretical, probably, because of the art that we were interested in and our education and what we had learned. That was an opening for us to say, “We do like it. We’re certainly interested in the aesthetics of things, but how could you bring theory into this and rethink maybe aesthetics that haven’t even been though about in architecture?”
In a way, architects are really challenging the way we build buildings.
I think function is definitely something that’s part of it. You may look at what we make and say, “I don’t know if these guys are interested in function at all.” We’re very interested in function in the same way an industrial designer would say, “Well, I don’t want to just design a spoon that functions like every other spoon,” or with shoes, “I don’t want to make an experience that everyone already knows,” but instead, “How do I rethink materials or the shape or the engineering of those materials that we have to make a spoon or shoes in a way that the user has a completely new experience?” We’re always looking into how materials can make the experience of architecture something new.
You’re bringing in a lot of materials that aren’t necessarily man-made and forming them into something else.
One of the areas of materials that we’ve become experts in is working with loose materials—things that you would use in the construction of buildings, usually not for the inhabitable space. You might use dirt or sand in the foundation of your building, but then you would cover those things up for on-sale or cheap materials. A recent project we did was in Miami. They have a lot of difficulty because there’s a lot of sand there, and they have to add all sorts of additional structures or foundation work to buildings to even make them work in sand. Instead of working against that or seeing a loose material like sand as a nuisance, we inverted that and we took the sand and used it to help make the building we designed stand up. Instead of using concrete, we used sand, and sand has all sorts of recreational uses so it became a place for people to relax on or play on. Kids were building sand castles literally out of the materials that hold up the building.