Interview with Developer Jonathan F. P Rose, USA
You graduated from Yale College in 1974 with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy. How did you transition from these academic studies to real estate development?
You know, I actually don’t feel like I made a transition? (pause.) I feel like I’m a lucky person, who was born with a sense of mission. Ever since I was a very small child, I was very interested in buildings and cities. I was also quite interested in nature and social justice and the civil rights movement. And I wanted to put all those issues together.
As a student at Yale, I knew that there were seeds of this wholeness in physics and biology, but also in philosophy and psychology. I was interested in weaving together all the different threads. That’s been a life pursuit.
The studio will work on a real project on a site in Harlem. What does the studio process look like to you?
I hope with the studio that people will work on individual components as well as the larger site picture. One might be the green strategy, another might be a community media room. What is the architectural problem of a community media room of the 21st century, in Harlem? How do much broader social networks, building systems, and electronic media all come together in a place? We might delve into specific components of the building in much more detail.
How do you interact most with architects?
So I was discussing a project with Bob Stern, and he said, “Oh, the developers just tell us we have to design to a budget, and then they tell us we designed over-budget, and then they cut stuff.” With us, we completely share our budgets with our architects, because we’re solving problems together. Intelligent systems have feedback loops, and if you don’t provide the feedback, how can an architect do their best work? It seems to me there’s a risk from not sharing information. We need to design better systems, and you can’t do that without a huge amount of information flow and sharing.
Could you explain more about the divisions and connections between architects and developers? How do you engage with architects?
So, we hire a third-party architect for all our projects. We do not design them in-house. But almost all of our staff have planning or architecture degrees. In fact, they used to have more planning degrees, now they have architectural degrees, and actually the most common one is architecture and real estate. So programs like Columbia, MIT – a real estate degree is more relevant to us than a business degree.
Do you see architects asking for the kinds of information you’d like them to use, or being prepared to use it?
We only work with architects that believe in collaboration. And I think that’s the spirit of architecture today. For example, on our Tapestry project, Harry Cobb put so much attention to the window details because of the [financial] issue of waterproofing liability. He was trying to do something that challenged a normal appearance, but was also absolutely waterproof, and was also constructible in our tight budget.