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Meet architect and craftsman: Joshua Aidlin

anna volpicelliComment
Brecon Estate Winery. Photographer: Adam Rouse

Brecon Estate Winery. Photographer: Adam Rouse

In 1998 Joshua Aidlin and David Darling founded the award-winning architecture and design firm Aidlin Darling Design. Over a span of almost twenty years the studio has won several awards such as the 2013 National Design Award by The Smithsonian Cooper -Hewitt Design Museum, the James Beard Award and two National AIA “Cote” awards for excellence in sustainable design. Aidlin Darling Design today is a multidisciplinary platform combining architecture, design, craftsmanship and engineering in a holistic way. If you happened to go to In Situ, the well-known restaurant inside of the SFMOMA, one of their latest projects, you would have a taste of their work. They are famous in the industry for their “designing for all the senses” philosophy, where a project is developed in a series of layers. This includes visual, psychological, material, acoustic and environmental elements. It is a design principle that they apply to all of their projects, including institutional, such as the Santa Rosa High-School, commercial such as Bar Agricole or the Emeryville Center for the Arts, and residential such as the Sonoma Spa Retreat. “Our ultimate goal is to create soulful building”, Joshua Aidlin explains.

We met Joshua Aidlin at his office to discuss the design philosophy for Aidlin Darling Design and the firm’s process in further detail.

How has architecture changed in the last five to ten years in San Francisco?

The architecture has become much more scientific in the performance of the building. Twenty years ago we could have presented just a plan of the structure of a project. Now we have to do mock up model, we have to deal with all the documentation about permits, the sustainability standards and certification. The amount of research that is done on the performance, the collaboration with engineers, the selection of materials, everything has become much more demanding and scientifically based. Before it was a more simplified process. Now, with Pinterest and online sources, the process is becoming an extended dialogue about lighting, fixture, ceilings, floor and more. People have more access to information. You have to become an expert on everything and your range of expertise has to grow tremendously.

Courtyard Residence. Photographer: Matthew Millman

Courtyard Residence. Photographer: Matthew Millman

How is Technology affecting your work?

From a fabrication point of view, now, we are able to use 3D printing and other technical tools that we could not have used in the past. These tools give to us more opportunity to work on a project even if we are not on site all the time, and to dig into details, in a more accurate way. On the other hand, we are also craftsmen as we make furniture with our hands, so we always try to balance artisanship and technology. If you look at the ceilings of In Situ, without technology that couldn’t have happened.

Could you explain to us the philosophy behind your “designing for all the senses” approach?

In the late ‘90s and 2000 and even today there was and there is an obsession for the visual. At that time as well as today, we are still not paying attention to the opportunity to investigate into the psychology of the building and the people. If you think about all the receptors we have in our body, our skin, the temperature and those within a space like the acoustic, the texture, if the building is made of smooth wood wall, or stone, or concrete. Consider all the elements that psychologically affect human beings. The question is what is the impact that everything has on the psychology of human beings? It is very important to ask to ourselves as well as our clients.

In Situ. Photographer: Matthew Millman

In Situ. Photographer: Matthew Millman

Could you tell us more about your creative process?

It is uniquely specific to the project or the people involved. Even if it is a remodeling of a building, we always ask a lot of questions to understand the clients needs. We want to understand their psychology because we are going to design a custom house for them. When we talk to clients we often see an interesting distinction between how they have lived in the past and how they want to live in the future. What is their pattern today? And how do they want to live now? We put them in a new environment that they can create. What are their rituals? What are their rituals going to be? At this point the process gets exciting because we start to see our clients dream about the potential of their lives. After this investigation phase, we combine and integrate all the architecture, the psychological and the material elements, collected. Then, we break everything down to create a realistic, powerful and magical environment where clients can pick and choose what they really want.

Could you tell us more about your design aesthetic?

Both David and I and all team are pretty obsessed with proportions. We make our furniture with our hands so we design our buildings with the same precision. Being able to balance all the proportion creates an undeniable elegance within any piece of furniture or building. The thickness of a table whether it is 2 inches or 3 inches makes the difference. This obsession is something that we don’t want to get rid off. We all agree that if you do it once, do it right.

 

Ventilla Writing Table. Photographer: Marcus Hanschen

Ventilla Writing Table. Photographer: Marcus Hanschen

In your team do you have people that work on just residential projects and people who work on commercial and public spaces?

We try to mix everything up. We have company creative retreats and we also talk to the people of our staff about what they want to work on. If they want to work on residential or on a public building, we try to satisfy their wishes. It is a collaborative studio and we tend to help one another. We don't care about who the idea belongs to. There are going to be equal opportunities. David and I are always involved in any project. Sometimes one is acting as lead designer and sometimes as the critique voice. The lead designer knows everything about the project and the critique voice doesn’t know anything. So during the meeting the role of the critique is to give a proper feedback and see what is working and what is not working from a point of view of someone who is not involved.

What kind of positive mark do you intend to leave?

I hope that with all I have done there is an undeniable level of craft and sensuality and that will inspire the culture to respect and love design. Design is open ended and our ultimate goal is to create soulful buildings. 

From the left: David Darling and Joshua Aidlin. Photographer: Marcus Hanschen   

From the left: David Darling and Joshua Aidlin. Photographer: Marcus Hanschen

 

Meet designer: Francesco Bettoni

anna volpicelliComment
Mia armchair   

Mia armchair

 

 

According to Italian designer Francesco Bettoni, design requires careful consideration of the ways we interact with the people we work with and of how we build our relationships with them. This design philosophy brings meaning to how we make use of design products and how we establish a dialogue with them. The essence of the design can be understood through the point of view of the designer, the craftsmen, and from the consumer’s perspective in their relation to the product.  Discipline and non-judgment are the key principles of Francesco Bettoni’s process, compounded with a great amount of curiosity and experience. Since 1992, Bettoni has been working for a variety of notable manufacturers such as Arflex, Colombo Design, LG, Dada, Toto Design Japan and MDF Italia, to name a few.

We spoke with Francesco Bettoni to get the inside scoop on his work process and design vision.

D: What’s your design process?

FB: Design is a complex process. If we set aside the classic analysis-synthesis-feedback procedure, we soon realize that our work is mainly based on relationships. The collaboration among people inside and outside the firms, the daily interactions we have, it is all part of the process that goes beyond the simple “drawing on paper” and the creative aspect. It involves rational thinking; the capability and availability of everybody to let the concept and the design evolve until it becomes a real product.

D: If you weren’t a designer what would you be doing?

FB: I studied to be a designer and I cannot see myself in a different role.

D: Could you describe to us your aesthetic in a few words?

FB: If by aesthetics we mean a formal aspect then, I do not think that it can be traced back to a predetermined model. I like to experiment, to get inspired by the past, the present and by other industries. Then I like to shuffle the cards until I get a result that fulfills me.

Last year, Mia armchair was the lead design piece of the "Rosae, rosarum, rosis" installation curated by architect Paola Silvia Coronel, at The Triennale di Milano.

Last year, Mia armchair was the lead design piece of the "Rosae, rosarum, rosis" installation curated by architect Paola Silvia Coronel, at The Triennale di Milano.

D: Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?

FB: At the moment I am working on a few different projects: furniture, visual, interior design.  I like to roam freely between different fields because everything contributes to the growth of my design character.

D: Who were and are your role models?

FB: I find it rather difficult to point out the models that inspire me. I take in everything I see, study, experience. Then, I translate all into the famous aesthetic we were talking about before. Obviously, great designers, as well as cinema, music, theatre and visual arts occupy an important place in my research. They are all part of my baggage and it is difficult to disentangle the various elements.

D: When you run out of inspiration, what do you do?

FB: Phillips Starck wrote in one of his books that one ought to design 20 minutes each day. I am not that rigorous, but I take note of everything I find interesting and have the potential to become products. So I have a storage full of inspiration that I can use when I am designing.

D: How has technology changed your job?

FB: I was initially reluctant to approach technology for my work until I realized that technology is just an instrument, like a pencil or a sheet of paper, only a more evolved one. It makes it possible to interact with a product from the very beginning, it allows us to visualize complex objects and study its reactions without the need to produce a real model. Technology enables us to establish direct connections with the most advanced production systems, which is obviously a remarkable feature.

D: What is your favorite piece you designed?

FB: Always the next one.

Mia sofa.

Mia sofa.

D: And the one you have always dreamed to design?

FB: We all have secret wishes and childhood dreams, but I prefer to call them objectives: they stimulate us and make us grow.

D: What does design mean to you?

FB: For me design is a combination of creativity and business. The awareness of the times we live in and the ability to convey it into a project, turn it into a product and make it a marketing success. All this is design.

 

Francesco Bettoni.

Francesco Bettoni.