ARANDA LASCH PRACTICE
REDEFINES CONTEMPORARY DESIGN
Exploring the work of American practice Aranda/Lasch: from early architectural ideas to future projects. Each project has a conventional limit, a boundary which contains design and architecture research and practice. Studio founders Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch (who work with partner Joaquin Bonifaz) seem to ignore these boundaries.
Their experimental creative process is carried with a clear method, and it encompasses natural shapes, fractal geometry, modularity inspired by crystallography, advanced technologies and traditional craftsmanship. The results of this unconventional approach – whether it’s a building or a small object – have helped redefining contemporary design.
Valextra: when did you first realized that there was a profession for architecture?
Benjamin Aranda: as a child, I remember asking my mother how the universe could go on forever. She asked me how I thought it could ever end, and I replied I thought it could be done with a large wall. She then asked me what I thought lied behind that wall. I think in this way, she unwittingly instilled in me the notions of infinity and of architecture.
V: Aranda/Lasch is turning 15. What’s been the most important thing you learned in this time?
A/L: there is an old verse by John Cage which we hung in the studio: “be open to whatever comes next.”
V: tell us about the space where you work.
A/L: we have two offices: one in hectic New York and one in Tucson, in a harsh, quiet location. We like to learn from both these places, the contact is important to us. For example, in New York, we have an espresso machine, which in Tucson we don’t have. But in Arizona, we have space to experiment and play with materials in a way that deeply influences what we do on different scales, from baskets to buildings.
V: when you started your studio, you created the short film called ‘The Brooklyn Pigeon Project’, based on a bird’s point of view on the city. You subsequently designed furniture and installations based on fractal geometry, and more recently, you worked on the largest optical lens in the world (with Marcelo Coelho and Boston’s Formlabs), using an advanced 3D printer. What guides your work?
A/L: we are inspired by the world and its lack of easy solutions. We use design to ask questions. Designing has allowed us to set up a discovery process that opens us up to new ideas, we see where they take us, we are honest about our prejudices. That’s how we establish our dimension.
V: with an office in New York and one in Tucson, what do you think of the current state of architecture in the United States?
A/L: our generation grew up challenging power and being suspicious of TV. We used to think for a while that the web would be the solution, but in the past year, everything seems to have turned against us to take away our hope. We are once again suspicious, there is a lot of tension, and it doesn’t seem like anyone can steer things in the right direction. Our friends are kicked out of the country, oceans are overflowing, it’s a total disaster. But this situation is also inspiring an entire generation of architects to wake up and start working to make things better.
V: you designed buildings, installations, furniture, experimental objects such as the Baskets (which combine Native American craftsmanship with a digital algorithm, a collection which is now part of MoMA). What is the most fun part of your job?
A/L: creating things which can stimulate novel connections for people. The Baskets were created with Native American weavers are a way to get in direct contact with people through materials. These baskets highlight the role of human rituals in design, the deep and lasting culture which lies behind objects and which transcends generations.
Images from Valextra boutique in Bal Harbour Miami.
V: tell us about the new Valextra store in Miami.
A/L: Valextra has deep root in the city of Milan. The details of their products are unequalled for the manufacturing quality. The brand is sophisticated in its understatement but at the same time sensual in its finishing and colours. All of this is very Milanese, and the boutique’s design tells this story through materials. Our concept emphasized the craftsmanship with unexpected lightness. The Italian stone we have used is heavy but suspended on a net. The metal, a mundane industrial material, becomes delicate thanks to small details. The bags perched onto plinths evoke a fluid environment, as if the stone slabs were floating, giving the impression of walking through a quarry. Just like in the craftsmanship of the Valextra product, the simplicity of the details is associated with a strong material impact.
Aranda\Lasch is a New York and Tucson-based design studio established in 2003 by Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch that designs buildings, installations and furniture. Recognition includes the United States Artists Award, Young Architects Award, Design Vanguard Award, AD Innovators, and the Architectural League Emerging Voices Award. They have exhibited internationally in galleries, museums, design fairs and biennials. Their work is part of the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York. See more on www.arandalasch.com