WRNS Studio’s New Senior Associate and Associates on leadership, studio culture, and architecture right now.
Our new Senior Associate and Associates share their thoughts on architecture right now, returning to the studio, and what makes a good leader.
What does it mean to you that WRNS Studio’s work is defined by beauty, sustainability, and a positive contribution to the public realm?
Alonso Alvarado: To me it means being able to genuinely connect with the places we work on and to build great environments for the people that will occupy them. Having sustainability at the core of what we do roots our work in purpose and provides a roadmap for how we can better engage with our environment.
Chad Garrety: The built environment has an immense impact on our planet and society. The goal of our work is to realize buildings and spaces that improve quality of life—not only for those who inhabit those spaces but also for those who pass by or live nearby—while minimizing the impact to the natural environment. When we design, we try to think from as many perspectives as possible. How can we design a streetscape to promote community and wellness? How can we design an apartment home to offer maximum health, comfort, and flexibility? How can we design every aspect of an environment to provide universal access and use—from the circulation through a site to the operation of a door handle? How can we design to eliminate excess in order to reduce carbon footprint and preserve resources for the things that matter? Finding the best solutions to the complex and often competing challenges of building “good” buildings happens through many long conversations among diverse participants, continuous iteration, and a rejection of “how it is” for the aspiration of “what could be.”
Celso Rojas: It is imperative to work with a studio whose ethos aligns with your own. Sustainability has become so rooted in work that it is simply part of our process—good design should be sustainable. Designing for the public realm indicates that we are committed to creating a built environment that works for the community at-large in addition to servicing our clients. Designing beautiful architecture is perhaps the most subjective and most difficult to define, yet, we strive for it everyday—beautiful architecture should appeal to our human senses and at its best should increase our quality of life.
What are you most looking forward to once we’re back in the studio?
Ashish Kulkarni: I look forward to being connected to the entire studio. I realized that working remotely is efficient for individual tasks but working in a studio amplifies the enthusiastic vibe of collaborating together.
Julie Mithun: I look forward to seeing all the wonderful people that make up our studio on a more regular basis and feeling that energy from being together again. While we’ve all maintained very close relationships within our project teams over the last few years, it will be refreshing to interact with all the other individuals, teams, and pinned-up design studies throughout the studio. Going back to our studio, our home, will also connect us more closely with our city and its zeitgeist.
Alonso Alvarado: I’m excited to have more impromptu interactions with the folks I work with. You learn so much from being around others and picking up on the nuances that are difficult to replicate when only working in front of a computer screen.
What do you think makes a good leader?
Keith Chung: A good leader is one that can guide by example. One who listens and values the opinion of others. Showing positive reinforcement and appreciation to others. Having qualities such as confidence, positive attitude, communication, accountability, integrity, and the ability to inspire will lead to respect by their peers. Once their respect is earned, they will become a good leader.
Andrew Reynolds: A good leader is a good listener. It is important to know what inspires each individual on your team to learn and grow. A leader will provide the foundational tools, knowledge, skills, and most importantly, space to promote personal development. Allowing space to explore work that is engaging to the individual and beneficial to the whole helps promote a rewarding work-life that profits everyone.
What are you excited about in architecture right now?
Spencer Bates: I’m excited about housing! Across the country we are witnessing unprecedented housing shortages and our profession is poised to tackle this issue head on. From creative financing structures, building modularity, and passive designs, to reimagining what a contemporary dwelling consists of, housing is fertile ground for the advancement of innovative solutions to a pressing need.
Ashish Kulkarni: We all agree that the pandemic changed how we work and collaborate. Taking this cue, I am curious to see future workplace solutions offer flexible work environments and provide activity-based settings which recognize that different types of work activities need different spaces.
Alonso Alvarado: Building science is an area that has been catching my attention. Buildings not only need to be beautiful but should ideally perform well for the long term health of occupants and the longevity of the buildings we build.
What inspirations outside of architecture do you integrate into our work?
Heloisa Botelho: Architects are innate problem solvers in that they use every opportunity to find new ways to get innovative results by incorporating ideas outside of architecture; such as converting air into fuel, using field plantation patterns as wall textures, and others. Inspiration and creativity are linked to curiosity which is essential to an exploring mind. When we are inspired, our eyes are opened to new discoveries that encourage us to seek out new experiences and relationships. And these inspirations are the ideas and tools that we need to implement in every project.
Christopher Brown: A new style of storytelling—derived from social media practices that prolong engagement—condenses information into digestible and visually impactful graphics. We must harness this inclination for dynamic, narrative-driven visuals to advance our concepts and designs that positively impact our community’s wellbeing.
Jeffrey Fiftal: Lived experiences through my senses and emotions affect my work and teamwork every day. What I sense in the world around me feeds and affects my personal perspective greatly, informing opportunities to improve my design and development work through intuition and varied viewpoints. Either through intense weather in the alpine environment or while harnessing the wind to sail, I am reminded of how small we all are on this planet and what little control we have as individuals. At times these sensory experiences are intense and profound while at others I wish I could turn them off like a switch. But because I cannot, I embrace who I am and allow these gifts to inform my work with my teammates in a positive manner. It is through thoughtful teamwork grounded by a desire for genuine relationships and design solutions specific to place that will improve the quality of life for the end user. I experience and feel all the small things in our world around me. Because of this, I want to work to change our world, one small interaction at a time. Don’t be surprised if I’m transfixed by the sunset if we’re working late together.