Architype Dialogue presents
James Lord – Surface Design
With this particular landscape architecture project, what was the most difficult issue your firm faced or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought and unique approaches in the project?
The critical factors in this project were the budget and timing. The architect pleaded to bring on a landscape architect and at the very last minute, Surfacedesign Inc. and Harari Arquitectos were selected. Having a landscape architect on a project is not the status quo in Mexico, and therefore our budget was extremely minimal. As a result of this, our design strategy became archeological in nature- we reused and repurposed everything found onsite. When the contractor came across something in excavation, we would figure out a way to reprogram it and incorporate it into the design. Consequently, this landscape is literally composed of its history.
In general, do you feel that the role of the landscape architect is changing on similar building types? Did this project expand or evolve your role as a landscape architect in any way?
Landscape architects are now maximizing their abilities to think about how larger systems of ecology and culture can coalesce to form a new perception of the built environment, and this project was no exception. In Mexico there are very few landscape architects, and therefore in collaborating with Harari Arquitectos our role fluctuated and evolved as the project took shape and form.
How is your installation or project possible today in a way that it may not have been in the past, and how have current trends or thoughts in landscape architecture inspired new creative solutions?
At the Museum of Steel we created the largest green roof in Latin America and treated all the storm water onsite using rain gardens. Convincing clients to invest in green technology and landscape features that have ecological functionality was, even a few years ago, much more difficult. As new projects that stress sustainability are constructed, we as designers now have a wide range of precedents available to us upon which we can reference and make a case to clients to invest in design that is both environmentally sensitive and visually engaging.
In the context of this project, how is your office and your design process being influenced by current thoughts in academic curricula? In turn, are your current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
The project represents a moment in our practice when the development of projects (design/collaboration/construction) is not didactic or specifically aligned with a particular academic discourse. Our work is conceptual in nature – rooted in the site and programmatic requirements of project. The design of this project reflects, on a basic level, an ongoing engagement with modernism – to the extent that materials throughout the project are expressed in a transparent manner. Our practice, not being directly aligned with a particular institution, embraces the opportunity for a diversity of influences – in theory and form. This approach, to us, describes this cultural moment – rapidly changing and not easy to capture under a specific umbrella of theory.
Architype Review thanks James Lord for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.