De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop- Yew Dell Botanical Gardens Visitor Center

Architype Dialogue presents

Roberto de Leon and Ross Primmer

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

Two challenges influenced the project:
1) A 5 month time line to go from concept to end of construction in order to open for a major public event, and 2) A fixed, modest construction budget from a single donor’s one-time gift. These factors required a resourcefulness & disciplined thrift in establishing clarity in the design strategy, the production of drawings, and the coordination with the contractor.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

We focus on not-for-profit cultural and civic organizations who are typically comprised of a diverse board of volunteers. Within this context, we feel our role as architects is more about stewardship – we constantly strive to guide and amplify the value of their efforts within the community. This responsibility requires that we become equally invested their goals and aspirations. More and more frequently we see ourselves as helping ensure the original intent of the project remains clear and concise as board members rotate on and off the board.

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

Strategies of re-use and re-purposing come into play in many of our projects. Originally, the client had envisioned a completely new construction, but in collaborative discussions we were collectively able to envision transforming an existing tobacco barn and create new potentials. For our Workshop, inventiveness is not necessarily about implementing emerging or ‘trending’ technology – we believe the framework for creativity lies within the complexity of project constraints and perceived limitations. The possibilities for invention & creativity arise from establishing a clear design rigor where simplicity and practicality govern.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

We are more driven by understanding & developing our design process in relation to our clients than by emerging technology or current ideological trends within academia. We feel there is often a disconnect in how architects & clients communicate, and our efforts focus on trying to bridge this divide. Through the vehicle of collaborative workshops, we simply listen and hear our clients clearly. It’s assumed to be a given in practice but is an often overlooked aspect in our architectural education.

Architype Review thanks Roberto de Leon and Ross Primmer for their interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.

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