Despite boasting only two years of existence, Boston-based design studio After Architecture has taken on a range of projects so wide, its oeuvre is hard to categorize.
"We're interested in engaging with the human scale," says Katie MacDonald, 24, who met co-founder Kyle Schumann, also 24, while getting architecture degrees at Cornell University. "Our work tends to promote the participation of the public, and result in a product that is practical, comfortable and durable."
After setting up their studio in 2012, the duo began designing furniture and small-scale installations, such as temporary pavilions and urban seating, many of which they built themselves.
"There's a whole different aspect to design when you have to actually build it," says Schumann. "That experience, and seeing close up how it engages with the human body, was valuable for us. We're moving up in scale now, into buildings and larger public art installations, but it's definitely the lessons you learn on a smaller scale that carry through into larger projects."
But don't expect Foster-sized gestures from these two anytime soon. As you can see below, their work to date is approachable.
After Architecture's small, low-impact cabin on the campus of a sustainable forestry non-profit in Canada won both this year's AIA Los Angeles Next LA Honor Award and the Community Forests International Judge's Award for Architectural Poetry.
The studio often looks to vernacular precedents and regional building traditions—many of which, says MacDonald, are practical and "human scale."
In this case, they took the traditional backwoods cabin, distilled it down to a set of elements—chimney, façade, cladding, porch, and stack of firewood—and rearranged those elements. The horizontal layering of the timber contrasts with the surrounding trees, and inside, it's stacked vertically, with two lofted beds above an intimate fireside space.
This low-budget plan for a Miami pavilion uses just a frame and fabric to create smaller spaces within the courtyard of Philip Johnson's monumental Miami Cultural Center. Surrounded by large arcades, the courtyard itself is raises from the city—"a rather isolated space that has a large, almost inhuman scale," says Schumann. "Everything is very large and there are lots of hard surfaces, which makes it difficult to interact with."
Echoing the existing architectural motifs—the grid of the courtyard and its surrounding colonnades—the pavilion features a series of arches that leads to three small internal courtyards, each defined by a single color and lined with benches to encourage chance meetings and social interaction.
"It's not so much about manipulating forms as it is about interacting with a specific space, and experiencing its light, colors and textures," says MacDonald. "Even when we're thinking about [a project] as an urban gesture, it's still very much about the participants."
A project on the Cornell University campus at Ithaca that doubles as exterior installation and public seating, Lightwave is a bench formed from a grid of 264 square, painted timber rods that create a wave-like seating—or climbing, lounging, or lying—surface.
The spaces between the rods allow light through and create a sense of permeability. The structure is cantilevered off the ground at the exact point at which the 'wave' crests, making it look as if the timber is floating in midair.
More projects, below:
↑ Drip was designed for a 2013 warming hut competition. According to the project brief, it "pulls color into Winnipeg's grayscale winter terrain, transforming the site's snow and ice into a spectacle of light, color, and transparency."
↑ Seatscape, designed for the Portland Design Festival, is meant to address "all the dynamism of the human form," addressing the needs of the person who works on his computer, the person who lounges with some wine, the person who meditates, and others.
↑ Crater was a finalist for a Finnish Aurora Borealis Arctic Observatory competition. It's meant to "magnify the grandeur of the cosmos."