July 23, 2014

The Art of Client Collaboration in 5 Global Residences

The art of collaboration between a client and an architecture or design firm can be a tricky one. On the one hand, if all parties involved have similar likes and ideas, the project can be an exciting time filled with brain storming sessions and site visits. But when everyone agrees to disagree, that’s when things can get a bit tricky. We talked to several architects and designers, as well as their respective clients, to get the inside scoop on residential projects that involved close collaboration. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Firm: Whipple Russell Architects

Client: Ron Rothstein

Project: Wallace Ridge, Beverly Hills, California

Architect Marc Whipple says: “The design of a home always flows from the lives of my clients. Having known these clients a long time, it was interesting to see their tastes evolve. They started out traditional and seven projects later they’re enjoying a modern house with an open floor plan.”

Client Ron Rothstein says: “This is our seventh home designed by Marc. By collaborating with him, we were able to get things done quickly and correctly because of his ability to respond to my questions in a timely fashion and effortlessly explain things in a way that was easy for me to understand.”

2. Firm: Studio MK27

Client: Helena Motta

Project: Casa Redux, São Paulo, Brazil

Architect Marcio Kogan says: “The house structure is fairly sophisticated in order to maintain the lightness of the slab. There was a radical budget cut in the final stages of work—which I think is pretty normal in the life of the architect and the client too—but we all survived well.”

Client Helena Motta says: “This was the second project the studio developed for us on this plot of land. In 2007, we went to them with something larger and more complex. The studio presented us with a beautiful and audacious project, which we loved, and we began its development. However, with the [financial] crisis of 2008, we decided not to invest our money in the house and stopped the project. But we never gave up on having a country house. Two years later, the opportunity to buy a built house emerged. In the midst of negotiations, my husband commented that he would rather invest our money in a house on our old plot than buy one that had nothing to do with our dreams. We went back to the studio and commissioned a house that was smaller, more compact and more appropriate to our current reality. The architect captured the idea perfectly.”

3. Firm: Ibarra Rosano Design Architects

Client: Mary Levin

Project: Levin House, Tucson, Arizona

Architect Teresa Rosano says: “The client came to us with a 3-inch binder filled with magazine clippings she had been collecting over the years. We went though them together and discussed what she liked about each one. One thing our firm does really well is engage with a site. We decided to create a metal cube that helps frame the views of both the city and the surrounding desert. The views can be a bit overwhelming, so the cube frames them like a picture, so that you can really notice and appreciate them.”   

Client Mary Levin says: “I was involved from the very beginning. I know that a lot of architects want to do what they want to do, and don’t want to change, but we worked together and liked each other’s ideas. If you know what you like, it’s nice to have architects that listen to you. They put up with me; it’s good to have architects that are user friendly. I think we both got what we wanted.”

4. Firm: Cecconi Simone

Client: Stephen Miller

Project: Yorkville Penthouse II, Toronto, Canada

Designer Elaine Cecconi says: “We worked together on the client’s original home, so we had familiarity and a sort of shorthand we could use. Their artwork was a big element in this residence. We created special lighting and made sure it worked well with the artwork. We also commissioned a sculptural piece made of metal and porcelain ‘lily pads’ by a local designer that’s both organic and fluid. The space is very crisp, linear, and orderly, so we commissioned a piece that would be more lyrical and musical.”

Client Stephen Miller says: “I work in the condo business, so we’ve known each other for 20 years. We have similar tastes to start with, and both like clean lines and modern design that’s also comfortable. My wife and I have attended Art Basel with Elaine in the past and we discovered a piece of art by a Los Angeles-based graffiti artist that we all loved. As soon as we saw it, we all knew what room it should hang in and the exact wall. Between the three of us, we didn’t have any disagreements.” 

5. Firm: Joe Ginsberg Design

Client: Sam and Alisa Boymelgreen

Project: Urban Brooklyn Loft, Brooklyn, New York

Designer Joe Ginsberg says: “When I first entered the space it was part of a new construction and raw. I began by creating the hero elements that would give it immediate character, including poured-resin doors and a hand-carved wooden bookshelf. The reason for the resin is because there’s minimal light going through the corridors. Alisa suggested that we embed steel strips into the doors to mimic the alphabet, creating a kind of hieroglyphic that’s also quite geographic. It’s always interesting how things can transform during a project. Midway through the couple found out that they were having a baby, so they commissioned me to create a painting on canvas called ‘Haven’ inspired by books and UFOs for their daughter’s bedroom.”   

Client Sam Boymelgreen says: “My wife and I have grown so much creatively, and through Joe we were able to truly express ourselves artistically in our home. Joe is an incredibly talented artist, painter and sculptor. For Joe, our apartment walls were oversized canvases—great 14-foot-tall backdrops for him to paint on—and paint he did. He also sculpted our bookshelves, doors, knobs, moldings, heater covers, and furniture. All this he did while in our apartment, so we were there most of the time and could discuss what the next piece should look like. Because we collaborated so closely with Joe, he was able to create a beautiful home that truly feels like an expression of us.”

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