Back in 2006, I had a series of email conversations with Eric Bunge, of nARCHITECTS a New York practice he runs with Mimi Hoang, for an interview series to be posted on this blog
mad: What motivated the start of nARCHITECTS?
Eric Bunge: We founded nARCHITECTS in 1999 in New York, and pretty much starting teaching at the same time. We had worked independently on various projects as far back as 1990, and together since 1995, moonlighting while working at other offices. Perhaps our choice of a name might reveal some of our early intentions: we chose the small letter 'n' as a sort of unstable symbol - one that can acquire any value, as with the integer in mathematics. On one level this choice is a reflection on naming itself - any name - even partners' last names - begins to acquire associations with the work. At another level we were interested in producing dynamic, flexible work - architecture that will somehow change.
mad: nARCHITECTS appears to be unconventional architectural studio, in the traditional sense, by the work you are involved with. What has allowed the practice to transcend between building, landscape, sculpture and structure?
EB: I can see how one would perceive our work in those terms - yet we don't see ourselves as artists or landscape architects - we have great respect for these disciplines, and think that beyond training and temperament, what distinguishes our work from these is our approach, methods, and ultimate goals.
We - maybe by default - see it all as architecture, or trying to approach architecture. The commissions we gravitate towards are ones that we can have built (like Switch Building), even it sometimes means building them ourselves (as with P.S.1, Windshape, and Party Wall). At this point in our career, the opportunities for building are spread across what might seem like various disciplines. But our goal is to design buildings - much of what we do is a laboratory in which we develop ideas towards that end. This is one reason we boycott ideas competitions, or steer away from projects that have a small chance of being built.
mad: Do you find creative constraints in transcending these conventional "architectural" forms?
EB: Yes. The most important step for us in every project is the definition of the design problem, which involves deciding who the Users are (what is their identity?), what the Site is (what aspects of a site do we respond to?), and ultimately therefore, what are the creative constraints.
mad: Has having such success in creating installations branded nARCHITECTS as a practice less interested in materializing traditional work, despite the desire to do so? Is this a big challege for the practice?
EB: I wonder if you could rephrase these questions, we have built what one might call traditional work, not necessarily less than our peers (~ 10 residential projects so far). The latest is a 7 storey residential + art gallery building at 109 Norfolk, almost complete. We also will be building a 100 acre streetscape project in Buffalo, now in schematic design.
mad: Mathematically, 'n' - speaks as more than an unknown but also includes the exponential increase, becoming rapidly greater in size; has nARCHITECTS sufficiently evolved to be more than a part-time effort? Is that the aim of the practice or to remain a creative outlet?
EB: not sure what you mean by " a part-time effort"; we have been a full service, full time architectural practice since 1999.
the interview ended on a sore note, and after a few missed telephone calls the conversation ceased with the exception of a congratulatory for architechnophilia being featured in the summer issue of MARK
here's another interview with nARCHITECTS