In 2010 Michelle LaFoe and Isaac Campbell founded OFFICE 52 Architecture, a Portland-based studio practice dedicated to realizing transformative projects with a research-based approach and artistic expression. Our work explores spatial ideas and the innovative application of building materials and fabrication technology to create powerful and poetic spatial experiences reflective of client aspirations and the project brief. We work in multiple media with the versatility to address different scales and scope from masterplan to cottage. We explore ideas with collaborative inquiry and build mock-up models to test those ideas. And we develop a strong vision with meaningful concepts at the outset of each project while simultaneously thinking about construction, simplicity of detail, and the pragmatic realities of each location for an unique design with an economy of means. We achieve this with a rigorous process of exploration, research and rethinking of basic preconceived concepts for new spatial, programmatic and fabrication models. Profound attention to climate change, use of natural light, and the connection between people, place and the surrounding landscape is built into each of our projects small and large. In 2011 our studio won an invited national competition to design Scott Hall, the new 81.5 million, 109,000 sq. ft. Nano-Bio-Energy Technologies Building for the prestigious College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Construction of our innovative design and pioneering vision for the site was complete in late 2016.
For us architecture is about looking and seeing and listening and thinking and sketching and building and experiencing the space. It’s about how forms and planes interact with natural light and the pastoral or urban landscape, and about the transformative power of materials and how to use them in new and different ways. Since we aim for the most ecologically sound approach to the resources that we claim for design and construction, we research the materials and fabrication methods we use. While implementing a performance-based design process, we focus on the relationship between design ideas and how they are executed, with the versatility of combining detailed hand work with cutting-edge, building-scale fabrication processes that lets us reconsider what architecture can be. As such, we are interested in the inter-relationship between science, art, architecture, technology and design.
We have been invited to speak nationally about our studio practice and creative design process in which we interweave advanced digital fabrication technologies with traditional techniques, such as printmaking on monolithic glass, in our design work and exploration of space and materials. Last year at the College Art Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Michelle talked about the inherently transformative nature of dichroic glass and ceramic glass frit combined with innovative glass fabrication techniques that incorporated approaches from studio art, science, technology and architecture as a means to push the conceptual limits of glass as a material such as in our recently completed design for Scott Hall, the new Nano-Bio-Energy Technologies building at Carnegie Mellon University. Recent publication LINK.
OFFICE 52 Architecture is a certified Emerging Small Business (ESB).
Top photo by Christian Colombres.