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Space Explorers

(September 2016) posted on Fri Sep 02, 2016

An innovative trio of design firms defy convention with tech, nature and improv skills.

By Oriana Lerner

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Stunning shapes? Check. Too-cool-for-school lighting? Check. How’d-they-do-that cleverness? Check.

So much for the sizzle reel. What makes Built Inc., LAVA and MAPOS LLC true innovators is just as much about the behind-the-scenes process as the final product.

Murphy bed in guest room at New York's Hotel Shocard designed by MAPOS LLS
MAPOS LLC made the most of a tight footprint in New York's Hotel Shocard with a Murphy bed that doubles as an architectural focal point. Photo: Oleg March

For Built Inc. principal John Sofio, that means a personalized strategy for finding clients who “get” why his design-and-build approach works—he’ll bill hourly to make his services more accessible, but he’ll return deposits from clients who won’t give him the autonomy he wants. LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) director Chris Bosse turns digital inspiration on its head by using computerized techniques to echo natural forms. MAPOS co-founder Caleb Mulvena ditches vision boards for psychographics.

Here’s how these firms are shattering expectations.

Super Computers

Techno is totally Bosse’s jam. The director of LAVA’s Sydney office channels pure creativity into real-world spaces with some analytical help. “We use the computer as a partner in the design process in order to test ideas and create a feedback loop where options and alternatives are thrown at us,” Bosse says. Then, he and his team curate those ideas with a Darwinian eye.

This evolutionary twist on a design charrette isn’t the only part of LAVA’s style that’s organic. In fact, replicating, manipulating and reshaping natural forms is one of Bosse’s favorite ways to utilize digital design tools. “Computation allows us, as architects, to simulate natural conditions such as plant growth and the evolution of species,” he says. “It’s not just superficial mimicry but a way of understanding the principles behind nature.”

Don’t ask him how he puts that to work in a typical LAVA project. There is no such thing. The Berlin-, Stuttgart- and Sydney-based firm’s (Tobias Wallisser and Alexander Rieck serve as directors of the German offices) work ranges from “digital origami” in the form of sculptures and emergency shelters, to a mobile library, to planned resorts, to the 9-year-old company’s first restaurant, KYO-TO, in Sydney.

LAVA rendering of Hainan Ocean Flower

The weightless look of LAVA's vision for Hainan Ocean Flower Resort in China (due to open in 2020) blends organic shapes and living greenery. Image: Courtesy of LAVA


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