Recently, I attended a great evening event: the rooftop film screening of the documentary, Life Architecturally which follow husband and wife team, architect Robert McBride and interior designer Debbie Ryan. Granted an intimate look at their process, projects and team dynamics, we learned a bit about what inspires them and what challenges they face in their practice.
Robert and Debbie offer a modern language of architecture that is both challenging and inspiring. Their buildings are colorful and thoughtful and, to paraphrase Debbie, they attempt to reflect the human spirit, one that is full of life, color, variety and quirks. Another observation that surprised me was how uncomfortable I felt with the lack of symmetry. Especially within the interior living spaces, the placement of furnishings and decorative objects requires a fair bit of planning and speciality. And since we humans often feel safe in familiar, predicable environments, it’s easy to see how this new language of architecture demands a lot of its patrons. I couldn’t help thinking about the Randian hero Howard Roark forging away, trying to establish a new form of expression for the human spirit and how great the resistance he faced was from his peers and potential clients.
Bob and Debbie’s architecture tells a story, hinges on metaphor and engages you in conversation. One of the best scenes of the film was when Debbie’s interior design scheme concepts were met with petrified stares from the condo owner/client group. They responded to her bold suggestions of purples, reds and black pearl schemes with a “safer” beige color palette that they hoped would inspire a reconsideration. She pushed back and was ultimately rewarded by positive public feedback and condo sales!
“In creating the problems, you open yourself up for design.”
If architecture should reflect the human spirit, I’m excited for the future full of buildings that are flexible, colorful, responsive shelters. When a structure invites you into a conversation and gives you a starting point, it’s hard to feel intimidated, even if it’s brightly colored, asymmetrical and skinned in a myriad of materials. I loved the way the team used surfaces and facades as canvases for color, light and materials, especially exhibited in the Grandma’s house.
I love that they challenge themselves to create interesting structures that are not just plan studies with a great concept, but organisms considered from all angles (even google earth!), all surfaces and how they communicate aesthetically.
The top of Art House in Austin is such a glorious setting to be reviewing a film on architecture! As the closing credits played out, we scanned the buildings that enveloped us and dove into critical critique about what Austin might look like in future…