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Privacy & Cookies Policy
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The tongues.cc website is operated by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (‘TONGUES’).
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Alessandro Orsini & Nick Roseboro

September 30 / 2021

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Architensions is an architectural design studio operating as an agency of research, led by Alessandro Orsini and Nick Roseboro, and based in New York City and Rome. The studio works at the intersection of theory, practice, and academia, focusing on architecture as a network condition in continuous dialogue with the political and social context, and aiming at creating new possibilities for the contemporary city. The studio seeks to define fields of actions for the built environment that reconnect urbanism and architecture, through projects that aspire to challenge the paradigm of architecture as a financial tool.

 

Q >How does your approach to design differ from each other, and in what ways are they similar?

AO >  I think our design approach is about process. Personally, I usually start from a theoretical or historical reference, or a topic that I’m interested in researching through the design lens. We usually come together discussing tectonics or geometry; these are things highly debated in our office.

NR >  Process is key; I am very interested in the iterative process of our conceptual development and technical stages of the project. The analysis of these outcomes, whether dealing with failed or undesired results, are some of the best learning tools to explore within our design ethos. It is the unexpected that makes for great projects.

Q >You’ve been working together as Architensions since 2013. How did this partnership come about, and what has been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on together?

AO >  I was working on two editorial projects; Nick came on as a graphic design consultant. On that occasion we started to spend time discussing design, projects, the city, and eventually decided to embark on a design competition. That was the beginning of 2013. A rewarding project is the practice itself; it requires focus and rigour to develop the research and projects we want and are proud to work on.

NR >  In 2016, we published a book, Forma Urbana, finished two projects, Blurring Boxes and Aesop World Trade Center, created an exhibition titled Fifth Dimensional Cities, and completed a solid number of design competitions. It was a busy time and established how we work together from the conceptual to the design and the construction processes.

Q >Describe your collaborative process.

AO >  I get very excited in the early conception of the project; I’m a designer at heart. I’m interested in how our projects contribute towards the architecture discourse. I ask myself what I am trying to add to the discourse, what kind of impact the design has on the political and the social, the client, the discipline at large, what story I am trying to tell whether through its geometric expression or materiality. We are both very much involved; Nick, in particular, is really hard on me, his criticism usually stirs the project… for the best.

Q >Tell us about the role that research plays in your practice; what modes of research do you use, and how do these inform your designs?

AO/NR >  Research is crucial to define our mode of practice. On one side we investigate the site, the governmental regulations and data of the place we are operating in. On the other, we explore design solutions that address the data and the brief, including the relationship with the history, context, and vernacular; and the implication of the social realm with architecture. The early design phase for House on House, a residential project in Long Island, for instance, started from its proximity to the first Levittown, a development that is paradigmatic of the relationship between race, inequality and architecture. The first presentation to our client consisted of a taxonomy of roofs, windows, other vernacular elements and construction methods relative to the suburban context. We wanted to confront ourselves with an outcome that was not typical and expected.

Q >In what ways should architecture make cities more liveable?

AO >  Architecture should promote modes of collective living and reject the paradigm of isolation. We need to start sharing more resources, in terms of space, energy, food, for a more equitable urban environment. We must rebuild common goods, through a fair accessibility to housing, education, healthcare, nutrition.

NR >  Architecture should cooperate with other fields of research and practices outside architecture. Adding humanity’s deeper perspective can allow designers to propose projects and interventions carefully conceived for communities and the environment. Being a musician across different genres has given me a unique perspective on how we can approach design in our studio.

Q >The US housing market is experiencing surging house prices amidst a shortage of homes. While clearly a multi-stakeholder approach is required to alleviate this, what role do you think architects (and their work) can play to make housing more equitable and accessible?

AO/NR >  Architects have an ethical responsibility toward the production of the most common architectural typology, which is housing. Especially in large American cities, all housing is related to the speculative production of financial assets, and dominated by the speculative development of luxury apartments, most of the time not even well designed or built. These days architecture generally has very low aspirations in regards to society. Projects generally focus on attractive curtain walls that enclose functional layouts disconnected with new life paradigms, and different types of family structures. Covid-19 taught us that we cannot ask people, especially the most vulnerable ones, to shelter in place to tame a pandemic if people do not have a place to shelter in. We believe that alternative models of ownership and financing should be the basis for a revision of the housing typology. Our Knolls Co-living project in collaboration with Andrew Bruno is an example of housing that is designed to follow a cooperative model of financing. Also, communal spaces are integral to the living units, so it promotes the idea of sharing instead of isolating.

Q >Your work and client list is extremely diverse, from a sublime store interior for Aesop, to an installation at Coachella, to a proposed co-living space in LA — and much more besides. What is it about a brief or project that pulls you in? And, is there something these designs all have in common — a ‘golden thread’ of sorts?

AO >  We like, but also attract clients that respect and cherish our role as designers. Instead of looking at the client’s Pinterest board, we like to establish a conversation. Once we see that our counterpart is willing to embark in a process that is more of a collaboration then we know that the result is something interesting, unexpected, a journey. Our golden thread? Probably our obsession for geometry, rigorously abstracted Euclidean shapes, grids, but also rhythm and proportions.

Q >Beyond architecture, what inspires you — whether in your work or the way you live your lives?

AO >  I guess my life is very much intertwined with what I do; I read [about] and get inspired by design, architecture etc. I also have a passion for music, and I collect vinyl, which is something that helps me contextualise certain historical periods, similarly to movies. I remain very connected with Bassano Romano, the small town in Italy I’m originally from. Certain suggestions of light, materiality, but also social dynamics stem from me growing up there.

NR >  Music has always inspired me in the design process. I think of Miles Davis’s album Sorcerer, which has unique experimental compositions from the band members. This album is a backbone of influence musically. In addition, I enjoy experiencing new places through travelling and rediscovering places through architecture, public space, art, food, and more.

 

Alessandro Orsini received his Master in Architecture and Urban Design summa cum laude at Roma Tre University in Rome and completed post-graduate studies at Columbia University. Orsini teaches at Columbia University GSAPP, and has lectured in Italy at the Casa Dell’Architettura in Rome, the Civic Museum in Siena, and in the US at the Center for Architecture in New York, and Archeworks in Chicago. Parallel to designing, Alessandro has been writing in journals such as Vesper, Studio magazine, and contributed to the book Forma Urbana published by Libria in 2015. 

Nick Roseboro Assoc. AIA, is a New York-based designer and musician with over 14 years of experience through different design disciplines. Following his music studies at The New School, he worked on various editorial and exhibition projects that evolved into his first architectural collaboration with Architensions. He re-founded Architensions with Italian architect Alessandro Orsini in 2013 and helped mark a change in the studio’s foundation. Roseboro’s research revolves around the user interaction centered around the built environment. In Spring 2020, Roseboro joined “Design Advocates,” a network of designers and architects that provide research and design services to non-profits and marginalised communities. His interests in the social aspects of design led to his participation in various symposia and presentations on the studio’s research. Roseboro is the editor and designer of Architensions’ first book Forma Urbana, published in 2015 by Casa Editrice Libria, and presented as a catalogue to the studio’s first solo exhibition, Fifth Dimensional Cities 2016.

 

Images courtesy of © Architensions

Aesop World Trade Center Store, designed by Architensions. Photo Courtesy Aesop

Children’s Playspace, designed by Architensions. Photo by Cameron Blaylock

Knolls Co-Living, designed by Architensions and Andrew Bruno. Model photo courtesy Architensions

Knolls Co-Living, designed by Architensions and Andrew Bruno. Model photo courtesy Architensions

Knolls Co-Living, designed by Architensions and Andrew Bruno. Model photo courtesy Architensions

House on House, designed by Architensions. Model photo courtesy Architensions