Gage / Clemenceau Architects
I really love the work and creative vision of
A little bit about your background and how you started?
We both had incredibly classical educations, architecturally and otherwise, at the University of Notre Dame, where we met. From there we came to New York and, not surprisingly, worked as firms that specialized in doing very high end classical architectural work. After a few years of this we both had, to some degree, lost interest in the nuances of that language and decided to move into new territories. For us, those territories were digital technologies, robotics and, for lack of a better description, returning some flavor to the blandness of the contemporary architectural landscape.
Challenges of starting your own business?
Getting work. I wish it’ wasn’t that way, but young architects, especially in the States, struggle immensely when compared to, say, our European counterparts, who are much likelier to be given small commissions by government and other agencies. Here, if we want to go after a small library in New York City, just a branch library, then the “request for qualifications” asks us to , for example, to submit examples of 10 libraries which you have already completed.” It’s impossible to get your first library, if every potential library client wants to see your last 10 libraries. It’s the chicken and the egg thing, and am hard to make an omelet when you’re a young office.
Your inspirations and why?
Design culture. There have been a few unbelievable periods for design in the last 2000 years, the early 15th century was one, with the Renaissance, the late 19th century was one with the industrial revolution, and we are currently living in one with the use of computers in design. Every industry is capitalizing on this—from shoe design, to cars, to fashion and graphic design. Architects are pretty late to the game as a whole, so we look a lot of what’s going on in other industries. For instance, I had dinner a little while ago with Chris Bangle, the head of design for BMW, and the discussion we had about surfaces sparked our design for the Estonian Academy of the Arts.
Favorite projects you have worked on and why?
Our projects are like children. They’re all fantastic, naturally. Seriously though, we don’t accept any projects we don’t want to work on. It’s important to protect your design integrity and hone the skills you want to hone. Some of the project I think have come out best are our schemes for the Stockholm Public Library, our entry for the Museum of Modern’s Art’s PS1 canopy (which we were a finalist for), and our Estonian Academy of the Arts project. We’ve also done some amazing residences that I’m in love with.
Dream projects and why?
Airport/ Spaceport for Virgin Galactic. If people are going to start having tourist trips into space, which is already starting, it’s going to demand a whole new set of questions and problems for architecture. Either that or a new White House since the current one’s been irreconcilably tainted..
Favorite websites and brief reasons why?
I don’t look at websites regularly, I prefer to get out and see the real versions of things. Serra from our office though is like a cool website bloodhound. I’m always peeking over her shoulder at websites like core77.com and betterlivingthroughdesign.com. Naturally gageclemenceau.com is a big winner too. Its funny, we designed our own website having never don’t that type of work before and we’ve won a lot of awards and press for it. Perhaps we should change industries.
Favorite neighborhood in NY?
The Lower East Side. Our office is here and I live here. It’s the perfect combination of density, diversity, and design culture. Although it’s getting a bit to big for it’s britches. It was a little lower key 5-6 years ago. We have a storefront office at 131 Norfolk street, and last week Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle were all spotted within 20 feet of our front door… Unfortunately none of them walked in to have us do their homes…
Up and coming exhibitions?
We’re showing work at the Architectural League of New York through early August, and at Artists Space in Soho starting in September.
What is “Performance Aesthetics” about?
I’m on the faculty at Yale and teach courses on design and aesthetics. This book, with Princeton Architectural Press, is going to be a look through both historical and contemporary theory to see what concepts actually had an impact on what was produced in a few periods. When did conceptual ideas actually impact, or perform, in the physical world. I’m particularly interested in contemporary theories of Beauty, what it is, how it’s produced, what effects it had on individuals and culture--- this is my area of expertise academically and in our practice, so the book with track this line of thinking backwards from today.
I believe you are involved in many art non profit organizations in NY, what are some of the best projects you have been a part of and why?
The only support young architects have in the city is organizations like the American Institute for Architecture’s Center for Architecture, the Architecture League of New York, and museums like MoMA. So we do a lot with organizations like that—for exhibitions, shows, awards showcases etc. We’ve won awards, or been finalists for most of these organizations though, so we’re making a transition, I think, from being a young office that relies on this type of support, to a more self-supporting firm, flush with projects…
Anything else you would like to mention?
I should mention that there are 11 people in the office, and we couldn’t do any of this without them. 12 if you count my English retriever, Truman, who also pitches in from time to time.