Q+A with Matthew Rosenberg, CEO & Founder of M-Rad Architecture
What originally influenced your decision to pursue a career in architecture?
Ever since I can remember I was intrigued by the complexity of buildings and cities. How could people so small build such large objects? I imagined I could change the way people live in a very big way.
How do you begin your creative process when approaching a new project?
When possible, I find nature. As far from the city as possible so I can take a couple of days and really think about everything but the project. What tends to happen is the more time I spend thinking of the bigger picture life holds, the more clarity I find in design intent and opportunities that are held in each new project.
Do you have a singular approach or philosophy that underscores all your work?
Our design ethos is rooted in the absence of one. We work hard to make sure we are not duplicating designs and that each narrative is built from the location, the immediate environment, and the community and neighborhood that exist there now. We also try to predict what the community might need in the future. The only underlying design approach is to not have one.
Is there a designer or architect from the past that has influenced your work?
Alvar Aalto has always struck me as a simple yet profound designer and communicator. When I started my practice I studied Bjarke Ingels and Snohetta extensively for their business models and media strategy. Without those two facets to the business it will be hard for any architect to survive in the near future.
How do you balance function with aesthetic appeal while embracing new forms of technology and materials?
Bring in young staff as frequently as possible. They continue to amaze me in the way they embrace technology and have an inherent ingenuity. Combine the new with the old and we have a beautiful mix of real architecture.
Do you use physical models or is all your work computer generated visualizations? Does there make a difference?
We have recently started building physical models again after 4 years of pure digital space. It has helped us in our product prototyping and definitely accelerated our design process for our larger scale projects. It is something we will continue to expand and explore in the studio.
Describe your style. Personal or Studio style?
My personal style is bold yet rooted in basics. All black with a floral or polka dot blazer. All white paired with hummingbird pants. I think you see where I’m going. Something to keep people in check and make sure they are questioning themselves and what they perceive to be normal and acceptable. Our studio style is progressive and genuinely unique. We push the design just as hard as we push the business model of architecture. We are at the frontier of style and business.
Since it’s inception, how has M-Rad Architecture evolved? And where do you see it going in the future?
I started this company on my own in my 540 square foot apartment in the middle of Los Angeles where I still live today. We have been in 5 offices – all at critical locations of change including our current building which we recently bought. Our mission has been through many iterations and developments and has never been more clear than it is today. We are here to revolutionize the architecture industry and there is no way to do that without growing a global studio, with multiple locations and hundreds of team members who believe there is a better way to practice architecture and to design our environment.What projects are you currently working on?
We currently have 23 active projects around the world. Some are included below:
HELLO SATURN / 45 units under construction in LA; BURBANK FOREST WALK / 38 units under construction on Burbank Blvd; HOLLYWOOD GREEN CARPET / 33 units + public park under construction on Hollywood Blvd; BIOTECH HOTEL CAMPUS / 680,000 sq. ft. mixed-use campus with 2 hotels & biotech research facilities in S. San Francisco; GOLDEN GATE STUDENT HOUSING / 199 student housing units in San Francisco; FITLER CLUB + HOTEL / 78,000 sq. ft. private members club in Philadelphia opening January 2019 including: 14 hotel rooms, 5 bars, restaurant, 300 pp event space, 50 p theater, co-working, 25,000 soft fitness facility & spa with 75 foot lap pool; BEVERLY ESTATES ZED HOUSE / 10,000 sq. ft. spec residence in Beverly Hills under construction;
GREEN ST ON HILL ST / 68,000 sq. ft. 7 story building in DTLA under construction for cannabis private members club; RING HQ / 62,000 sq. ft. headquarters for Ring (recently purchased by Amazon for $1.2B); DONHILL ESTATE / 22,000 sq. ft. spec residence in Bel Air under construction; EQUINOX HOTEL / Concept for NYC flagship; TAIPEI HOTEL / 186 key Hotel in Taipei; NASHVILLE MIXED USE HOTEL / 350,000 sq. ft. mixed use cowering for music artists; BELLAGIO RESIDENCE / 16,500 sq. ft. spec residence in Bel Air; M-RAD MIXED USE / 650,000 mixed use development; OAKPASS RESIDENCE / 16,000 sq. ft. residence on Oakpass under construction; SUPERMASSIVE HQ / Private members club for cryptocurrency hackers in LA Arts District under construction;
FLAMINGO / 640 acre resort in Joshua Tree
Tell us more about your project with Equinox Hotels. What’s the philosophy behind this project?
We first thought about the worst part of the hotel experience. It’s the hallway. The lobby is typically great. The elevator can even be fun. But when you get up to your floor, that walk from the elevator to your room is a long, monotonous, and dark experience no matter where you go in the world. We wanted to create an experience that is through and through healthy both for the body and the mind. The mind then needs to be treated at every turn. We did this by creating a glass hallway that frames views to the city and connects the hallway to the urban environment. We are connecting the guest to the city by use of framing views and gallery like experiences. When the guests want to be seen they can switch the glass off creating a unique (albeit voyeuristic) experience – an experience very similar to those created in Equinox Clubs.
Each new project seems to check that box for me but ultimately I would love to design a museum or theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (where I grew up) and see if I can bring an even greater sense of culture to the amazing city.
How do you assess the current state of architecture in the United States? Globally?
It’s broken. Architecture is run by a couple global companies that continue to design under the same parameters of which the built their companies. The architect today has limited their scope so much because of legal liabilities and cost overruns that the process of design and construction has become completely inefficient. We must extend our scope so as to assume both ‘pre’ and ‘post’ architecture as well as bring all consultants in-house. We must develop our own properties and projects, provide the architecture and engineering, and finish it off with interior design and product development. This will not only alleviate inefficiencies but will gain back control for the architect to minimize risk and increase revenue through the multiple verticals.
With the world becoming more and more observant of how to minimize the negative environmental impact of building, how is your company aligning with the vision of sustainable architecture?
For a firm to not align and put the boundaries with sustainable in the current state of our industry would not be considered architecture any longer. It’s not something we necessarily highlight but it pushes on every design turn we take. From the way we design a multi family apartment building with terraces to how we educate its residents on how to grow with vertical gardens on their decks. It’s a holistic approach that begins before start designing and never really ends.