Next Progressives: First Office
By Katharine Keane
29 November 2017
Photo courtesy of First Offic
College of Environmental Design Assistant Professor of Architecture Andrew Atwood and his firm, First Office, was recently profiled in Architect Magazine’s “Next Progressives” feature his latest work. First Office, led by Atwood and co-founder Anna Neimark and founded in 2011, received its unique name as it is “meant to be our first office—and not our last.”
Over the years, the firm has worked on numerous high-profile projects. Notably, First Office collaborated on the headquarters for mobile pinboard application, Pinterest.
Read the Q&A between First Office and Architect Magazine below.
Experience: We both worked for firms before founding First Office. Those firms include OMA, MOS Architects, and Belzberg Architects. Currently Anna teaches at Southern California Institute of Architecture and Andrew teaches at University of California, Berkeley.
How founders met: We were in the same class in grad school but we became friends (and eventually business partners) when we both found ourselves in Los Angeles.
Mission: To bring architecture (and sometimes art) into a closer, more meaningful relationship with a—or the—public.
First commission: Pinterest HQ, with All of the Above and executive architect Schwartz and Architecture.
Favorite project: Shotgun House was a rehabilitation proposal for a vernacular building type to accommodate a workshop and gallery for an artist in one very small house. We proposed an enfilade plan with eight rooms separated only by doors set into double-frames. As a door closed one room, it inadvertently opened another. This conundrum offered endless possibilities for molding that folded in and out of every corner of the door jamb.
Second favorite project: Completed this year, Studio for Art is our first built work that exemplifies how abstract ideas about materials and material interactions in models and installation works can translate to a building scale. We especially enjoyed working on the cladding finish, flashing details, and the gutters.
Architecture hero: Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA, who taught in Los Angeles in the 1960s and described the city as “even” and “open-ended.” We take similar pleasure in the everyday and the banal. We also appreciate the early built work of Frank Gehry, FAIA, that’s sprinkled throughout the city. Projects such as the Frances Howard Goldwyn, Hollywood Regional Library, and the Wells Fargo bank in Toluca Lake offer a sort of non-monumentality or art presence in the city with their blank façades and deadpan details.
Modern-day architecture hero: Our students: they are f-ing amazing, smart, talented, and hard-working.
Special items in your studio space: Additional electrical outlets, extension cords, and surge protectors. And a Staubli robotic arm.
Design tool of choice: Foamcore. And a Staubli robotic arm.
Design aggravation: The use of the word “arbitrary” as a negative judgment.
Memorable learning experience: Check your line weights and line types. In a recent project we did not select the proper line weight and line type for the centerline on a foundation plan and the line was built as a contraction joint in the (exposed) concrete slab of the building.
When we’re not working in architecture, we: Go to the beach or climb mountains. We like to be outside when we aren’t working or teaching.
The best advice you have ever gotten: First, never be too specific. Second, surround yourself with smart people. We are sometimes bad at the first one.