‘My favourite material so far is pigeon spikes’
Who are you?
Where are you based?
Where do you come from?
Derry, Northern Ireland. I studied at the Manchester School of Architecture in England. I came to the US in 2004 to do a Masters at Princeton. After that I worked at Eisenman Architects, taught at the Cooper Union and set up CODA in 2008.
Why did you become an architect?
I grew up on a street that was constantly under construction and played in excavations, foundations and half-built houses. I saw the world as being always in flux through architecture.
What kind of work do you do?
Experimental work that often uses (or mis-uses) everyday materials. We used skateboard offcuts in Party Wall, but we’ve also used plastic chairs, barbecue wood and pigeon spikes. We’re interested in how misusing objects can make us rethink our preconceptions. We won a first and a second prize in Europan 11 and 10 respectively by deploying this kind of thinking at an urban scale. Counterspace, Dublin, and Urban Punc, Leisnig, Germany, both look at local vernaculars but manipulate them to engage with the environment.
What is it like being an architect where you are?
CODA is in Ithaca because I teach at Cornell. It’s difficult for young architects in the US. While there are a few young architects prizes and pavilion-type competitions, it’s hard to get bigger commissions without having done something similar before.
What is the context (social, political, architectural) in which you are working?
Academic, but that does not mean that it’s hypothetical. We are interested in making things and seeing how they are interacted with.
What inspires you these days?
I often reread: James Gibson’s Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, Colin Rowe’s Collage City and Greg Lynn’s Folds, Bodies & Blobs. Recently I read Tim Morton’s Hyperobjects.
What project are you most proud of?
Party Wall. It addresses ideas of context and material important to us, and was done with major budget and time constraints.
What is your favourite building material or technique?
We like to use everyday objects in new ways. My favourite material so far is pigeon spikes. Goosebumps is a design that twists the horizontal pigeon-spike surface into a vertical relationship with the human body.