AR_EA USA: De Leon & Primmer
Who are you?
We are a collaborative design studio comprised of individuals who share an interest in the potential of materials, building techniques, and the relationships between program and site.
Where are you based?
We are based in Louisville, Kentucky. None of our core staff is from the area – it is our ‘adopted home city’. Because of that, no matter where our projects are located, we are able to immerse ourselves quickly in the nuances of a place and context while maintaining a broader perspective.
Where do you come from?
Roberto was born in the Philippines and raised in San Francisco, California. Ross is from a small town in Southeast Ohio.
Why did you become architects?
Roberto: I appreciate the fact that architecture is a creative endeavor that is more about balancing complex resolutions and assessing ambiguities rather than arriving at clear-cut answers
Ross: I’ve always been drawn to craft and making. And my parents wouldn’t allow me to major in Fine Arts.
What kind of work do you do?
Our work experience spans a wide range of project types, but we focus on public projects with a cultural, civic, or not-for-profit basis.
What is it like being an architect where you are?
We find it’s relatively easy to realize projects in our region as long as we bring to the design process a sense of inclusion and consensus-building. There’s not a huge bureaucracy surrounding the minutia of life here. For the most part, our clients tend to embrace our ‘innovation = economy’ approach and encourage us to push boundaries.
What is the context (social, political, architectural) in which you are working?
That’s a rather complicated question, but it’s always predicated on where the project is located and on what the particular circumstances are that make the project become a necessity for the client.
What inspires you these days?
Roberto: Simplicity and frugality
Ross: The Shakers and the Vanderbilt’s.
What project are you most proud of and why?
We are proud of each of our projects, regardless of scale or budget. Each informs the next in unexpected ways.
What is unique about your work?
We believe our work captures a very specific sensibility about site, place and cultural context through the ways that we interpret both common & unorthodox building materials and modes of construction, and through the ways that we approach a project’s program to become ‘more than the sum of it’s parts’. There is a complexity that results from rigor and restraint.
What is your favourite building material or building technique?
(See also response to previous question) We are always drawn to common or ordinary materials and traditional/regional building techniques. We enjoy discovering and exploring unexpected aspects of ‘objects on hand’.
How do you get ideas?
In addition to exploring the potential of regionally-inspired methods of craft and ‘making’, our ideas are inevitably grounded in the nuances of site, place and cultural context.
What are your favourite design tools (models, hand drawing, digital 3D modeling, SketchUp, etc.)?
As a collective, our studio tends to use any and every design tool that allows us to explore and communicate ideas. These include hand drawing, building scale models & full-scale mockups, experimenting with digital software, and collaborating directly with fabricators & clients. It is quite typical for us to put up a tent and have design charrettes on the project site.
What would be your ideal project?
A perfectly proportioned, exquisitely detailed box.
Where do you hope to go from here?
As our body of work continues to expand geographically, we are keenly interested in exploring how our design process can continue to be immersive, adaptive and remain open-ended to new contexts.
What do you want to be remembered for?
That quality design is accessible, that it’s never too late to save an existing building and that in the end we can’t take ourselves too seriously - it’s just architecture.