For architect Kevin Greenberg, tension is a good thing. Founder of Brooklyn-based studio, Space Exploration, Kevin seeks to create spaces that resonate with subtle harmony. The firm’s projects are driven by a love of simplicity, nuance, craftsmanship, and the integrity of beautiful materials expressed through construction. While administering a great reverence for history, Kevin seamlessly incorporates modern and contemporary finishes, juxtaposing a beautifully balanced space. With an open and transparent dialogue between the design team and their clients, Space Exploration has built some of the most highly articulated projects while preserving historic principles.
Thank you Kevin for spending some time with us. Tell us about Space Exploration Design. What is unique to your studio?
Space Exploration is an award-winning, integrated architectural and interior design studio, and so is their work by using tension in an unfathomable way. Our design process is rooted in the transparent dialogue between designer and client. We accept a range of programs but primarily focus on residential and hospitality design. Our focus is to use that tension to build something that shines through the various crevices, much like real life.
Perfect. Where do you draw your inspiration from and what is your design language?
We draw inspiration from all sorts of places, and we find that the more removed from architecture and interior design the inspiration source is, the more creative leeway we have in applying it to our own work. Moreover, we frequently draw inspiration from the fine arts, from fashion and textile design, vernacular crafts (especially from Japan, Mexico and Scandinavia) and of course the inimitable forms and geometries of nature.
I think our design language is eclectic. Hence, we are comfortable working in a range of styles that incorporate traditional elements alongside more modern and contemporary gestures. What’s consistent across our projects is a certain way of making decisions and a certain hierarchy of values. Regardless of program or budget, we seek to create balance, and emphasize texture and composition. We like a little tension in our work. We love to see beautiful materials expressed honestly through construction.
That is a really great approach. That unique quality of having beautiful materials expressed in the construction is very rare. Take us through your creative process.
Our process is rooted in dialogue, so our creative process begins with listening: listening to the client and helping them articulate how the space they’re entrusting us with, can add value to their life, their business, or whatever other use they have planned for it. Also “listening,” in another sense, to the space: what stories can it tell us, how can we use the narrative of its history to inform our own work? As the project progresses, we undertake a series of design exercises focused on layout; infrastructure and use; and materiality, light, texture, and color. These exercises start with broad strokes and gradually achieve tighter focus, eventually leading us to the most intimate details, whose articulation is uniquely important to the character of any project.
I think the spatial awareness to the varying opportunities with form and expression is a great quality. When it comes to architectural expression and historic preservation, what is your approach to the perfect balance?
When we accept a new commission, we take a hard look at what’s worth preserving. It might be an intricate border design in the hardwood flooring, beautiful moldings, a rough texture or original element uncovered during demolition, or a graceful stair handrail. It also depends on the client’s style and taste, but we always advocate to preserve beautiful existing features. In some cases we recreate decorative elements to replicate what once was. I think we strive to create an historic firmament against which to showcase contemporary or modern architectural interventions. There’s often tension where those two languages meet, and handling that intersection is almost always one of the most interesting challenges of any project.
That tension between old and new, historic and modern, brings forth some of the strongest design languages. When it comes to styling, how do you balance form and function?
We look for contrast, balance, and always a little bit of friction and dissonance. We’re not afraid to mix pieces from very different periods, places, or of different styles if they help the overall composition. We’re against decoration for its own sake, but we’re very much in favor of displaying favorite objects and furniture pieces. We like a tight edit. We work with clients to give pride of place to possessions they’ve collected over the years, and we help them find complementary things at all scales that will round out the room and hopefully become new favorites over time.
Your ability to manage friction among varying competing styles, is a really great quality. What materials and finishes regularly contribute to your spaces?
Generally, we tend to seek out materials that are authentic, and that possess some intangible combination of richness, nuance, and depth. Hence, we love marble and natural stone for its sense of presence and permanence; but we also love to mirror; dark, glossy paint; chalky (or waxy) plasters; clear, unstained hardwoods; and metals patinaed over time. We especially look for materials whose character changes with the light. Recently we discovered a collection of beautiful glass tiles (really!) in gauzy hues that set the office abuzz. We’re always on the lookout for new materials that will make our projects more dynamic, or old materials to revisit and rethink, to make new again.
The authentic expression of natural materials and contrast in textures, brings such a grounded feeling to a space. What other designers, architects, creative people, or firms are you inspired by at the moment?
Architects and Designers: Aires Mateus, Paolo Mendes da Rocha, Ryue Nishizawa, Kazuo Shinohara, Carlo Mollino, Lina Bo Bardi, Hans Hollein, Piezo von Ellrichshausen, Peter Zumthor, Jose Antonio Coderch, Vincenzo de Cotiis, John Lautner, Ray Kappe, Sigurd Lewerentz
Other disciplines (photography, art, music):
Luigi Ghirri, Trisha Donnelly, Bill Viola, Louise Despont, Cyprien Gaillard, Michael Heizer, Thomas Houseago, Robert Turman, Andrew Chalk, Stephan Mathieu, John Coltrane, Eliane Radigue
Those are some very talented individuals. Thank you again Kevin for sharing your thoughts with us.
To learn more about Space Exploration please visit their website.