Out of (traditional) Practice

A rendering of the East River waterfront esplanade, by SHoP Architects.

New York City’s architecture community braved the snow recently to hear Greg Pasquerelli of SHoP Architecture explain how he and his partners are moving beyond identified styles and developing a performance-based architecture practice. Christopher Sharples, Coren Sharples, William Sharples, Kimberley Holden and Gregg Pasquerelli started the firm in 1996, after graduating from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Starting with a staff of ten, SHoP now employs 70, each person chosen for his or her special and diverse skill sets. This allows the team to tackle new ideas and test them in innovative ways.

Pasquerelli’s lecture, entitled “Out of Practice,” alluded to this desire to escape the traditional ways of architects and celebrate their field as the great generalist profession that it can be. He excited the full house at Cooper Union’s Great Hall by showing beautiful renderings of projects like the East River Park, eagerly awaited New Yorkers–construction is to be completed in August. But more importantly, he discussed their new business ventures, named SHoP Construction, SHoP Envelope, and HeliOptix, which are integrated into their practice in order to facilitate growth and innovation.

FIT_HeliOptixWallThe HeliOptix wall at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

SHoP Construction works as an integrator–third party, which bridges the gap between architects and contractors in order to rid projects of systematic flaws. HeliOptix works to address complicated relationships between energy conservation and architectural aesthetic, while SHoP Envelope, the most recent of their business ventures, was developed as a resource for planners to access zoning information and to address the issues of urban density and efficiency.

It is through the integration of these new services that SHoP has been able to create a new sustainable architecture. Their goal of moving beyond the isms–brutalism, modernism, regionalism, etc.– and looking at the performance of architecture, is made possible by this ultimate collaboration between experts in design, construction, and efficiency. Realizing that the sustainability that is needed in our ever-growing world must focus on more than attaining LEED certifications, SHoP has devoted itself to be responsive to the environment in all of its conditions.

A lot was packed into the short lecture. All of it was impressive, exciting, and forward looking. It is no surprise, then, that this firm keeps winning design competitions and awards, like the 2009 National Design Award for Architecture Design by Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. And it’s clear why they continue to be called upon to build structures all over the world. Youthful, energetic firms like SHoP are pushing architecture to continually change and evolve with the needs of our world.

In our May 2001 issue, Christopher Hawthorne spoke to SHoP when they were even younger, and in September 2007, Philip Nobel told us why SHoP were his favorite architects.

Categories: Uncategorized