The following is a re-print of an interview with 2WR's founding partner, Sam Andras, conducted by Shelley Dean for Columbus CEO, originally published December 15, 2015:
In this interview Sam discusses architecture’s impact on community. Look for the second part of this interview – focused on architecture of purpose – next month
Q. How do community trends and quality of life come together in collaboration in today's age of building design?
A. People live, work, and play differently. The ‘American Dream’ that I grew up with was the family whose house was in the neighborhood where every yard was defined with a white picket fence. It didn’t matter where the neighborhood was located because you’d simply drive to work. The millennials kicked this image to the curb. This generation grew up without desire for a yard or the responsibility of maintaining a home. They want to live, work, and play all in the same neighborhood. Cars aren’t a necessity; rather walking, bikes or public transportation are the best way to get around. What’s interesting is to watch is how this life-style is catching on.
Cities that redefined themselves to attract top millennial talent years ago are now in a transitional mode. Studio and single bedroom condos used to fill the need. We now have the millennial families. These families simply want to incorporate children in the live, work, and play environment. Additionally, we’re seeing the live, work, and play environment become multi-generational. Denver and Seattle have adjusted, providing two and three bedroom condos within the live, work, play zones. Other large cities are following suit. Green space is an important aspect of city life. This includes passive and active parks along with dog parks. Pets aren’t just pets, they’re family members who get to go shopping and even join the family for dinner at outdoor venues.
Q. When redeveloping a section of a city is it important to find a balance between the preservation of older buildings and the development of new ones?
A. Balance is an interesting word. I don’t believe there’s a definable balance between old and new. I would tend to believe it’s more about vision, direction, needs, and desired growth. As an architect I believe the preservation of architectural history is extremely important. At the same time I believe architecture defines; thereby the balance could be viewed as ever changing.
Q. What are the challenges in incorporating new buildings into historic areas (like Uptown)?
A. Probably the greatest challenges are opinion and understanding. I believe if all factors are properly considered and integrated within the design then the challenge simply becomes one of educating. Most opinions are based solely on aesthetics without consideration of other important factors such as client, community vision (the big picture), needs, and desired growth.
In essence we’re going back to visualization; utilizing architecture to help define who we are as a community. So at the end of the day the question becomes, What do we want Uptown to say about our community? Who do we want to attract? How will what’s built support the vision? There are plenty of small towns throughout Georgia with monochromatic downtowns; downtowns that are completely historic. We have a community that’s hungry for so much more. We’ll drive a hundred miles to shop because the experience we desire isn’t here. We’re losing exceptional young talent every year because they desire something more. The opportunities for shaping and defining positive growth exist. The key is ensuring we take advantage of every opportunity. Obviously at the end of the day we want to be able to look back and say ‘we did it right!’
So let’s look at balance and challenges together. I believe exceptional architecture responds to its environment; thereby new must respond to and respect history. What defines respect and how it’s expressed is where opinions differ. The challenge is the aesthetic impact of balance. I believe, in most situations, respect isn’t duplication or copying. In fact, when dealing with historic preservation the desire is to illustrate the new, as new in order for individuals to visually understand the difference as part of the experience. The understanding of factors impacting design – environment, client, needs, community and so forth – all influence the interpretation leading to the design solution.
Q. What’s your favorite building in Columbus and why?
A. I prefer to answer this using a building that’s not ours. So outside of 2WR’s work I’d have to say CSU’s Corn Center for Visual Arts. It’s a timeless and well-detailed design solution. It utilizes a well-balanced approach between respecting the historic fabric of its surroundings while incorporating progressive and modern language. It makes an exceptional statement about the past and future of Columbus State University while also acknowledging Columbus. It provides amenities for the community through its connection to the Riverwalk, exterior courtyards and covered walks. The rhythm of solid versus transparent wall systems facing the river are beautiful; especially at night. The details are extremely well done with the majority of detailing not in the brickwork itself; rather the beauty is seen in the subtle details within the simplicity of the overall design. I also like the use and expression of raw materials such as the concrete utilized for the large canopy on the west façade, round columns intermixed with brick wing walls, and the low wall fronting the courtyard on the northwest side of the building. The design can be viewed as an architecture of honesty.