Two Minutes With // Marc Tsurumaki, of LTL Architects

Hi everyone! Have any of you ever had questions about the unique design approach of LTL Architects? Well we have, and for quite some time now. Today we are pleased to release our interview with Marc Tsurumaki, of LTL Architects. LTL Architects realizes inventive solutions that turn the constraints of each project into the design trajectory, exploring opportunistic overlaps between space, program, form, budget and materials. Take a look at their website to see some great projects; while you’re at it, give yourself a few extra minutes to admire their drawings.

Images courtesy of LTL Architects.

VT: Your work seems to be unified by the distinctive use of patterning introduced in forms of lighting, screens, and other surfaces; this seems to create a rhythm unique to each space, yet the spaces are consistent in their impression. What generates the concept of each pattern?

MT: Patterning in our work is a result of a number of factors that vary depending on the nature of each project, however some of the most critical aspects include: the logic of the material/component and the technique of aggregation or assembly as well as the orchestration of optical relationships within the space. Pattern also often involves the incorporation of multiple functional elements — such as lighting — which each having their own performative requirements. For example, the walls and ceiling of Fluff Bakery were formed from three miles of felt strips stacked like masonry to create a dynamic visual surface that reinforced the directionality of the space, while the seemingly random glass block patterns of the Arthouse project resulted from a negotiation between requirements for interior daylighting, the necessity to buffer the intense summer sun of Austin, and the location of the building’s structural frame.

VT: Systematic elements such as continuous ceilings that fold into walls, floors that guide seating arrangements, and stairs that transition to partitions are commonly found in your work. What motivates this consistency in your work? And, when do these installation-like characteristics materialize in the design process?

MT: While the continuous surface has devolved into a kind of cliché in contemporary architectural practice, we remain interested in the potentials of these operations relative to program and performance rather than as a purely formal conceit. Multiple functions integrated into a single surface, for instance, intensify the architectural possibility of otherwise commonplace components (walls, floors, seating elements, stairs, etc.) while creating relationships between typically unrelated uses. These elements also allow a direct bodily engagement with the user, involving features (like seating elements or stairs) that physically engage the occupant.

This process also relates to a desire for an economy of means whereby a limited number of elements are used to generate maximum effect. In that sense these conditions appear early on in the design process as various functional requirements are synthesized to generate the primary components of the design.

VT: Topography seems to be a common inspiration for a few of your projects in vertical surfacing and the layering of the spaces. What aspects of the landscape entice its incorporation into your design? Do you find that this creates a deeper essence of place for interior occupants?

MT: In fact, we do not typically conceive of the systems — material and spatial — of our projects metaphorically in terms of landscape. However, we often attempt to integrate multiple functions into complex performative surfaces (see above). In this sense, these surfaces might be seen as topographic in that they exist as manipulations of a common field, becoming a sort of programmatic landscape that allows for a variety of uses. At the same time, we are interested in architectural surfaces and material formations that reveal the processes of their own construction — often this generates the appearance of layering and striation that might resemble certain landscape formations. While we hope this attention to material assembly generates a greater richness of experience for the user, it is less a matter of analogy (to landscape) than of process.