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Next Progressives: Bryony Roberts Studio
Architect Magazine
Washington, DC, USA
Media, Architecture, Interior Design
Eric Wills
Date Published: 
Architecture, Women, Diversity, Leadership, Brooklyn, New York, Interview, Q/A
Tapestry Statistics:
2021-03-07 01:48:48
2021-03-07 01:55:05
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Bryony Roberts Studio
This New York-based practice draws on the fields of art, historic preservation, and architecture to design community-based projects with lasting impact.

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Year founded: 2012
Firm leadership: Bryony Roberts
Education: M.Arch., Princeton School of Architecture; B.A., Yale University
Experience: WORKac in New York; Mansilla + Tuñón Arquitectos in Madrid

Personality of the practice: Both serious and playful. We tackle difficult issues, but we use joy and play to bring people to the table.

Firm mission: The practice creates community-based projects in the public realm. We produce immersive environments and events that transform existing public spaces, addressing their complex architectural and social histories. We combine methods from art, architecture, and historic preservation to pursue expanded site-specificity, responding not only to the existing architecture and landscape, but also to layers of social history and contemporary urban change.

First commission: It was actually self-initiated—an installation at the Neutra VDL House in Los Angeles. Funded by a Graham Foundation Grant, the project explored creative preservation, intertwining new design and historical architecture. The installation included volumes of blue cord that extended the grid lines of the building and were hung from aluminum frames that fit snugly into the existing aluminum details.

Defining project: Marching On, which was a collaboration with Mabel O. Wilson and the Marching Cobras of New York. Commissioned by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and presented with Performa 17, this research, performance, and exhibition project was a multiyear exploration of how marching band performances in African American communities have been important mediums of cultural and political expression. It examined how ephemeral actions and performances can be just as powerful as built structures in transforming public spaces, and benefited enormously from the collaboration with the young performers of the Marching Cobras. The project provided a meaningful foundation for developing methods of social practice, collaboration, and research to inform interventions in public space, and received support from the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Performa 17.

Another important project: Soft Civic, which was commissioned by Exhibit Columbus in 2019 and transformed the City Hall building by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The project was an opportunity to engage a charged political space through both design and programming. Custom-fabricated structures with colorful woven surfaces activated the public spaces around the building’s main entrance as destinations for play, performance, and participation.

Soft Civic was soft in terms of both its program—combining relaxation and political participation—as well as its material quality. The structures explored the softness of textiles at a monumental scale. Made using macramé knotting of nylon rope by Powerhouse Arts in Brooklyn, the woven panels bring the textures of domestic space and the histories of domestic "women’s work" into the public sphere, encouraging playfulness and interaction at a site of governance. During the exhibition, the new structures hosted a series of community-driven events on the themes of democracy and leadership. The project won Best Temporary Installation of 2019 from the Architect’s Newspaper, and was moved to a new permanent home at the Columbus Air Park.