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WRNS Studio: A Practice Guided by Practical Necessities and Placemaking
Los Angeles, California, USA
Media, Architecture
Antonio Pacheco
Date Published: 
Firm Profile, Architecture, Leadership, Interview, Q/A, Sustainable Design, Modernism, Materials
Tapestry Statistics:
2020-05-31 04:26:55
2020-05-31 04:37:10
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WRNS Studio
WRNS Studio partners Sam Nunes, Bryan Shiles, and Pauline Souza have run their 203-person firm since 2005, operating offices in San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, and Seattle. Over the last 15 years, the sprawling team has created an array of tech offices, university buildings, and other mixed-use projects that bring together bold architectural massing with delicate, thoughtful detailing and interior strategies.

For the latest Studio Snapshot, Archinect connected with Nunes, Shiles, and Souza to discuss the firm's history, ethos, and evolving approach to design and how the practice is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where and when did your studio start?

Nunes: San Francisco. 2005

How did you come up with your name and company ethos?

Nunes: WRNS Studio is named for our four founding partners, Jeff Warner, John Ruffo, Sam Nunes, and Bryan Shiles. Since our founding in 2005, WRNS Studio has cultivated a design-forward practice amidst continued, sometimes rapid growth. To guide us through this growth, we identified three objectives to guide our work: beauty, sustainability, and a positive contribution to the public realm. The relentless pursuit of these objectives accounts, in large part, for our success.

Shiles: WRNS Studio is called “studio” for a reason: through open, in-house critiques and roving tutors, we engage in an ongoing critical discussion about how the firm’s buildings can most powerfully evoke a sense of place, while avoiding the trivializing effects of mimicry.

How many people work at the company?

Nunes: We currently employ 203 people, located across four offices: San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, and Seattle.

What made you make the decision to start an office?

Nunes: We established our studio to provide a platform upon which we could freely explore our ideas and craft. We wanted to be a part of the community of architects seeking to redefine the relationship between the built and the natural environments and between the private and public realms.

Shiles: We also started our office at time of practical necessity for the four of us. There may be some practical necessities we can respond to these days, too.

What are other offices that you look at for guidance and why?

Shiles: We look at Renzo Piano Building Workshop for their synthesis of invention, convention and craft and Álvaro Siza for a poetic interpretation of place and acceptance of the enigmatic.

Souza: We are continually inspired by many offices that boldly test the practice’s conventional mindsets. Firms like BNIM have always prodded us to do better with “what does good look like?”

What would you want your firm to be known for?

Nunes: The work. We want our firm to be known for the ideals that guide our work: beauty, sustainability, and a positive contribution to the public realm. Beauty, for us, is about bringing pleasure to the senses and conjuring emotion as one inhabits or moves through a space. With a bias for human-scale modernism, we approach design through the fundamentals of functionality, proportion, quality of light and space, and raw, honest materials. As long-time advocates for sustainable design—which we believe to be inextricably linked with beauty—we seek to advance the symbiotic relationship between the health of people and that of our natural environment. To develop a resonant sustainable design response, we uncover and make evident an organization’s core values.

Souza: We take seriously the opportunity for impact and contribution—designing sustainably means thinking beyond just today, recognizing that our decisions must be thoughtful, comprehensive, and humble, as we try to create more restorative, healthy, and resilient places.
Organizations Mentioned: (4)
Álvaro Leite Siza
Porto, Portugal
BNIM Architects
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Genoa, Italy, Italy
WRNS Studio
San Francisco, California, USA