NEW NEW YORK ARCHITECTS: Interview With Aya Maceda And James Carse Of ALAO
As ALAO, Aya Maceda and James Carse bridge research, advocacy, and built projects. Founded in 2013 and informed by Carse’s Southern roots and Maceda’s Filipino-Australian background, the firm’s projects to date include a private residence in Sydney, a remote hotel in the Philippines, an artists’-studio building in Brooklyn, and a multisite proposal in New Orleans, where the firm also has an office. Across all scales, ALAO’s architecture projects are at once quiet and loaded with detail. The same might be said of their publishing and community-guided work, which through subtle interventions makes a big impact. Take, for example, a community kitchen in Queens designed in collaboration with local advocates that is at once specific and flexible. Or microMACRO, a research project that investigated how tight urban spaces could shapeshift throughout the day and night, changing the notion of what a home looks like.
INSERT YOUNG ARCHITECTS CAROUSEL (ALL SPREADS)
PIN–UP: Are you building on or rebelling against something with your practice?
ALAO: We are working against the idea that the role of the architect is solely to solve a brief. There is much more in a place, a lifestyle, a history, a memory, and a culture to develop than a few numbers on a page. We can address and integrate each of these factors into our work in meaningful ways through our deeply rooted commitment to rigorous research. The firm actively participates in the communities we advocate for and serve. We put people first in design and aspire to make our efforts have a meaningful and positive impact on those around us. We believe equity, empowerment, arts, culture, and openness are the roots of a richer and more just world.
What or who are your biggest influences?
We each bring our unique cultural and personal influences to bear on the practice. The colors and gardens of New Orleans, the infrastructure-like power of New York, the calm, light-filled spaciousness described by the Filipino word maaliwalas, and the coastal exuberance of Sydney. These places have led us to an understanding of architecture that moves beyond walls, integrates outside life, and offers the opportunity to be a vehicle for happiness.
What does the concept of community mean to you and how do you think about it in your work?
The communities of a space change through time. It is important to remember that the spaces we help our clients to realize will change in identity over time, and, to a different collection of individuals and groups, each space may serve a different function or reorient to a different use or mood. To that end we need to find opportunity in the design for spatial empowerment, where the space can become a multitude of places which, in a sense, belong to each community.
Which project are you most proud of so far?
It is difficult to name a single project. We have had the opportunity to engage in socially meaningful work providing the largest long-term affordable studio spaces to artists in New York City with the group ArtBuilt in the Brooklyn Army Terminal (completed 2018). We have recently been involved in the master planning of a community development in New Orleans that goes beyond affordable housing to create wealth-generating housing for subsidized residents. At the same time, the direct effect of giving joy through our residential work is also satisfying, especially when the result allows our clients to feel rooted in a place, or when we create new possibilities for living under constraints, or when we create solutions that integrate play and creativity in daily life.
What’s your dream new New York project?
Reviving the cooperative as a social, economic, and environmental model for housing in New York City and reimagining the city’s forgotten spaces as a network of playgrounds, inspired by the structuralist play environments of Aldo van Eyck. A city of play!
Interview by Drew Zeiba
Portrait by Tanya and Zhenya Posternak for PIN–UP
Creative Direction and Design by OBG
Styling by Akari Endo Gaut
Set Design by Julia Wagner
Makeup by Meredith Menchel
Production and post-production by VS+Company
Styling Assistance by Pascal Mihranian
All clothing Bottega Veneta