This week’s dose of inspiration comes from Caroline O’Donnell, principal of the architecture firm CODA. We’ll let Caroline take it from here, but be sure to check out the Primitive Hut project on her site – it’s our favorite!
Here are Caroline’s answers to our 5 Creator Questions:
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m an architect. Our work is a response to the environment. We like to think about architecture as an organism that has evolved in relation to its site: that means the form and material tell the story of its location. Our work ranges from playful experimental follies using left-over materials to permanent buildings of all types.
How did you get started?
I was excited by the idea that architecture can communicate, but so much of it seemed to be talking about itself. I thought if it was a person, it would be egocentric and narcissistic. I wondered, what if architecture could talk about something outside itself. I quit my job and started CODA (and I also started teaching at Cornell University). We won a big competition at PS1 MoMA and built a huge installation using skateboard waste. That really launched us and we haven’t stopped for 10 years.
What sets you apart?
Anyone can solve problems, it’s defining the problem that is difficult. We do that by listening carefully to the clients and to the site and getting beyond the superficial list of wants to the concepts beneath them. In K-House, K wanted a recycled house, but it did not occur to her to use the charred wood of her recently burned home. In Inc. Studio, the client wanted a third building on their site but when we listened to what they wanted and began to understand the site, we proposed a folded element that connected the two existing buildings into one. We also think about materials like contemporary chefs: how can we source it locally and use the whole animal, from nose to tail.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
We have become well known for our experimental projects, but my background in offices is in straight-up buildings. Trying to take the ideas from the experimental world and translate them into permanent buildings is an exciting challenge. One recent project “K-House” (with Dillon Pranger) was an opportunity to do that: our client, K, wanted a completely recycled house, so we were able to push the limits of our material palette.
Do you have any tips for other creators?
I have two full-time jobs. You have to love what you do in both of them. One pays the rent. Having that back-up gives me a bit more freedom to do the work I want to do.
It’s pretty obvious to us from her well-thought-out answers that Caroline is a natural teacher as well as a talented architect, and we’re grateful to her for sharing some of her wisdom with us 🙂
Click the link below to see the full site and explore the CODA portfolio for yourself! Don’t miss the Primitive Hut project, and you can even peruse some of her writings on design, if you’re so inclined.
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