A husband-wife team finds ways of merging the virtual with the actual, while creating compelling visions of an architecture for the future.
"One thing that describes our firm is that we're caught between generations,” says Lisa Iwamoto. She's on speakerphone with her partner—in work and life—Craig Scott, and the two are tag-teaming a conversation, trying to figure out how to explain their practice. They're both professors—she at UC Berkeley (disclosure: where this writer is pursuing her PhD) and he at California College of the Arts. Both graduated from Harvard's Graduate School of Design in the early 1990s. Most important, they were trained in non-computational architecture: Iwamoto with Rafael Moneo and Mohsen Mostafavi and Scott with Rem Koolhaas. That education, under what she describes as “professors who were very building-oriented,” might seem to be irrelevant given their current work, which relies heavily on the computer. But Iwamoto and Scott see their background—as well as her training as a civil engineer—as elements that strengthen their creative positions.
While Iwamoto's specialty at Berkeley is digital fabrication, she sees her teaching as intimately intertwined with her firm's design work. “Teaching keeps it fresh,” Iwamoto explains. “We're constantly pushing students to think about how to be innovative, or coming up with project types for coursework that blurs the boundaries of a discipline.” Challenging students in the studio helps the two challenge each other in the office.
Scott's focus at CCA is more “on space-making strategies and emergent technologies.” But both partners are interested in what new technology can bring to the design table. It's that focus on making space, even when they're designing a temporary installation, that brings the firm's work out of an ephemeral paper realm and down to the real world of dirt and drywall.
The partners have known each other for 20 years, having met at Berkeley between undergraduate and graduate studies. Scott then took a Los Angeles detour to work with Thom Mayne, whose inventive formalism shines through the pair's focus on spatial relationships. “We were a couple before we were a practice,” Iwamoto says. Before starting their firm in 2000, the pair worked together on projects such as the unbuilt Marin County hilltop Fog House and a faculty resource room at the University of Michigan, where they both taught.
“We're really happy we're getting our stuff built now,” Iwamoto says. In the process, they are connecting the three strands of their practice—the pedagogical, theoretical, and practical—in projects like a twisted coffered ceiling for a San Francisco office building and a Hawaii guesthouse that dodges and weaves its way around a hillside. “Some of the ideas and strategies from one project make their way across into the others,” Scott says. From reclaiming a typically Classical architectural move—like the coffer—for the digital age to folding a house in and over itself, the two usually deal with multiple possibilities at one time. In their most ambitious project, “SF 2108: Hydro-Net,” they envision an urban and infrastructural landscape that brings together algae-rich, aquaculture-inspired towers, hover cars, and fog-collecting “flowers.” The project, which won a History Channel competition, weaves together research and civil-engineering know-how with flashes of science fiction to create a compelling vision of the city's future.
LOCATION: San Fransisco
DESIGN STAFF: 5
PRINCIPALS: Lisa Iwamoto, Craig Scott
EDUCATION: Iwamoto – Harvard GSD, M. Arch., 1993; University of Colorado, B.S. Engineering, 1986. Scott – Harvard GSD, M. Arch., 1994; Syracuse University, B.Arch., 1986
WORK HISTORY: Iwamoto – Schwartz/Silver Architects, 1994–95; Thompson and Rose Architects, 1993–94; RoTo Architects, 1992; Morphosis, 1991;
Scott – Brian Healy Architects, 1995–97; RoTo Architects, 1991–92; Morphosis, 1990–91
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Kauai House, Hawaii, 2011; Obscura Digital Headquarters, San Francisco, 2010; Lightfold at One Kearny Lobby, San Francisco, 2010; PS House, San Francisco, 2010
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: SourceBits US Offices, San Francisco, 2011; Monaco Loft, San Francisco, 2012; Mobile Immersive Performance Venue, 2012
WEB SITE: WWW.IWAMOTOSCOTT.COM