‘the work of SHoP is always evolving because it was never intended to be a static pursuit,’ christopher sharples, founding principal of SHoP architects, tells designboom. ‘we founded our practice with a commitment to continually pushing the boundaries of what’s been accepted as the traditional role of the architect.’ although the projects have gotten bigger, and taller, over the last 25 years, the firm’s approach has remained the same. ‘we ask a lot of questions, immerse ourselves in research, and we never assume that we are specialists in anything to the degree that there’s not lots to gain from another perspective,’ adds principal angelica trevino baccon. ‘we are always curious.’
with projects ongoing around the world, from sydney to botswana, designboom spoke with all seven of SHoP’s principals. read the thoughts of christopher sharples, angelica trevino baccon, gregg pasquarelli, dana getman, john cerone, coren sharples, and william sharples below.
SHoP’s seven principles | image © SHoP architects
designboom (DB): SHoP was founded in 1996. can you describe the evolution of the firm’s work since then?
christopher sharples, founding principal: the work of SHoP is always evolving because it was never intended to be a static pursuit. we founded our practice with a commitment to continually pushing the boundaries of what’s been accepted as the traditional role of the architect. from our first projects, our work is a constant and adaptive response to everything from research and data cues to a willingness to explore new materialities and means of manufacture, to understanding the needs of our clients and our cities — and never in a fixed style.
even as the scale of our projects has gotten dramatically bigger, our office global, and we’re working every day in typologies and technologies that didn’t exist then, we always go back to our core principals. that is to always be curious and always design for people first. to look at the full complexity and context and community of an architectural project and never reduce it to style or image. and to be good citizens, to consider public space in a way that advances joy and health and equity, to create workplaces and a culture that supports greater wellness and collaboration, all toward establishing a more joyful, humane and resilient environment.
SHoP’s new york office | image © SHoP architects
DB: can you talk us through SHoP’s design process? is there a strong emphasis on collaboration among the team?
angelica trevino baccon, principal: to us, the design process is collaboration. there is no architecture without collaboration. it’s finding greater collaboration through a shared visual language, process — and participation — we’re always after and that we believe is the groundwork for innovation. we started experimenting in partnership with some of our west coast tech clients in 3D model collaboration and it’s thrilling what becomes possible when you can all be in there together, and this includes the client, building trust and advancing the process in real-time.
SHoP’s new york office | image © SHoP architects
angelica trevino baccon (continued): we consider our clients to be our partners, and we work together to design the right process. it’s a space that’s vital to the success of the space we will ultimately design for them. more often than not we find ourselves building our own tools in order to help us be more efficient, more communicative, more supported in proposing the big ideas. these tools let us save time on the repetitive in order for us to dedicate time to the intangible.
we ask a lot of questions, immerse ourselves in research, and we never assume that we are specialists in anything to the degree that there’s not lots to gain from another perspective. we are always curious. there is always room to learn. nothing is too precious to be modified, improved upon, fine-tuned. we love to stand back and watch the city absorb what we created. we collect more data, keep listening and learning, hopeful for the chance to do it all over again, ever more informed from the benefit of more human interaction, input — collaboration — for next time.
DB: in what ways did SHoP reference manhattan’s classic skyscrapers for 111 west 57th street? and how challenging was it to design such a slender skyscraper?
gregg pasquarelli, founding principal: the idea behind 111 was to take this completely modern engineering marvel — the most slender supertall building in the world — and splice it with the DNA of the classic manhattan skyscrapers we all love, to create a new kind of ‘both/and’ typology. it’s the opposite of all those slick, blue glass skyscrapers that you see in hudson yards — a building that can only exist in manhattan and couldn’t be plucked off the skyline of dubai, london or shanghai.
111 west 57th street | image © SHoP architects
gregg pasquarelli (continued): we got there by carefully shaping the tower’s profile to be at once familiar as a new york icon and completely, unexpectedly new. the terra-cotta was a key part of that. in its traditional uses, it’s a material that has really come to epitomize a certain era of manhattan elegance and mystique. we took it and updated it for the present: modeling the façade as a bold moiré pattern that changes dramatically throughout the day as the sun and shadows sweep across it.
dana getman, principal: we want every building we create to inspire us, delight us, and bring us joy. dynamism is a great word to describe that feeling, because it captures the liveliness those two buildings specifically embody. but with that said, dynamism can take many forms, depending on the context in which we are building. 325 kent and american copper both have a larger scale of exuberance in their forms — they are both waterfront properties that embody the joy of being poised on the edge of the city, the movement of the water, and the open, expansive views.
dana getman (continued): meanwhile, some of our work takes on a more subtle form of dynamism — such as 242 broome, whose form is sculpted more as a reaction to the intimacy of the street, as it twists around the corner to bring relief from the bustling neighborhood sidewalks. we believe that buildings should reflect the lively, vibrant communities around them, and therefore each building we design is uniquely grounded in a sense of place. we always react to the community, history, and physicality of a location as we design.