Oriana Fenwick

Architecture Research Office, founded in 1993 by Kim Yao, AIA, Stephen Cassell, FAIA, and Adam Yarinksy, FAIA, has pushed the boundaries of practice with its award-winning cultural projects as well as planning and fabrication work, earning the New York–based practice this year’s Architecture Firm Award. Here ARO responds to our architect’s version of the Proust questionnaire.

What is the firm’s greatest achievement?
We take pride in our carefully curated coffee and crowdsourced selection of beers.

What’s the best way to describe your firm’s approach to architecture?
We create architecture that unites beauty and form with strategy and intelligence.

What projects are you most drawn to?
We are most drawn to like-minded clients who believe in the transformative power of architecture.

What led to the founding of the firm?
ARO was founded under a combination of good timing, opportunity, necessity, and friendship.

What’s the best way to describe the personality of your practice?
There is a strict no-asshole policy within the office.

What is the importance of research to your firm?
“Research” is our middle name! By framing design as research, our approach to architecture is born out of exploration and engagement.

The faces of ARO
Dean Kaufman The faces of ARO

What impact has New York had on your practice?
Our experience working in the city and region is fundamental to our understanding of architecture’s role in engaging society and place. We leverage complex constraints and urban conditions into opportunities on our projects near and far.

What is the greatest challenge facing architects today?
The greatest challenge facing architects today is that which faces the entire world—climate change. Architects have a moral responsibility to advance how we design buildings and spaces and to prioritize the long-term health of our communities and the planet.

What’s the firm’s biggest strength?
The amazing, talented group of ARO people is undoubtedly our biggest strength. Everyone works hard and everyone fosters community, ensuring the office has fun within and outside the studio.

What’s the firm’s most enduring tradition?
Among the many traditions cultivated over 26 years, from internal pin-ups and happy hours, to annual summer outings and pumpkin carving competitions, our gloves-off white elephant exchange each December reveals each person’s true nature.

What’s a typical charrette like?
Equal parts pleasure and pain.

What is the firm’s biggest extravagance?
Our biggest extravagance is the same as our greatest achievement the curated coffee and crowdsourced selection of beers.

Which five architects, living or dead, would the firm most like to host for dinner?
A dinner with Sir John Soane, Adolf Loos, Carlo Mollino, Lina Bo Bardi, and Charles and Ray Eames would make for a fun party.

What is the firm most proud of?
We take our role as mentors and educators seriously and are proud of the many ARO alums who have gone on to start their own amazing firms.

What do you hope the firm’s legacy will be?
We firmly believe in the positive power of architecture and lead our firm to meaningfully engage with the world. Spaces are activated through use and experience and we strive to ensure that they perform for the communities they serve, to elevate the everyday with beautiful and responsible design.

What does winning the Architecture Firm Award mean to you?
It is incredibly meaningful for our people, our process, and our work to be recognized as a firm by our peers. This is truly an award that celebrates the talent, care, and thoughtfulness of everyone at ARO, past and present.