Firm name: Agency—Agency
Location: New York City and Toronto
Year founded: 2014
Firm leadership: Tei Carpenter, Assoc. AIA
Education: B.A., Brown University; M.Arch., Princeton University
Experience: Toshiko Mori Architect, Shigeru Ban Architects, and a short spell at Steven Holl Architects; adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Firm size: Two to four
We design thoughtful, experiential projects that reframe everyday encounters with the built environment, and create new value propositions for design through productive engagement with the public.
Origin of firm name:
The dual meaning of agency is combined and connected with the line to make Agency—Agency. I think it allows for a double reading of the practice as an ideological idea and as a more expansive idea of “office” that operates at multiple scales and levels of engagement.
My first commission was almost right out of school for a renovation of a hair salon in NoHo, in downtown New York City.
New Public Hydrant is a series of small-scale infrastructural prototypes that reimagines public interaction with local water infrastructure in New York City. To raise awareness of the high quality of the city’s drinking water, we developed three “hydrant hacks”: a multi-species drinking fountain, an immersive sprinkler, and microclimate/bottle-fill station. Developing these with input from city agencies, and seeing reactions to the designs from people on the street, was interesting. We’re now working to develop these beyond the prototype phase for more permanent applications.
Second favorite project:
We worked with curator Irene Sunwoo to design “Model Projections,” an exhibition focused on architectural model making and its relationship to architectural production. The immersive installation and display system used off-the-shelf materials to evoke an architectural work in progress. By embracing the artifice of architectural models, the design oscillated between multiple scales, intertwining the materials and methods of model making and architectural construction.
The best advice you've ever received:
“It’s a long game” and “keep it light.”
Special item in your studio space:
A giant fiddle fig tree that almost reaches the ceiling and is surrounded by tons of plants and cactuses
Design tools of choice:
Olfa knife, camera, WhatsApp
A tool you would love to invent:
A mind and body doubler to be in two places at once!
Big unselfconscious gestures for their own sake
Favorite place to get inspired:
The subway: I like the background noise, chaos, and unexpected encounters to reset my thoughts.
The interdisciplinary art and design work that the TBA21 Academy is catalyzing to raise awareness about the oceans, like the recent Superflex expedition on “deep sea minding.”
Favorite destinations for architecture:
Berlin and Tokyo
When I’m not working in architecture, I:
Outside walking, surfing, swimming, or exploring with my newborn
This month, architects should be discussing:
The Green New Deal and what an energy transition and decarbonization imply, and what they look like.
Skills to master:
Unity (software) and “business operations”
A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change by Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, and Andrea Bagnato (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2018); Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life (Random House, 2019) by Ali Wong; Charlotte Posenenske: Work in Progress (Walther König, Köln, 2019) from the recent exhibition at Dia: Beacon.