Firm name: LAMAS (Lee and Macgillivray Architecture Studio)
Year founded: 2008
Firm leadership: WH Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray
Education: Lee: B.A. Wesleyan University, M.Arch. Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD); Macgillivray: B.Arch. Princeton University, M.Arch. Harvard GSD
Experience: Lee: LTL Architects, SHoP Architects; Macgillivray: Steven Holl Architects, GLUCK+
How founders met: Architecture school
Firm size: Four to six
We’re excited by ornament, optical illusions, and lazy forms. Our ideas usually involve the perversion of a precedent, type, or technique. We do research, installations, and work for clients. We respect every situation that allows us to do our work and see each one as a distinct calling for our expertise.
Memorable learning experience:
We learned how to thatch from William Cahill, one of the last master thatchers in the United States. Most projects involve learning some kind of craft tradition whether old or new—for example, when we learned hydrographics, it was mostly from YouTube.
We worked with poet Tung-Hui Hu at the University of Michigan on a structure to house the poetry he was writing with voice recognition software of people answering the question “when was the last time you cried?” We built the installation "Last Time You Cried" out of extruded sound waves from his voice recordings, simply in florist foam. Early on, this got us interested in artificial intelligence, but also in expedient ways of producing ornament and space.
“Delirious Facade”, probably because it is our most recent. We’re using the artificial intelligence of Google’s Deep Dream to design facades based on jpegs of existing buildings. We love it because we can get a lot done with very little work. It also invites a historical diversity of formal and ornamental languages into our process that might not be there otherwise. This is really important to us, particularly as it relates to the diverse city where we live. So we can design facades that aren’t collage (like “facadism”), or universal techno, but rather a kind of bouillabaisse, which is what Toronto should be, but isn’t.
Second favorite project:
“Mototonne Barchessa.” This was an early project we did for James’ cousin in the Marches in Italy. We discovered the barchessa as a type and came up with a design that was both contextual and typologically inventive.
Origin of firm name:
It’s actually just a boring acronym of Lee and Macgillivray Architecture Studio. But people think our name is all kinds of things: a South American animal, or Lorenzo Lamas, or two Tibetan monks. For some reason everyone says it with a Spanish accent.
Adelbert Ames Jr. was famous for inventing several optical illusions to test visual perception, most notably the Ames Room. But he made many others that dealt with normative architectural forms as something to measure against (windows, chairs, doors). His constructions presage the early work of Frank Gehry, FAIA, in interesting ways.
Modern-day design hero:
Zeitguised.com—founded by architect Henrik Mauler and sculpture and fashion design Jamie Raap. Just go check them out, and you’ll know why.
Special item in your studio space:
Design tool of choice:
Glass and balconies. Where we live it’s enough already.
When we're not working in architecture, we:
Watch TV. Go to the playground.
Never write your name in red ink. Don’t give knives or scissors as a present.
Skills to master:
Morning person or night owl?
Social media platform of choice:
Looking at phone after midnight.