Toby Kamps

Firm name: MG&Co.
Location: Houston
Year founded: 2010
Firm leadership: Noëmi Mollet and Reto Geiser
Education: Mollet: Dipl. Arch., ETH Zurich; Geiser: Dr. Sc. and Dipl. Arch., ETH Zurich
Experience: Bruce Mau Design, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Stéphane Beel Architects
How founders met: Architecture school
Firm size: Two to five designers and thinkers

We develop spatial strategies in a range of scales from a book to a house. Our projects are located at the intersections of architecture, installation, textiles, and typography, and occupy a place between two and three dimensions.

We believe in a close exchange between the past and the present, and between theoretical inquiry and engaged practice. A decade of work in the complementary roles of designer, scholar, curator, editor, and publisher has allowed us to more deeply understand the potentials of crossing disciplinary boundaries and the advantages of collaboration.

Stainless steel deck for Swiss lake house.
courtesy MG&Co. Stainless steel deck for Swiss lake house.
courtesy MG&Co.

First commission:
Our first project took shape before we formally established our studio. We were asked to design a deck for a traditional cottage located at the shore of Lac de Morat in western Switzerland. There was only one design constraint: It had to be made of stainless steel, as our client was a manufacturer of environmental technologies and also the contractor for the job.

Jiří Vurma Completed in 2013, the “Studiolo” is a reorganization of a traditional artist studio. This light-frame construction placed in the center of a former industrial warehouse features a kitchen, bathroom, workspace, sleeping area, and copious storage.
Jiří Vurma
Jiří Vurma

Favorite project:
Architectural projects are like children. We don’t have favorites, but are fond of them for very different reasons. The conversion of an artist’s studio into a live-work space, for example, allowed us to redefine an industrial workshop through the precise placement of an inhabitable core—a “Studiolo” inspired by Antonello da Messina’s circa 1475 painting “St. Jerome in His Study.”

Currently, we are working on environmental graphics for the Menil Collection in Houston including a unique donor recognition piece and signage and wayfinding for the new Menil Drawing Institute by Los Angeles firm Johnston Marklee. For us, this is an exceptional opportunity and a design challenge that allows us to fuse our expertise in architecture and graphic design. Working with a cultural institution like the Menil Collection is extremely rewarding. We have the privilege of collaborating with an exceptional team of curators, architects, landscape architects, and fabricators—and all of this literally in our front yard.

Origin of firm name:
It's pretty straight forward. The initials of our last name are joined by company, alluding to the collaborative nature of our practice.

courtesy MG&Co. MG&Co.’s “Rooms for Books” installation for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial subdivides a traditional bookshop into four separate spaces dedicated to the architecture book: One area showcases resources on the show participants, another is dedicated to a library, the third is a space for roundtable discussions and interviews, and the last is a pop-up bookstore run by the Graham Foundation.
Kendall McGaugherty

After Hurricane Harvey, architects should ask:
Can infrastructure reliably counter the forces of nature we are facing as some voices suggest, or might we have to approach alternative routes that will also force us to fundamentally change our habits?

The issues at hand go far beyond the reconstruction effort—even if this is one of the most immediate thoughts on everybody’s mind. We have to engage in a much broader conversation that includes, but is not limited to, infrastructural, environmental, political, economical, cultural, and, of course, urban and architectural questions.

As designers, we have a lot of agency, and we should decisively claim the driver’s seat in this discussion.

Design heroes:
From Alberti, Bo Bardi, Castiglioni, Doshi, Eames, or Fiore, to Gray, Hejduk, Isola, Johnson, Konstandinidis, Lewerentz, Moholy-Nagy, and Nelson, to Olmsted, Piranesi, Quatremère de Quincy, Rand, Shinohara, Tschichold, Ungers, Vignola, Wren, Xenakis, Yamasaki, or Zenghelis, we have a cohort of heroines and heroes that offer a wealth of inspirations for our work, each one of them for different reasons.

Modern-day architecture hero:
In a context where architecture is often exclusively judged by its timely delivery within a given budget, anyone who runs an ambitious and intellectually rigorous practice that challenges conventions and understands architecture as a cultural endeavor with larger implications for the built environment that surrounds us is a hero.

courtesy MG&Co. Noëmi Mollet and Reto Geiser curated AIA Houston’s 2012 “Ai Weiwei’s Five Houses” exhibition and designed the pedestals as scalar representations of the artist’s modular house.

Special item in your studio space:
A bright orange, fluorescent sign that says “Migros” in all-caps Helvetica. It’s the sign from the supermarket around the corner from where we used to live in Basel, Switzerland. It keeps reminding us that good design matters, no matter at what scale or in what context.

Design tool of choice:
Our library and a Palomino Blackwing pencil.

Design aggravation:
Typographic orphans and widows—lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph that are left clinging lonely at the top or bottom of a page. They hurt our eyes, yet we encounter them daily.

courtesy MG&Co. The duo collaborated with Los Angeles architecture firm Johnston Marklee for the interior design of the Aesop store in Culver City, Calif. The team developed a silkscreened wallpaper featuring a graphic pattern that mimics the brand’s cosmetic product packaging.

When we’re not working in architecture, we:
Explore the world with our two daughters. And we cook, a lot.

Skills to master:
Teaching reminds us that there are always new skills to be acquired. This keeps us on our toes.

Morning person or night owl?
One of each.

courtesy MG&Co. Mollet and Geiser’s Wall House addition concept projects the illusion of a continuous brick wall. However, the designers say they have created “a pocket of inhabitable space” behind the divide, featuring two interior courtyards.
courtesy MG&Co.
courtesy MG&Co.

Social media platform of choice:

We accumulate way too many found objects.