Firm name: Studio J. Jih
Firm leadership: J. Jih
Year founded: 2017
Education: M.Arch., Harvard Graduate School of Design; B.A. in architectural studies and sculpture, Brown University
Firm size: Five
Firm mission: Studio J. Jih operates in dialogue. We bridge, converse, overlap, implicate, and engage difference. We are interested in figure—both in the sense of architectural form and the bodies that choreograph and inhabit it. We like things that do double duty—solutions that are pragmatic, efficient, and rigorous, yet ambitiously sculptural.
First commission: Trinocular House in Stowe, Vt.
Defining project and why: Oblique Figures [in Boston] crystallized the office’s interest in form and figure as an inherently implicated, intersectional device—a choreographer of relations. The project brief required an oversized cubic loft to be spatially differentiated without partitions due to lighting constraints. In response, a double-height curved staircase anchors and domesticates its surroundings through its transforming silhouette in perspective, functioning as a perceptual fulcrum that bridges three scales, orientations, and dispositions of space.
Another important project: Fly Gallery [in Boston], designed for an art nonprofit called Opportunities for Artists, using rapidly deployable descending scrim partitions to produce a gallery space that transforms to suit the needs of the community around it, becoming classroom, theater, gallery, or community event space at will. It illustrates how the office considers material, social need, inclusion, and equity in relation to form.
Biggest design challenge the firm has overcome: Designing a stair like a hairpin-turning mountain road, which obliquely ascends four stories within a highly compressed 15-foot-wide 19th-century row house.
Most successful collaboration: Crown House [in St. Louis, Mo.] with [Cambridge, Mass.-based] Studio Sean Canty. Our common formal and queer proclivities made “Jih Sean,” our drag identity and name of our collaborative practice, both a joy and an opportunity to center the inclusion of historically marginalized conceptions of the family within the lineage of American domestic typologies. Crown House is our first completed project.
How would you describe the personality of your practice? The website, made by New York–based graphic design firm Studio Lin, attempts to reflect the personality of the practice: a playful and somewhat informal layout, not too rigid in its alignments, characterized by intersectional clusters and related conversations, tightly annotated and interwoven. We tried to make the site itself a reflection of the studio’s sensibilities and thought processes.
Biggest challenge in running a successful practice: Transmitting the ethos, values, and cultural orientation of the work throughout the office while respecting and integrating each member’s own orientations, and maintaining that ephemeral quality in our modes of engagement.
What’s on your bookshelf? I’m at perpetual risk of drowning in an overloaded reading list, but on the nearest pile are: On Weaving by Anni Albers; Bluets by Maggie Nelson; The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present by Byung Chul Han; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn; Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges; The Overstory by Richard Powers.
Special item in your studio space: Several 7-foot-tall fiddle leaf figs and our behemoth laser cutter, Phil.
This article appeared in ARCHITECT's July/August 2022 issue.