Designer Crush: ArcsineAuthor:Michelle Konstantinovsky
When Adam Winig and Daniel Scovill founded architecture and interior design firm Arcsine, they coined the terms “method architecture” and “method design” to define the process of the firm which hinges on deep-dive connections with clients. The Arcsine team’s main focus is creating innovative, hospitality-focused spaces including restaurants, hotels, workspaces, residences, estates, art/community centers and more. Learn more in our Q+A with Scovill below.
How did you get your start in architecture and/or design?
When I was four, I had a chance to witness the construction of our home in Mount Shasta. My mother worked as a freelance drafter whilst she was getting her teaching credentials. My father and mother together built the home alongside the contractors. Then, as all families must do, we sold the house and moved to India. That move didn’t stick (surprise) and before long we were back in my hometown. Their DIY resourcefulness, frugality, and drive for a personalized home led to them repeating the process. Thus, by the time I was nine, I watched my mother design and my parents build these two homes in which I lived. The mechanical drafting board and equipment captivated me and I was often hunched over the board in the evenings, drawing up design for dream houses… often with the fantasies of a nine year old boy being incorporated: slalom gates on the walkways, turrets for the kids’ bedrooms, and secret window seats tucked away along the stairways so that I could take advantage of the in-between spaces, neither at the ground floor nor at the second floor. It occurred to me early that an architect had the awesome ability to incorporate ideas from past experiences with a goal to create special places. I have wanted to become an architect at the age of nine and I have not stopped wanting to be an architect when I grow up ever since.
What is the origin story of Arcsine and how has it evolved over the years?
Arcsine started as an architecture studio in 2003 as I hungered for the opportunity to engage with clients at all points along the design and construction arc. We did not begin as a hospitality firm, though early on it was the restaurant sector that brought us the most work. After a few years of cutting our teeth on the basics of the project type, we started to have fun in the design of the concepts. In 2008, hotel work began to find us and positioned us for growth during the downturn into hospitality specialists. Several key restaurant projects and a couple hotel projects positioned us to start an interiors group in 2013. By then our design approach—which I affectionately coined as method design—started to truly take shape and crystalize our place in this amazing community of design shops. Arcsine is founded on a collaborative design process and the energy that happens when the client/designer/fabricator/builder/user group can connect in a safe, concept-rich space to develop new solutions.
The evolution is the exciting part. I love design of spaces, but I equally love the design of our studio and our approach. Our team is ridiculously bright. The level of creativity and thoughtfulness they bring each day is something I never imagined. Meaning, when Arcsine was started 16 years ago, I never even considered that it would be the home for the fiercely creative people that bring depth to all the projects on which we work. We are all seekers, still wanting to be an architect or designer when we grow up. If we aren’t still “seekers,” we don’t belong here. Our best clients are also seekers and collectively we form a team that wants to be part of the architectural and design journey together. Cultivating strong partnerships with our clients is a design activity and I love building these relationships.
The position we are in now also provides us the space to give back and be a charitable design force in the Oakland community. We gave the podcast 99% Invisible a home at Arcsine for several years as Roman Mars grew his podcast empire. For the past 5 years we have provided paid high school internships to Oakland students interested in design and architecture, who may not otherwise have an opportunity to gain office and industry exposure. We look for that partnership to grow as we continue to guest lecture at a couple OUSD high schools.
What are some of the unique challenges of residential vs. commercial projects and how are they uniquely rewarding?
For me, it is how each view timing of decision. Commercial projects have a pace and cadence that is typically more consistent and it is fun to find that rhythm. This is great from a strategic/project management/planning point of view but often has the schedule at odds with amazing a-ha moments that cannot be scheduled…they just happen.
Residential projects are full of a-ha moments—usually right after the client gets home from a beautiful holiday and a new direction is embraced. I say that with a wry smile, but I also love that fluidity of the residential design approach because the homeowner will often fall in love with that direction and will be fine with the delay.
Both project types often position a design concept as an extension of how the clients views themselves, or their brand, in the world. Tapping into that understanding (or in Arcsinian parlance, the concept of the character that we are method designing) is the underlying rewarding moment. Seeing our client partners trust that “we get it” … and then at the completion of the project, “we got it” is the ultimate reward. That look in their eye and that hug which typically accompanies it.
Tell us about a particularly memorable project and describe what made it so special/rewarding/challenging.
Duende Restaurant & Bodega was absolutely the moment when our origin story and design process took hold. Now, six years on, it is strange to still hold it in such high regard and keep it on the lips of the memorable project discussion, but it is just that, memorable. A project that is starting to get momentum like Duende is effectively a love letter back to my hometown and obviously holds already a special place in my heart. I cannot wait to see this one move forward! Maybe it will be at the cadence I spoke of earlier. Currently, I am thrilled about upcoming construction that we have with industry titans including Dominique Crenn, David Kinch, and the Golden State Warriors’ Generation Thrive, and culinary redevelopment at Oakland Airport, San Jose Airport, and San Francisco Airport.
Who are some of your biggest professional role models and why?
From an approach to design and craftsmanship, I am most inspired by creatives that have found a way to remain patient and incredibly rigorous in their pursuit of excellence. The prog-rock band, TOOL and Swiss Architect, Peter Zumthor capture this spirit superbly. TOOL releases only masterpiece-albums; years pass between albums that are the entire length of some bands’ full careers. Zumthor has a fabled, dreamy pace of work as well; if only our world could always be at that patient cadence and then enjoy the masterful outcomes. The thoughtfulness that they put into their craft has been inspiring to me throughout my entire schooling and professional career encouraging me constantly to think about every single detail and resist the temptation to rush. I admit, I still am working on this!
I approach the design of our studio in the same way we strive to design our projects. Here, I hold Arsene Wenger in the group of professional role models from which I derive tremendous inspiration. For that matter, many coaches of highly professional sport teams catch my eye and inspire me. Wenger’s approach to learning from mistakes and stamina in one’s motivation is captured in his way of defining TENACITY. That word is scrawled on a wall at our office as a reminder.
Lastly, I derive an odd, slightly questionable degree of professional inspiration from Michael Davies, a television game producer and co-host of the podcast Men In Blazers. I appreciate the approach to decision making that he shares and his insatiable thirst for seeing the best in everyone. I also relate to having a “memory of a goldfish” in that it is always better to forget the past and enjoy the moment.
What’s your idea of the perfect Sunday from a.m. to p.m.?
This is a beautiful question and one that makes me realize that though I’m close, I still have a ways to go to figuring out how to create more hours in the week to make this happen every Sunday! Wakeup early and watch a little English Premier League then make some French toast or waffles for the family (or sit by whilst my wife, Isavane, makes South African savory French toast), playing some music based on the weather. Thereafter, head out to watch the kids play soccer, this sometimes is replaced with me refereeing a match…a new exciting endeavor of mine. If there isn’t a soccer match, it is likely a saber fencing tournament for my son. Somewhere in that, I am carrying a sketchbook and on a truly perfect day, I find time to capture a sketch. Admittedly, that happens when I am traveling more than when I’m home. The latter afternoon is often spent with Isavane and friends in our backyard, lounging on the deck and talking about life, the world, and everything whilst the kids play around. This blurs into a casual supper that Isavane employs her magical powers and pulls together effortlessly and I’ll attempt to match it with a cocktail or perfectly paired beer. My daughter plays on the piano, notes wafting through air, my son strums his guitar, and our neighbor’s neo-goth band has their weekly rehearsal next door. Music is architecture and I usually lose track of the conversation as my mind imagines spaces based on the notes and time signatures that I am hearing. The friends leave, the kids go to bed, leaving my wife and I to watch some intensely dramatic TV show of some sort or the other … or read something beautifully futuristic and rich in science fiction. You’ll note that I didn’t include the chores! But that said, I do love tending to our vegetable garden as it is usually overflowing with tomatoes, peppers, and other goodies … and I find a surprise calm in doing the dishes… both invariably occur on a perfect Sunday as well.
Most quotable movie?
Good grief, where to start? Star Wars: A New Hope; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Princess Bride… (“…anyone want a peanut?”).
Go-to easy recipe?
Pasta with a freestyle sauce made from whatever is coming out of my garden, usually sun gold tomatoes sautéed with crushed red pepper and fresh basil.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Nirvana, January 1, 1994. At the Jackson County Fairgrounds. Butthole Surfers opened and Bobcat Goldthwait emceed. It was epic and more than once I was at the bottom of the mosh pit, feet in front of Cobain and crushed by the weight of other flannelled, sweaty, concertgoers.
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