LUX Autumn 2018

124 Darin Johnstone Architects (DJA) is a small, full service, design-oriented Architecture practice. Following their success in LUXlife ’s 2018 Leading Designers Awards in which they were awarded the accolade Most Innovative Architectural Practice – California, we profiled the firm and spoke to DJA’s Principal, Darin Johnstone to discover more about their inventive solutions. Darin Johnstone Architects (DJA) are dedicated to design at all scales (from extra-small, to extra-large) and across all programme types. The work in the DJA portfolio cuts across scales (from furniture to planning) and across all program types. The services that they offer range from concept design, programming, planning, through the entire spectrum of basic services and services that they have yet to invent. Specialisation has never been a goal of this practice. Going into further detail about the services DJA provides, Darin being by explaining the firm’s micro- manifesto which encapsulates what the practice is about. “Architecture is the ferocious pursuit of presence to actualise absence: Here at DJA, we put objects into the world to achieve some kind of resonance. We may be searching for timeless qualities of strength, utility and beauty or contemporary qualities of strangeness, ambiguity or the uncanny. We put things into the world iteratively, ad infinitum to test these resonances. It is a tireless pursuit and all the while the thing we are looking for is the very absence of things. Space. This lovely paradox is what drives all the work. “Architecture is an overarching discipline: Architecture is a way of thinking and operating in the world. Architects throughout history have designed teapots, automobiles, cities and everything in between. This inherent opportunity, coupled with a certain amount of restlessness, has always emboldened us to accept all types of design challenges at all scales. “Architecture is new every time: Collaboration, invention, form, engagement generally describe a kind of trajectory we strive to produce afresh each time we are given the opportunity to design something. We do not come to any problem with a pre-set agenda. We believe every design problem contains the capacity to engender discovery. As a way of combating pre-determination, we attempt to engage each project on its own terms mining it for potential partnerships, techniques, systems and modes of operation. Despite the tyrannical forces of economy and fashion we continually strive to maintain a non-specialist experimental approach.” When discussing what qualities make for both excellent designs and designers, Darin informs us that there are too many variables to be named but lists just a few to think about. “Curiosity. Collaboration. Content. “As a designer you need to be endlessly curious. Curious about form, space, program, material, structure, technique etc. For my entire career teaching and practice have always gone together and that combination has helped to stoke and feed my curiosity. For the last fifteen years 1809LU23 I have taught at SCI Arc in Los Angeles, which has been amazing because the administration, faculty and students are all producing work that tests the boundaries of the discipline of architecture.” Following their success in LUXlife ’s 2018 Leading Designers Awards, Darin highlights one particular endeavour that stands out from the rest, as well as touching on the most important thing that they learnt from it. “At this moment, I would say the IVRV house which is the result of a collaboration between SCI Arc and Habitat for Humanity. The project was the culmination of an 18-month teaching endeavour that was inextricably linked to practice. It was probably the first time in my career when teaching and practicing felt like a single endeavour. Beyond that, I am simply proud of the result. With the students we really tried to challenge the status quo of sustainable / affordable housing in both form and content. We strove to answer a typical residential program in an atypical way. Bolstered by Habitat’s mission that ‘every man woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live’ we strived to go beyond decency to achieve something delightful, inspiring, and wondrous.” Bringing the interview to a close, we ask Darin to reflect on the state of the industry currently, and how they see it changing over the next 12-months. “It would be incredibly hard to say. It is an industry that is somehow always simultaneously part of a cutting edge and an immoveable past. Certainly, digital design and production radically changed the discipline and the industry over the last 25 years. In many ways, the discipline of architecture has already moved on. For the industry, it will be interesting to see how the prevalence of apps and direct 3D output change the game over the next 25 years.” Looking ahead to what the future holds, Darin signs off by envisioning what the next 20 years looks like for the firm. “Moving forward, we want to keep designing and building. At this moment the practice is really hovering around an image I envisioned for it 20 years ago. The question now is ‘What’s next?’ Over the last few years, we have been doing a lot of renovation work at all scales. Now we are trying to start winning large scale ground up projects so that 20 years from now we have a portfolio of great ground up work and we can ask ‘What’s next?’ We have been fortunate to have spent the last five years working with ArtCenter College of Design.” Curiosity. Collaboration. Content. dja | 323.478.9700 7462 n. figueroa st. ste. 206, los angeles, ca 90041 darin johnstone architects