How We Approach Projects
Gotham believes that our most important role in each project is to be the "generalist" guiding and supporting the skills of others from the first thoughts about place and program, through design and approval, into construction, and all of the way to when the project is put to use. Gotham avoids being the "specialist" or simply plugging into the process.
With this approach, we have had particular success working on projects with challenging requirements involving complicated sites. This success comes from the combination of our commitment to clients, persistence as we shepherd projects through the approval process, understanding of the construction process, and our ability to find solutions that are in balance with and protect the environment. In addition to our love for beauty, which we define as when nothing can be added or removed without making something less.
We define good work as creating places and buildings that are well-built, fulfilling their purpose graciously, with aesthetics that fit appropriately with where they are located. This definition is just using the language of today to confirm how Vitruvius, the Roman architect who wrote the earliest surviving treatise on architecture, perceived architecture - as the combination of firmness, commodity, and delight. Architecture is not just about aesthetics. It is also not just about construction, or just about function. Good architecture is a solution that properly balances those three objectives.
Gotham Design & Community Development Ltd. is in the business of coordinating the entire design process with the construction process. This includes building design, landscape design, interior design, engineering, and site planning services. This integrated approach to design creates buildings that are well-built, accommodating, functional, and aesthetically appealing. Gotham's method is not any new invention: it is the way places and buildings used to be designed, before the age of specialization, when it was understood that good buildings married "firmness, commodity, and delight."
Gotham performs the role of the generalist, coordinating the specialists. We also try to lure them out of their silos, so that the process can be more collaborative. Gotham is not a professional corporation and the services of licensed architects, licensed engineers, and other licensed professionals are often required for specific projects, which Gotham can coordinate.
While Gotham creates buildings with distinct character, the unique quality of each design derives from the specific people for whom the building is being created, integrated with its program and place. This often requires an aesthetic influenced by the local vernacular and demands that the design respond to its context.
Gotham’s design approach is based on two concepts:
The generating principle of a project is its context. The context includes the historic, cultural and aesthetic imagery intrinsic to its place, as well as the physical character of the site. The identity for each project is created by its context. The design process responds specifically to both the natural environment and to the cultural environment of the project.
The successful creation of buildings and places requires the synthesis of many variables integral and essential to the specific project. These include the functional requirements, economics, construction methods and materials, and aesthetics. The objective is to integrate many disparate elements into a harmonious composition. Synthesis is the design process.
The coordination of design requires that various components, desires, and requirements be simultaneously accommodated. The dictionary defines "context" as "the whole situation, background, or environment relevant to a particular event, personality or creation." It also indicates that the etymology of the word is from the Latin "to weave together." At Gotham, the composition is derived by the way in which the necessary elements are fit or woven together. By understanding the nature of these different elements, the problem can be defined and an appropriate solution derived for the design. This approach allows the specificity of the site and programmatic requirements to result in a unique design able to fulfill the personal needs and desires of the client.
Gotham is committed to smart buildings that are highly efficient and sustainable. However, instead of depending on technology, we believe in the concept of the "Original Green", beautifully articulated by architect Stephen Mouzon. We believe that buildings can be more sustainable without reliance on "gizmo green" or "green washing." We appreciate ideas developed in the 1920's that encouraged the building process to make better use of modern manufacturing methods, but we do not believe that a house is "a machine for living in."
The best buildings provide us with so much more. In Mr. Mouzon's words, buildings and places should be lovable: "We don't love buildings because they are old. Buildings are old because we love them." We are experienced with solar collectors and geo-thermal, but we are also experienced with how the orientation of a building, the placement of windows, and the design of the spaces can improve its comfort and efficiency. These are the methods used in buildings before we had newer technologies and they continue to make a significant difference.
Gotham is familiar with the idea of "less is more" that drove the aesthetics of architecture for many years. We appreciate an economy of means and an efficiency in construction methods, but we believe in the value of the rich language of architecture. We contend that many of the details that have become "high style" originated as vernacular solutions to the real problems of how buildings should be built to best withstand the environment within which they are located. We are grateful to Robert Venturi for encouraging the possibility of "both/and", instead of only "either/or".
The places and buildings Gotham helps create are solutions for the specifics of the context. For us, context is the combination of the socio-cultural and the physical environment in which we are working, integrated with the client's programmatic requirements for the project. We believe that the design process is identifying and refining solutions that best accommodate those three overlapping sets of parameters.
Subsequently, we are not distracted by any superficial efforts to be inventive or different. We believe that each place and each project is already unique. Our intent is to find the best solutions, not necessarily the most unusual. Sometimes the best projects are those able to fit seamlessly into the existing context of the place, rather than stand out. At the same time, we are creative and recognize that there will be times when the best results will put things together in an original way. We want our projects to be comfortable and enjoyable, and for the buildings and places that we help create to make everything around them better.