Trickle-down Architecture

New York’s tiny Gage/Clemenceau Architects put their fanciful competition ideas to work in built projects.

Occasionally mistaken by passersby for an Internet café, Gage/Clemenceau Architects’ storefront office on New York’s Lower East Side is almost defiantly small. There are seven workstations flanking a conference table, a color-coded corner library, a model-strewn basement, and little else. But Mark Foster Gage and Marc Clemenceau Bailly say they prefer to keep things that way. It allows them to stay involved in the day-to-day details of their work, and to maintain a roughly two-to-one ratio of real-world projects to competition entries and exhibition schemes, a mix they find ideal. “We always try to work between runway and ready-to-wear stuff,” Gage says.

That approach seems to be paying off for the firm: Gage was one of six architects recognized by the Architectural League of New York in its 2008 Young Architects Forum. (He will be speaking in the accompanying lecture series, in New York, on May 22. Bailly, more than ten years out of school, was ineligible.) Indeed, the more adventurous ideas in the firm’s competition entries often trickle down into its built work. Thus the folding surfaces of a proposed facade for the Estonian Academy of Arts will reappear as a boldly torqued wall in an apartment on Central Park South to be completed later this summer. Similarly, a custom chandelier commissioned for a New York Times Magazine photo shoot was based on the sprouting gold tendrils rendered in the firm’s entry for a courtyard installation at P.S.1. What all these projects have in common is a preference for botanical patterns, baroque ornamentation, and tactile details. “Obviously, we’re not huge fans of minimalism around here,” Gage says.

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