Brian Papa, Oliver Freundlich, and Ben Bischoff met their first year at the Yale School of Architecture, when they found themselves the most enthusiastic members of a student-led design-build project. Today, as principals of MADE, a Brooklyn-based architecture firm, they are elevating design-build to another level.
At their 10,000-square foot warehouse in Red Hook, a team of 15 people—–architects, fabricators, and construction project managers—–move easily between the design studio and a tricked-out workshop where they build full-scale models that test out their design ideas. When they were renovating an apartment for the artist Chuck Close, for example, they mocked up his entire kitchen out of masonite so he could ensure it was easily navigable by wheelchair. For another project, they built a cornice out of plywood to test its profile against the facade of a historic town house. What makes them most innovative, though, is their effort to integrate the designer and builder at every stage of the construction process, from the initial sketch to the final punch list.
“In a typical contractor-architect relationship, someone’s always trying to blame the other person for what’s going wrong,” says Freundlich. At MADE, the architects and builders share responsibility, and together they look for ways to seize design opportunities during construction. But don’t call them scrappy.
“People tend to envision a loose process when they think of design-build, but we’re not drawing floor plans on studs on the job site,” says Freundlich. “We’re focused on creating a very refined product, crafted the best we can.”