March 10, 2017
Q&A with Nathan Colkitt of Colkitt & Co.
' To create a space, you must first understand what will take place there,' says Nathan Colkitt of his eponymous firm's incredibly innovative and empathetic designs.
by New York Spaces
NYS: What does Colkitt & Co. specialize in?
Nathan Colkitt of Colkitt & Co.: We love design and art that is attainable and approachable by a wide and popular market segment. We specialize in creating modern, if not abstract places, that are at once authentic, relevant, and intimate with mass appeal.
NYS: What made you decide to open your firm? Is everyone you employ an architect?
Nathan Colkitt: My father was an incredibly talented designer. Growing up, he would drop me off at school before work everyday. One day when I was six, we had to complete our "All About Me" booklet for school. The last page you had to choose what you wanted to be when you grow up. Right before I hopped out of the car that day, I asked my father what he called what he did. He said, "I'm a designer." I had no idea what that was or what that meant, so I asked again, "Is that like an architect?" He said yes. So I never looked back.
I opened my firm to better serve clients. I believe design is at its best a practice of empathy. That's why I practice design, to be more empathetic to my clients and the planet.
We are not just architects, sometimes that the last thing you want is people with the same background gathered together. We are composed of a wide range of people in so many ways. We have people from construction, manufacturing, interiors, cabinetmaking, business, marketing, and real estate. In design we feel it's always better to be able to see things from many different vantage points.
NYS: How you work across residential, retail, and hospitality spaces? Do you have a preference for one over the other?
Nathan Colkitt: "Form follows performance" is one of our mantras. Architecture is a "place for ritualistic human activity." To create a space, you must first understand what will take place there. This fundamentally allows us to be equally comfortable regardless of the typology, whether it's a residential, retail, or hospitality space. It's about understanding what people do. We have a preference for creating places that lend themselves to unique and spontaneous moments of intimacy. We love carving out "surplus value" in a space.
NYS: What does your company's motto, "Be Drawn" signify to you?
Nathan Colkitt: On the surface it's an affirmation of one of the primary tools of the designer: the passion for drawing. But it's so much more than that. It's about being drawn to someone or something. It's the law of attraction. It's a call to action. Life is all about doing, if you going to communicate your vision, "BE DRAWN..." to it, do it with everything you got.
NYS: You say you include innovation in every project. In what ways do you make sure your projects are innovative? Is it in the design, materials, concept?
Nathan Colkitt: Fundamental to our process is creating a strong diagram. If you're asked to create a 'diagram of a chair' or a 'diagram of a device to counter gravitational forces acting on the human musculoskeletal system,' you are asking the same question but may get very different outcomes. For us, innovation begins with asking the question in the right way and is part of our process. This allows the innovation to have a very broad impact and intrinsic value throughout our work.
NYS: We love the Puma retail store you designed in SoHo! What was your concept for this store...what did you want consumers to experience while shopping there?
Nathan Colkitt: The goal was to blur three experiences into one: the New York street, the joy of shopping, and
the PUMA brand. Playing with scale, placement and proportion is what makes the space fun and worth exploring. The design begs the customer in, around and down, as if you going underground and down the rabbit hole that is New York City. It's a place where a fitting becomes a surprise Subway stop under the stair.
NYS: Is there a retail brand you would love to design a concept for?
Nathan Colkitt: I would love to do a flagship for Common Projects. How do you design a concept for a brand that's fundamentally based on being non-branded?
NYS: What have been a couple of your favorite projects to date and why?
Nathan Colkitt: One is Challenged Athletes Foundation. Working for this nonprofit was the first project where we realized the basic process of creating and connecting spaces was 'innovating to impact lives.' I also loved working on the historic landmark, Belmont Park in Mission Beach, California. It was fulfilling working on San Diego's 'Coney Island' and see our alterations touch millions of people.
NYS: What would a dream project look like for you?
Nathan Colkitt: Every architect's rite of passage is to design a chair that becomes prolific in popular culture. I
cannot think of a more intimate design project.
NYS: What are you working on now?
Nathan Colkitt: Now we are working on a restaurant in the East Village, a mixed-use new, eight-story building in Queens, a twenty-story new commercial building in Brooklyn, new corporate offices in midtown for Pomellato and Boucheron, co-working spaces in Southern California, an office building for the County of San Diego, and many different stores and restaurants across the U.S. including upstate New York, Maryland, Florida, Texas, California and Hawaii.
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