January 23, 2017
Q&A with Tim Campbell of the Eponymous Design Studio
Tim Campbell reflects on his firm's focus on restoring historically significantly buildings, his current and past projects, and why context and history in landscapes matter.
by New York Spaces
NYS: What made you decide to open Studio Tim Campbell? What are you known for?
Tim Cambell: I opened Studio Tim Campbell in 2006 because I finally felt like I'd found my aesthetic voice with both architecture and interiors. I'm best known for the restoration of the Colony Palms Hotel in Palm Springs, Richard Neutra's Singleton House for Ronnie and Vidal Sassoon, restoration of Luis Barragans' Campbell Divertimento Fountain 637 in Los Angeles and a couple of homes for Diane Keaton, I guess many would say. For my dogs, I'm best known for great walks every morning and evening.
NYS: How do you deal with offices in both LA and New York City?
Tim Cambell: I love travel and I love to fly so jetting between LA and NY is cake for me. I have an incredible team and I trust them to do good work. They don't disappoint. Beyond that I am very much a New Yorker at heart so living at a fast pace comes naturally to me.
NYS: We love that you work on both residential and commercial projects. Is there a particular field you enjoy more?
Tim Cambell: I love residential because I love making beautiful homes and buildings. Most of my commercial work has been hotel and art galleries. I guess all the work essentially is about making beautiful spaces so in that regard, I love them both equally.
NYS: Why do you gravitate towards historical renovations? Why do you think context and history in landscapes matter?
Tim Cambell: I think I gravitate to historic restoration because it requires a very complex set of skills and I like complex problem solving. Beyond that I love travel and all the cities I love are ancient cities. We obviously don't have that in the U.S. being as young a country as we are—one day we will and I'd like to think that I could have played a part in that for future generations. Further, restoration is about saving memories. These historic homes are reliquaries for amazing lives—when we save them we save those stories. That matters. Context and history in landscapes matter because they are the stage upon which our lives are played out. How we set the stage and how we remember the stage encapsulates the memory.
NYS: What are some historical renovation projects you have worked on and what made each of them
Tim Cambell: The Colony Palms Hotel—what made it special is that it was a hotel where a lot of Hollywood's elite lived out their allegedly salacious lives. And to see a property like that come back to life was really joyous. Richard Neutra's Singleton House, because meeting and working with Ronnie and Vidal Sassoon was such a highlight. He was the quintessential English gentleman and she has such amazing taste. Luis Barragan's Campbell Divertimento Fountain 637: what made it special was that the fountain was a work of Barragan—the house surrounding it was a tragic architectural mess and I turned it into a very sculptural, minimal house that was referential of what Barragan may have done, had he designed the house. It was like setting the fountain in a gallery.
NYS: We love that you have worked on Frank Lloyd Wright's Alfred Newman Residence. What was the directive in this project? How did you stay true to the architects original purpose and enhance it?
Tim Cambell: It was actually Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) and the house was a funky A-Frame style house. The directive to the house was basically bring it back, save it and make it viable by today's standards. I think we did a good job.
NYS: We heard a rumor you are working on a book with Pointed Leaf Press! Can you give us some advance info on what to expect?
Tim Cambell: I've waited a lot of years to do a book and I'm really excited about it. Getting it right was important to me and Pointed Leaf Press just got me and appreciated what I have to say. What you can expect is a lot of pretty pictures but more importantly some good writing. I like writing and specifically writing about the work. It will also cover my philanthropic work in Africa which is important to me.
NYS: We recently toured Luis Barragan's home in Mexico City so we are highly intrigued about your work on an estate remodel featuring his Campbell Divertimento Fountain. Tell us about it!
Tim Cambell: The fountain is amazing structure in Holmby Hills (a neighborhood in LA north of Sunset and West
of Beverly Hills) behind a 16' tall red cantera stone wall. Its influences are more Mayan than what many thought of Barragan and thus the Barragan Foundation still thinks it bears the influence of his design partner, Raul Ferrera over Barragan, however it remains a cultural monument in Los Angeles. The house surrounding the fountain was a mess—a mix of Tudor, Spanish and Cape Cod (not kidding). My task was to redesign the building so that it would reference what I thought Barragan would have designed, had he been asked to do so. Its sculptural, modern, and minimal but rendered in a rusticated stucco finish as he often used in his regionally Modern structures. There are moments of silence in the house where its just light and shadow and space—that is the kind of space I love most and I think it's a good mediation on his work.
NYS: What would your dream project be?
Tim Cambell: Designing a private 737 Business Jet—for myself.
NYS: What are you working on now?
Tim Cambell: One of the many projects I've got going is a new modern house above the Chateau Marmont in LA. Its very much my voice and I'm in love with the house. I'm also restoring a townhouse in the West Village for a client from LA and I love that sort of work in NY.
NYS: What does the future hold for Stuio Tim Campbell?
Tim Cambell: I think the future for Studio Tim Campbell holds a lot of exciting projects—ultimately its about building houses and making homes for wonderful clients. This is my dream job and it's the only thing I know so bring it on!
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