Some solutions are purely formed out of habit; a repetitive process where we know it has worked in the past. For many clients, this is the most cost-effective and practical solution because it “saves time.” But there are always more dynamic solutions out there that can improve on existing designs. Los Angeles based design firm, M-Rad strives to seek out these new approaches; not just for the sake of being different, but to shift perceptions on how environmentally responsible design is ultimately the best solution. This dialogue typically starts with their clients, but M-Rad’s intent is to spark discussion with a much broader audience. They achieve this through multiple mediums, and their list of projects might surprise you. SwipeLife discussed with M-Rad’s founder and Design Director, Matthew Rosenberg how his firm is sharing these important ideas.
SL: Hi, Matthew. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I think our audience will not only be intrigued by your eclectic list of services, but your unique approaches to design problems.
SL: Who founded the company?
MR: I founded M-Rad out of the corner of our apartment and often used the garden as a workspace.
SL: Where is your firm based now?
MR: Los Angeles, CA
SL: How old is the company now? How much has it grown since its inception?
MR: The company is almost two years old. We have anywhere from two to six people in any given month. I’ve been lucky to have a great wealth of talented people in my network that are willing to work for short term periods when we need to ramp up output. Staffing, and funding staff, is one of the biggest struggles of a young firm like M-Rad. Young and old practices often rely on academia positions to fund the office in times of slow work flow. I am a strong believer in funding architecture with architecture and so I have had to explore other options to keep growing. Equity shares are not often offered in architecture but I’m convinced it will work for M-Rad. It gives everyone a piece in the brand they’re building and will allow me to build a creative and dedicated team.
SL: What is your company’s mission statement?
MR: M-Rad is an international award-winning design studio that looks to re-conceptualize architecture through social and environmental research.
The studio is dedicated to exploring authentic solutions with clients that are interested in redefining the architectural style of our time. Whether in a mixed-use cultural project or an intimate residential home, our projects aim to skew traditional architectural elements so that a person’s daily routine may be enhanced by subtle shifts in their perspective. We provide these moments in a holistic comprehensive
building environment assuring international acclaim and prolonged investment return.
The work, while varied in scale and eclectic in scope, is harmonized by alternative sustainable solutions and enhanced social exchanges. We are working to improve the function of our buildings and strengthen a city’s infrastructure through socially generated solutions. The goal of M-Rad is to introduce elements that reinvigorate the existing landscape into public spaces and offer the community a chance to define a thriving culture. Our hope is that our designs help to build a stronger bond between the community and their built environment by offering them a part in its design.
We provide bespoke solutions to problems that are universal.
SL: For you, what is architecture?
MR: It’s an opportunity to enhance the way people connect with their environment and each other. Architecture is interaction and engagement. It is evolution and revolution, aesthetics and design, and business in balance.
SL: What services do you provide for clients?
MR: This is an ever-evolving utility and one that we still have the liberty to develop and refine. MRad is growing in a time of great change in the way business is done. The future of architecture studios will encompass much more than design and the implementation of those designs. You are going to see, at least from us, a ‘fullservice’ practice that not only delivers world class sustainable design, but also architectural branding, strategic partnerships ensuring financial longevity, and new elements like sound and aroma infiltration. We challenge the practice standards and pride ourselves on integrating cutting edge mechanics and innovative layouts and materials. We aim to provide a service that has no benchmark. We are hoping young (and old!) practices will begin to build on this platform and strengthen the value of architectural services.
SL: Would you consider yourselves to be an all-encompassing design group? Or an architectural firm with other strong design services?
MR: We see design in everything. Every object can be improved and designed, anywhere from a museum, to a logo, to the way people interact with a bench. We are dedicated to providing authentic value in the sense that we go beyond design and construction to fulfill marketing and branding needs as well. Who better to deliver and convey a project to the community than the people who know it best?
SL: Branding and Graphic Design seems like such a unique service for a firm. I’m not fully acquainted with all firm practices, so please educate me on how branding strategy would take form on an architectural project and then be executed.
MR: This is a unique service that we are constantly working on and is where our clients can really get an enormous amount of value. Branding a building is actually done more often than people realize. We’re expanding on this by introducing strategic sponsorships and integrating marketing opportunities from as early as the schematic design stage. We are infusing value all the way from integrated branding at the building concept stage to leveraging external brands to integrate visibility of both product and building.
Great graphic design is simply one element to presenting a great project and helps make it accessible to as many people as possible. Clear, concise, and rich graphics are a way for us to infuse another element of design and value and deliver it so everyone can appreciate a rendering or drawing as valuable art in itself.
SL: Since you offer a wide range of services, it’s expected that you would have a very diverse portfolio; and that you do. You have provided photography services for various product features. I’m assuming that you and your team have some affinity with art culture in all styles and mediums. Was this something decided by a team member or collectively?
MR: I suppose it comes more from my background and network rather than any decisive predetermination. I hold a degree in Fine Arts with a focus in Photography and Painting as well my two architecture degrees and am always interested in continuing to integrate those arts in my studio and work.
SL: I now also see a list of product design projects – these products range from water bottles to benches. Are these projects pitched to your group? Or do you actively seek out collaborative projects with creatives from different industries?
MR: Both. I’m always on the lookout for innovative thinkers in any field. If we get a chance to work and think with them then I think we are doing something right. I’m fortunate enough to have a very talented sister who is an artist. She brought the first opportunity to design a bench to me. Her artist residency grant gave us a chance to work together which I’m sure our parents were quite pleased about! The second bench, the energy-generating ‘Bench Press’, originated from a call for proposals for interactive architecture that will engage the public. We are looking to work with the city to prototype a Bench Press that could be distributed throughout the train expansion plans and bus stops around the city.
I am not so much interested in designing objects for the sake of objects, so much as designing ideas that can enrich a persons daily routine or cultivate a more efficient community. If we can design a water bottle that pours water better, then we enrich the experience of pouring water. It’s simple, but those are the things we think about it.
SL: Is your list of services subject to change? Or will you focus your efforts on growing all areas of business?
MR: First and foremost we are an architecture and design business. Architecture is slow and often takes a lifetime to build a secure and steady practice. M-Rad is focused on innovation in all aspects of our business. With this in mind, I can only assume our services will evolve and our business will begin to define a new type of architectural practice.
SL: I’d like to discuss some of your ongoing projects. There is this stunning Craic Haus Hotel. Please tell us what that project is and its status.
MR: I was brought on to design this project with XTen Architecture. They were selected as one of three firms to provide a schematic design for a boutique hotel located in an up-and-coming area of Downtown Los Angeles. I have an infatuation with small bespoke hotels and spend as much time as possible staying in them around the globe. A couple hotels that strongly influenced my interpretation of Craic House were the Waterhouse in Shanghai and Hotel Americano in New York City. I picked the most prolific elements that stood out for me during my stays and developed the Craic House off of those principles. This project was just awarded the Los Angeles AIA Next/LA Award and the American Architecture Award.
SL: I came across one of your latest projects, Vegas Extreme. That looks wild! The project title fits the description I read perfectly. Congratulations on being awarded Design Principal on that project. Please share with our audience your intent for this design and some of the special design elements that it will feature.
MR: Just as Walt Disney once innovated theme park design and changed the way the world is entertained, MRad is working to define a new type of amusement park. This is actually M-Rad’s second Extreme Sports Park and we’re always looking to attract new clients that bolster this vision and want to work with us to spread it globally.
In terms of Vegas Extreme, we set out to create a global attractor that could stand as an iconic feature amongst the prominence of the Las Vegas strip. For us, the boutique hotel towers and unique
combination of activities will demand a global awareness, while the energy efficiency of the mechanics
of the park will set a new benchmark for entertainment venues.
SL: What is the most innovative design your group has accomplished?
MR: The project I’m proudest of is the proposal for a $320 million New Arts Museum and Theatre Centre located at the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct of Australia. We were selected for the Phase 1 long-list amongst renowned architects such as: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaus, and others.
The proposal is an authentic icon that would act as a global attractor for creative culture and technological innovation. The Swell (M-Rad’s proposal) exemplified Australia’s inherent aboriginal roots and a visionary future of innovation. It aimed to foster and facilitate collaborative innovation through its connected network of circulation and program. Pavilions and pathways created the Artscape and were arranged to entice visitors to explore the site in their own way offering each visitor an authentic experience. It is this authenticity that we strive to deliver in each and every project.
Aboriginal Australian symbols are a rooting influence in the idea of Swell and are evident in the arrangement of the Artscape. Much like the aboriginal symbol of a circular campfire that ensured a sense of storytelling and community, the circular pavilions set the stage for a global community through idea-sharing and collaboration.
Innovation and cultural definition is built over time and through layers of ideas and exploration. The environment that hosts such provocative ideals must be stimulating in its own right, offering the global community a hint of what’s to come from this inspiring hub. The Swell builds upon the history of its ancestors with a clear and dramatic vision for the future. It would connect, enable, and provoke the global community in a way that only the Gold Coast could do.
SL: Is there an area of design that you wish for your group to investigate and advance for the industry?
MR: I’ve always found it peculiar that architecture is driven and controlled by developers and city officials. M-Rad desires to seek out opportunities to engage the community and revitalize urban conditions. We do this by sourcing and targeting land and building development opportunities before the developer engages the architect. We bring the project to them. Architects should consider engaging the developer and leveraging our understanding of the built environment to instigate the projects that actually need to be developed for the community. It is our job to understand where improvements can take place or where development could bring value both to the community and the investor. My hope is that one day architects will drive the development sector and in doing so will create a lasting bond between the communities, their investors, and their architects.
Thank you to Matt Rosenberg and his great team over at M-Rad. Their full list of projects can be seen on their website.
The latest news from M-Rad can also be viewed on their Facebook page.
All images were provided from M-Rad.