From Opera to Architecture

by Laura Knight-Keating

At Lauren Rubin Architecture we are a group of women with a common interest in design. We all come from different backgrounds and we are different ages. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some have one on the way (spoiler alert!). We are full-time and part-time, in school and out, Manhattan dwellers and borough dwellers, home owners and renters. What makes our firm unique is that we honor all the things that make us different and we try to make our work fit our lives – instead of the other way around. It’s unusual these days to find an architecture firm like ours and it makes our perspective and our individual approach to each project more personal, I think.

We just had our website redesigned (thanks Eric Perry Design!). We decided to add a blog. Everyone is super excited about it and we are all going to contribute.

The LRA Team

One week you might hear from me (Warning: topics may range. I’m not an architect in case I haven’t made that obvious…) and other weeks you will hear from one of my talented colleagues — including Lauren.

I’ve never written a blog before. In fact I’ve hardly even read any blogs before! On top of that I am one of two non-architects in the office so I guess it’s ironic and maybe a little funny that I am penning our first official post. I’m a theatre major. (I swear I will make my way back to architecture!) For a long time I worked for an opera company. Opera is one of those art forms people always say – you either love it or you hate it – and when I first started, I really hated it. You couldn’t avoid listening to it – it was piped in everywhere! Then one season I got the opportunity to perform in one of the operas – a small but pivotal role. The experience was truly magical and not only did I come to appreciate the art form but when I left there, I felt a real loss. I started working for a small architecture firm in Union Square. And just like the opera, I really hated it at first! The office was unbearably quiet – I didn’t understand what everyone was doing – headphones on and lines flying across their computer screens. I actually missed having La Boheme forced on me. I felt out of place. I was surprised by how technical architecture seemed to be having always imagined it as a wildly creative art form and architects as rumpled, gruff types with crazy hair and elbow patches on their corduroy jackets?! Wait, maybe that’s my Russian acting teacher…

 

 

Here nobody seemed to talk – unlike the opera where no one would stop talking. I felt most at home in the materials library where I liked the colorful pieces of cork and glass.

 

Clockwise from top left: cork flooring from aronsonsfloors.com; penny tile from nemotile.com, subway glass tile from modwalls.com, madras glass tile from nemotile.com

 

Gradually, I became immersed in the work – they were all talking – they just did it on google chat. I discovered how things actually get built. People’s lives depend on the technicalities. It turns out it’s just like the theatre – the freedom is found within the form. I learned what all those crazy lines represented and how those plans and materials transformed themselves into an elementary school classroom or a child’s bedroom and just like the opera, architecture wormed its way into my heart.

A decade later, I am writing my first blog post on a wonderful architect’s new website. My posts won’t be the most technical, I’ll leave that to the real architects but I will always share my ‘commoners view’ on the world of design and building. There is so much to look at and so much to say…even for a girl like me – who may or may not have any idea what she’s talking about!