If given the choice between staring blankly into space or reading architects’ office statements on their website, we choose the first. They all say the same thing: we’re sustainable, responsible with budgets, experienced, award-winning, etc. . . . The game seems to be how to say nothing in particular and comfort any worries of someone contemplating hiring you. After a few clicks, it’s hard not to think that all this quote-unquote professionalism is very cold at its core. We can’t tell you exactly when MOS started. We like to say it was 2003, but we didn’t have an office space then and our name was !@#?, which we quickly found was too difficult to use because 1. you couldn’t pronounce it and 2. you couldn’t get a web address. So, eventually, we drifted towards MOS—an acronym of our names and reflection of a shared desire to be horizontal and fuzzy, as opposed to tall and shiny. We began around an oversized table, a surface for collecting, gathering, and working through a range of design experiments—a make-believe of architectural fantasies, problems, and thoughts. As we’ve grown, we remain around a large table, working together on each project through playful experimentation and serious research. This website indexes that work: housing; schools; houses; cultural institutions; retail; exhibition design; installations; furniture; objects; books; writing; software experiments; and videos.
Krabbesholm Højskole (Denmark) is awarded an AIA NY Excellence Award
MOS Architects receive an AIA New York Award of Merit for Element House
We draw, talk, email, doodle, diagram, render, print, print, draw, model, receive, distribute, call, approve, confirm, reject, plead, deny, laugh, export, import, present, listen, order, zoom, script, post, pan, copy, paste, scale, collate, staple, eat, list, drink, walk, draw, chat, meet, photograph, crop, calculate, draw, adjust, tweak, sip, solve, stack, note, organize, scan, edit, review, print, question, comment, make, sketch . . . and occasionally, we collect things from this process and store them in a flat file.
The Museum of Outdoor Arts Element House is a modular building constructed from structurally insulated panels (SIPs) and designed to operate independently of public utilities by integrating passive systems and on-site energy-generation. The house functions as a guest house and visitor center for Star Axis, a nearby land art project by the artist Charles Ross. Using simple sustainable building practices to increase environmental performance, the building is stripped down to basic components.
The organization of the house is based on an additive geometric system of growth, expanding outward, one module after another. The chimney is displaced, from its traditional role as a central solid mass, to a decentralized field of vertical skylight openings and solar chimneys designed to cool the building. The chimney volumes feature remote-control operable windows for passive ventilation. Exterior cladding is in raw-aluminum shingles with a small air gap between the shingles and structure. The continuous interlocking cladding works as a heat sink to distribute solar radiation over the entire surface of the house from the hot side to the cooler, shaded side, thereby reducing heat gain and the need for air conditioning.
Systems and Shapes
The argument goes that Form is a System and that Shapes are, well, shapes. The two are disciplinary frenemies—they act like friends from time to time, or like part of the same clique, but in private they trash each other. Systems people are pedantic technicians, neurotic puppet masters of geometry. They obsess over means. They talk too much about process. They claim to like Schoenberg. Shape people describe themselves as cool, easy, and graphic. They’re interested in an immediacy of effects. They live in Williamsburg. Systems are typically based in plan. Shapes are elevations or silhouettes. Systems are conceptual. Shapes are commercial. Systems like repetition and difference. They use patterns, trajectories, and magnitudes. Shapes prefer singularity. They use fillets to round corners and reinforce shape. Systems are centrifugal. Shapes are centripetal. Systems get excited by the allure of computation. They play with CATIA, Processing, or Grasshopper, mumbling intensely about discretizing surfaces. Shapes prefer Photoshop and Illustrator. They use pens. Systems frustrate pictorial imagery through their emphasis on process. They gaze at their feet. Shapes relish the pictorial. They swoon for photos. Systems produce their own ground. Shapes don’t like anything that disrupts their shape.
This little house in the middle of nowhere is indifferent to all of the above.
Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, Ashley Bigham, Jason Bond, Ryan Culligan, Gideon Danilowitz, Michael Faciejew, Steven Gertner, Jason Kim, Kera Lagios, Ryan Ludwig, Gabrielle Marcoux, Meredith McDaniel, Elijah Porter, Michael Smith, Mathew Staudt, Marrikka Trotter
Structural Engineer: Edward Stanley Engineers
Climate Engineer: Paul Stoller, Atelier Ten
Photographer: Florian Holzherr
Romance of Systems
Nowhere to Go