Contract - Designer Perspectives: Q&A with Susan Doban and Jason Gorsline of Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate

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Designer Perspectives: Q&A with Susan Doban and Jason Gorsline of Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate

01 March, 2011


Before joining forces, Susan Doban, AIA, founded Susan Doban Architect, in 1996, now known as Doban Architecture. She worked on a significant adaptive reuse and economic development project, known as Red Hook stores, a conversion of a civil war era cotton warehouse into a mixed use project and winner of the Municipal Art Society’s Master Work award, and was responsible for more than 10 projects for Monroe College on New Rochelle’s Main Street.

Jason Gorsline honed his skills as a designer and fabricator as design director at A&G Designs, which he co-founded in 2002, focusing on custom furniture and interior projects for restaurant, retail, and residential interiors. Having an awareness of building design and construction, both from working in residential construction in his native Virginia and studying architecture in college, he learned keep in mind the relationship of the components of a project, even when designing an individual piece of furniture.

The pair discusses their collaborative businesses Doban Architecure and Think Fabricate.


How did you two first meet? For how long have you been working together?
SD: We were introduced by a piece of furniture!

JG: Yes! Susan saw a day bed at a furniture show that I had designed with my former company, and contacted us in spring of 2007 to see if we could do something similar for her home. We didn’t actually get to know each other until the time came to go over the options and discus the design. We have been working together off and on since then, and officially established Think Fabricate as a multidisciplinary design studio in 2009. We opened our fabrication shop in East Williamsburg on New Year’s Eve that year.

How did Think Fabricate evolve?
JG: We then worked together on a second project for Susan’s house (which eventually led to one of our first product lines: Not Your Mother’s…), and then she invited me to collaborate on two very different projects: a residential renovation for a long-standing clients and a permanent art installation for a lobby in New Rochelle. We had the opportunity to know one another’s aesthetic, see how each approached design, and develop respect for one another’s opinion.

What made you think working together on Doban Architecture/Think Fabricate would be a good collaboration?
SD: We realized, that despite and because of our different backgrounds, we both shared a commitment to finding the solution to design dilemmas of various types. It was important to have complementary experience, an aesthetic that was mutually in sync, but also broadened by cross-generational, multidisciplinary input. We had all that going for us. I respected Jason’s design passion; I had been his client, and I had an appreciation for his ability to respond in that role. Because we each knew what it was like to run a business, there was also a bond that entrepreneurs tend to share.

We also saw that the design studio, which evolved into Think Fabricate, would help broaden the capabilities to provide design solutions in the three main areas of architectural practice, which were in residential, educational, and community development projects. This evolved into our three initiatives, Think Living, Think Educate, and Think Main Streets, which are threads running through both businesses and organize our work.

Does the product design emerge out of products necessary for the design projects?
JG: In a way there is always a project or user in mind when developing a product, even if it’s hypothetical, in response to a need we have identified in our own lives, in lives of others we know. One interesting example is the Stepping Wood Chair. It was derived from an idea for booth and bench seating at a college cafeteria we were working on. The form of the chair lead to the rest of the Stepping Stones line (shown in gallery), which includes a credenza and bench. We are planning o bring an upholstered version and an indoor-outdoor version to market in March.

SD: Sometimes product design evolves in mysterious ways as well—and the design process itself can be mysterious! A classic example is a sketch I drew of a wall-mounted shelf, then through discussion it evolved into an idea for a bench. We also find that when we prepare for trade shows ideas arise spontaneously. Last year we decided to design plates for our wall-mounted china cabinet, and they are now part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum! Last week we decided to design and fabricate serving trays so that we can serve our guests from our own products during the upcoming trade show season!

DA-TF-logoCan you define the term “Brooklynness” for us, and tell us how it is reflected in your work?
JG: I think Brooklyn has given us the right soil to plant our creative seeds and watch it grow. I came to Brooklyn in my early 20s, and in many ways Brooklyn has given me not only a place for my creativity to grow but also a place for me to mature and learn from those around me. There was this real buzz in the late ’90s into the last decade about Brooklyn designers, especially the Brooklyn furniture design and fabrication scene that’s happening in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Red Hook. This community helped establish a strong foundation and gain sense of respect in the design community. I have always thought that in order to be creative you have to surround yourself with creativity. I think Brooklyn has a way of nurturing creativity, maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the people but either way I think both Susan and I came to New York looking for a place to establish ourselves and in the end Brooklyn was that place. I think this is ultimately reflected in the multiple influences in our work, from historical motifs to compositional and programmatic ideas.

What would be your ideal commission/dream project?
SD: I would love to work on a project on an island that could only be reached at high tide, or was only connected to the grid at certain times, the rhythm, systems, and pace of the place being impacted by these larger conditions. I would love to take my personal interest in ceramics and plates, which led to designing those in the museum, to the next level and design ceramic exterior wall applications. And, on a very basic level, I know we would both love to work on a restaurant, but in the meantime we still have to finish the work we started at my house including my kitchen!

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer who is interested in both architecture and product design?
SD: Share your ideas openly and welcome the input of others!

JG: Surround yourself with creativity and don’t be afraid to include other disciplines on your exploration!


Designer Perspectives: Q&A with Susan Doban and Jason Gorsline of Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate

01 March, 2011


Ben Kulo Photography

Before joining forces, Susan Doban, AIA, founded Susan Doban Architect, in 1996, now known as Doban Architecture. She worked on a significant adaptive reuse and economic development project, known as Red Hook stores, a conversion of a civil war era cotton warehouse into a mixed use project and winner of the Municipal Art Society’s Master Work award, and was responsible for more than 10 projects for Monroe College on New Rochelle’s Main Street.

Jason Gorsline honed his skills as a designer and fabricator as design director at A&G Designs, which he co-founded in 2002, focusing on custom furniture and interior projects for restaurant, retail, and residential interiors. Having an awareness of building design and construction, both from working in residential construction in his native Virginia and studying architecture in college, he learned keep in mind the relationship of the components of a project, even when designing an individual piece of furniture.

The pair discusses their collaborative businesses Doban Architecure and Think Fabricate.


How did you two first meet? For how long have you been working together?
SD: We were introduced by a piece of furniture!

JG: Yes! Susan saw a day bed at a furniture show that I had designed with my former company, and contacted us in spring of 2007 to see if we could do something similar for her home. We didn’t actually get to know each other until the time came to go over the options and discus the design. We have been working together off and on since then, and officially established Think Fabricate as a multidisciplinary design studio in 2009. We opened our fabrication shop in East Williamsburg on New Year’s Eve that year.

How did Think Fabricate evolve?
JG: We then worked together on a second project for Susan’s house (which eventually led to one of our first product lines: Not Your Mother’s…), and then she invited me to collaborate on two very different projects: a residential renovation for a long-standing clients and a permanent art installation for a lobby in New Rochelle. We had the opportunity to know one another’s aesthetic, see how each approached design, and develop respect for one another’s opinion.

What made you think working together on Doban Architecture/Think Fabricate would be a good collaboration?
SD: We realized, that despite and because of our different backgrounds, we both shared a commitment to finding the solution to design dilemmas of various types. It was important to have complementary experience, an aesthetic that was mutually in sync, but also broadened by cross-generational, multidisciplinary input. We had all that going for us. I respected Jason’s design passion; I had been his client, and I had an appreciation for his ability to respond in that role. Because we each knew what it was like to run a business, there was also a bond that entrepreneurs tend to share.

We also saw that the design studio, which evolved into Think Fabricate, would help broaden the capabilities to provide design solutions in the three main areas of architectural practice, which were in residential, educational, and community development projects. This evolved into our three initiatives, Think Living, Think Educate, and Think Main Streets, which are threads running through both businesses and organize our work.

Does the product design emerge out of products necessary for the design projects?
JG: In a way there is always a project or user in mind when developing a product, even if it’s hypothetical, in response to a need we have identified in our own lives, in lives of others we know. One interesting example is the Stepping Wood Chair. It was derived from an idea for booth and bench seating at a college cafeteria we were working on. The form of the chair lead to the rest of the Stepping Stones line (shown in gallery), which includes a credenza and bench. We are planning o bring an upholstered version and an indoor-outdoor version to market in March.

SD: Sometimes product design evolves in mysterious ways as well—and the design process itself can be mysterious! A classic example is a sketch I drew of a wall-mounted shelf, then through discussion it evolved into an idea for a bench. We also find that when we prepare for trade shows ideas arise spontaneously. Last year we decided to design plates for our wall-mounted china cabinet, and they are now part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum! Last week we decided to design and fabricate serving trays so that we can serve our guests from our own products during the upcoming trade show season!

DA-TF-logoCan you define the term “Brooklynness” for us, and tell us how it is reflected in your work?
JG: I think Brooklyn has given us the right soil to plant our creative seeds and watch it grow. I came to Brooklyn in my early 20s, and in many ways Brooklyn has given me not only a place for my creativity to grow but also a place for me to mature and learn from those around me. There was this real buzz in the late ’90s into the last decade about Brooklyn designers, especially the Brooklyn furniture design and fabrication scene that’s happening in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Red Hook. This community helped establish a strong foundation and gain sense of respect in the design community. I have always thought that in order to be creative you have to surround yourself with creativity. I think Brooklyn has a way of nurturing creativity, maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the people but either way I think both Susan and I came to New York looking for a place to establish ourselves and in the end Brooklyn was that place. I think this is ultimately reflected in the multiple influences in our work, from historical motifs to compositional and programmatic ideas.

What would be your ideal commission/dream project?
SD: I would love to work on a project on an island that could only be reached at high tide, or was only connected to the grid at certain times, the rhythm, systems, and pace of the place being impacted by these larger conditions. I would love to take my personal interest in ceramics and plates, which led to designing those in the museum, to the next level and design ceramic exterior wall applications. And, on a very basic level, I know we would both love to work on a restaurant, but in the meantime we still have to finish the work we started at my house including my kitchen!

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer who is interested in both architecture and product design?
SD: Share your ideas openly and welcome the input of others!

JG: Surround yourself with creativity and don’t be afraid to include other disciplines on your exploration!
 


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