Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Christopher Arntzen: My name is Christopher Arntzen and I've been a project manager at Belzberg Architects for a little over 7 years. I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to attend graduate school at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and, after graduating, was enticed by the weather, mountains, and creative environment to stay. Currently, I am project managing two residential projects in addition to construction management on a three-building development in Santa Monica, of which one building will be Belzberg Architect's new home in a few months.
Novedge: What is or has been the biggest influence on your work?
Christopher Arntzen: There are many architects and designers that I continue to follow and study, but the biggest influence has been my friends and colleagues. Whether in school or in the professional realm, I've been lucky to be surrounded by an amazing group of talented architects and designers that constantly challenge my approach to architecture.
Novedge: How did you become interested in the architecture of museums?
Christopher Arntzen: The museum typology has an inherent duality that is very intriguing. It's presumably a blank container to display disparate artifacts, but it also allows for some of the most provocative spaces you can find in architecture. Sometimes its expressiveness can be found in the interstitial spaces between galleries and sometimes the architecture itself augments the narrative by which one experiences the artifacts. The possibilities of this typology make it one of the most fun to work on.
Novedge: How do you approach each new work?
Christopher Arntzen: I like to get a good idea of the project site, what the clients' personality is like and what their interests and expectations are. Sometimes clients come with a lot of preconceptions and ideas and sometimes it's more of a blank slate. Given those factors, I may have a predisposition toward a curve, facet, or shape, but ultimately I'd like to think I keep an open mind to all possibilities until the best one presents itself.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Christopher Arntzen: Swallow Drive
I recently completed the design of a residence best described as a robotic bird. The client originally provided us with a series of images not only of other houses and spaces he liked, but of sports cars, boats, and furniture designs he thought were provocative. It took many rounds of concepts to find a design composition that resonated with the client and the outcome was a faceted band that ties the building to the surrounding hillside.
To maximize the amount of usable exterior space we positioned the house against the hillside creating a small front yard and rotated the master suite to take advantage of views. As a result we were able to create an extension of the landscape that resulted in a large roof deck overlooking the pool. The logic of the exterior skin is used to erode and carve out interior spaces from the hillside including a cavernous entry atrium and clerestory that brings light into spaces half-buried in the slope.
Main & Hollister
The Main and Hollister development is located on Main Street in Santa Monica and one building will be the home of our new office in a few months. All three lots were vacant for many years and our design concept was to repair the urban fabric by creating a gradient between the zoning district of the adjacent neighborhood and the busy Main Street Corridor. By shifting from residential, to mixed-use to a full commercial office building our goal was to maintain the rhythm of the existing neighborhood through a development focusing on cost effective yet well thought out design.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Christopher Arntzen: The type of software used depends on the type of work we're doing. Every person is comfortable with different software for different problems and so to not preclude creativity our office doesn't have an allegiance to a particular software, though some are used more than others.
Novedge: What innovations do you find most exciting in architecture?
Christopher Arntzen: Innovation is hard to use in the same sentence as architecture because as a profession and a building industry we're always trying to play catch-up, but I cannot wait until I can 3D print a building.
Novedge: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Christopher Arntzen: My first studio professor used to say, "There is no solution, seek it lovingly." It sounds cheesy, but I constantly revisit it when I find myself getting a little too serious and stressed about things.
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If it's not in the actual 3D modeling and sketching, where is the real difference between the two programs?