Gilad Ritz and Jean-Paul Ghougassian of RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN | Feature InterviewMelbourne, VIC, Australia
“Everyone is exposed to architecture through civic endeavors. We would love to see architects having a strong voice in the design of the built environment because we see value in architectural principals. Cities are always improving and with the right and careful planning they can be adapted to population growth and technological change.”
Gilad Ritz and Jean-Paul Ghougassian, founders of architecture studio RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN, are dogmatic in how they ascribe unique experiences to their creation of reductionist environments. Resonating with the philosophical frameworks that underlie the habitation of space, Gilad and Jean-Paul see architecture as a medium in which they can transcribe the external environment, facilitating the most contentment into internal spaces. Referring to the works of Gaston Bachelard, Kakuzo Okakura and Arata Isozaki, the duo are visionary in their creation of environments that influence connection.
We speak with Gilad and Jean-Paul about their 2016 start of RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN, how they use their approach to prescribe structural compositions as illustrated in Highbury Grove, Bentwood and their new studio. Discussing how they perceive the built environment around them, Gilad and Jean-Paul tell us about what they wish for most in the future.
Driven by spaces that endorse the daily lives of those who occupy them, Gilad and Jean-Paul are interested in creating loosely defined spaces, an idea spoken about in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. The concept illustrates how ‘inhabited spaces transcend geometrical space’ due of the association with experience rather than structure itself. Interested in the impressions that spaces leave, Gilad and Jean-Paul’s approach is centred on creating spaces that connect people to an experience, based on how a structure is intended to be used.
Part of this approach involves stripping back spaces and reworking design plans to compose structures of stature; spaces where people can feel enlightened. Gilad and Jean-Paul use less to achieve more and are consistently reductive when it comes to choosing structural composition, materials, tonality and texture. “Our projects talk to ideas that are sometimes intangible about capturing light, volume and moments in time. A reduced palette allows the physical composition to recede backwards to create atmospheric conditions.”
RITZ&GHOUGASSIAN’s Highbury Grove, Bentwood and the recent completion of their own studio illustrate their reductionist approach seamlessly. Bentwood, a hospitality venue located in Fitzroy, Victoria, is designed using a palette of terracotta, the tone consistent throughout both the brick work and leather upholstery. Northernly facing, Highbury Grove is a redeveloped Federation style workers cottage made with the least amount of walls as possible. Although renowned for it’s intensity, Gilad and Jean-Paul believe that its use of materials were one of the best things that came out of creating Highbury Grove. Setting the site with concrete flooring, Gilad and Jean-Paul designed the walls to angle east-west in order to rotate against the structures inherent positioning to draw sunlight in. Flowing in and out of definition, the internal space is proximate in view to neighbouring trees and the courtyard, creating a distinct perspective and views of volume. The fixed dimension of the block work manifest a shell-like component of the structure, an element that allows for a manageable build process on site. Working with the blocks was like working with a set of rules, it gave us a nice constraint and allowed for greater accuracy.”
For their studio, Gilad and Jean-Paul tell me that it took six months for them to settle on a design that best represented them as a studio. “We realised timber represents us well and like our other work we combined this with a consistent material palette.” Comprised of only hard surfaces, Gilad and Jean-Paul chose regional timber and galvanised steel to align with the site’s inherited characteristics of concrete floors and the white brick. Often conflicted by the dominance of the masculine tone in their work, Gilad and Jean-Paul spent a lot of time planning how they could incorporate natural light with slight alterations retrospectively. “The work area has southern daylight all day long while the front meeting space is moody and dimly lit. The lighting plan is minimal and only parts of the office light up as needed for tasking. By creating a periphery cast in shadow, the studio allows for one to simply add a lamp or enjoy a dimply lit moment.”
When I ask Gilad and Jean-Paul what their spaces give to people, they tell me that they want people to feel their best in their spaces, regardless of the amount of time they can spend there. The reach and influence of architecture is argued to be highly impactful on society and well-being at large. Gilad and Jean-Paul believe everyone is exposed to architecture through civic endeavours, and they would like architects to have a strong voice in the design of the built environment because they see value in architectural principals. Cities are always improving and with the right and careful planning they can be adapted to population growth and technological change.
With much excitement for the future and the plethora of opportunities in both residential and hospitality, Gilad and Jean-Paul continue to look to how people resonate and adjust within spaces with the hope to push the possibilities within the built-environment.
Thank you Gilad and Jean-Paul for the insights into your work. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
Words & interview by Ashley Gladwish.