Recipient of the Emerging Voices Award by the Architectural League of New York, Principal of PARA Project, architect Jon Lott continues to exemplify architectural excellence with his ground-breaking vision and award winning designs. Lott is also co-founding member of Collective LOK, (otherwise known as CLOK) and Design Critic at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. It was honour to finally get to sit down with this designer as he gave us a small insight into the Jon Lott perspective.
What was it that propelled the creation of CLOK?
CLOK is a collective practice – with myself, William O’Brien Jr, and Michael Kubo. We joined to have a collaborative outlet while maintaining our respective/individual practices. It was really a mutual respect for each other’s work that led to the creation of CLOK. We were just looking for the right opportunity – when we saw the Van Alen Institute competition it seemed like the perfect time to start.
Can you explain in-depth what CLOK (Collective-LOK) aims to provide to its consumer and what impact you hope that it will have for the industry?
I don’t see them as “consumers” (but that’s an interesting thought) so much as “clients” –in either case, as with my own work, we’re really interested in offering solutions to problems that clients may not initially see/realize. Ultimately it’s about taking it beyond the service aspects of the profession and giving more to the project through the broader cultural productions in play.
Haffenden House – All Images Provided By Jon Lott – PARA Projects
When dealing with the more challenging perspectives of design, when design meets opposition due to the proposed environment or cultural objections etc., how have you managed to overcome?
JL: Actually I don’t see these things as challenging the architectural process, but integral to it. Architecture is an absurdly synthetic act – it demands a ridiculous level of synthesis in order to work. So, yes, while the process is not without challenges, what you call oppositional aspects I see as an inherent and integral part of the architectural predicament.
A few of the incredible projects that you have worked on were the luxury designer Phillip Lim’s boutique, which was built in Los Angeles and the Haffenden House in New York, but how did you find the dynamics of working on these particular projects?
JL: They are extremely different projects, one is commercial and one is private/residential; one is in LA and one in upstate New York. The link, or common thread within all the projects, remains a deep trust with the client.
Which do you prefer the private projects or the more commercial?
JL: I really don’t have a preference in this regard. Though they are often at odds with each other — the core motives at least, between the private, or, let’s say the “institution” (in the broadest possible sense of the term) and commerce. But, I’m particularly intrigued by how many of the logics that govern commercial aspirations in architecture are productive for the institutional project.
Which projects have challenged the extent of your abilities and that made you aware of other hidden capabilities?
JL: Every project is challenging in this way I think – and have found I prefer the differences in each project specifically for this reason – because it takes me out of familiar territory into something that forces me to contend with some version of foreign territory. I wouldn’t ever like to specialize for this reason
Even though you are now deemed as an award winning architecture, what was your first reaction when you received the news that you had won The Architectural League Awards New York 2016?
JL: It was a tremendous honor to be in such good company, not just that year, but to be part of such a wonderful history of recipients. So many on the list have been influential to me.
Zaha Hadid had a tremendous impact on the world of design and her loss is felt throughout the industry. But with the increase in more aspiring female architects, in comparison to when female architects such as Hadid had begun her career, which other female designers have you taken a particular interest in this year?
JL: I think this phrase “female architect” is problematic. Of course, it’s also problematic that we are a discipline with a very very low percentage of women, and this is not changing fast enough. So yes, Zaha’s example and influence is tremendous in this regard, but I don’t think it’s fair to think of Zaha as a “female architect” while men are simply “architects.” I think of her as one of the greatest and most progressive architects of our time. She had a huge impact on the discipline – and for me personally, as a student. While in my 4th year of studies, I visited her Vitra fire station and Weil am Rhein pavilion –they completely blew me away. When I look at her work, I don’t think that’s a great work by a female. I think that’s a great work of architecture. But yes, of course, many designers and architects — though, recently/particularly artists – have been influential for me. I just had Sarah Oppenheimer for a panel discussion with me at the GSD because I’ve been intrigued by her work.
Van Alen Institute opens Gentrification Lab exhibition
Which other designers or projects do you admire and have drawn inspiration from?
JL: This list is very very long if we are generally speaking. And I would not exclude musicians or artists here. Letham’s piece on the Ecstasy of Influence strikes a chord in this regard… but if we break it down by respective projects, it’s easier to be specific… for instance, with Haffenden House, I was looking directly at Pettena’s Ice House, but also Melnikov’s studio and masks.
How instrumental was your time in Harvard in your works today?
JL: I’m very happy to have had such a wide range of critics while at Harvard, studying in the studio with Michael Maltzan, Scott Cohen, and Rem Koolhaas –and outside the studio there was this kind-of debate between Sarah Whiting and Michael Hays at the time between critical and a-critical methods for design. Sampling these ranges in approach was an incredible asset. And now that I am back teaching there I’m excited to participate in the school again. I had such a great experience as a student and so it’s a nice challenge to try to return the favor. It’s also very exciting to see the direction Mohsen, Inaki, and Grace are taking in the School now and the new faculty in the mix.
Looking back at your achievements now, what advice would the more accomplished Mr Lott give to his younger amateur mirrored image?
JL: Don’t sweat the petty stuff, pet the sweaty stuff?
Will you be on the judges panel for the next Architectural League Award?
JL: That’s confidential, I think. And also, I don’t know.
What projects can we expect to see from Jon Lott in the very near future?