FORM Issue Extra: Expert’s Corner: Peter Grueneisen, FAIA, Principal and Founder of nonzero/architecture

Courtesy Peter Grueneisen/nonzero/architecture.

Courtesy Peter Grueneisen/nonzero/architecture.

Peter Grueneisen believes it’s important to take a comprehensive approach towards architecture, one that integrates the project with art and technology, but is grounded in functionality and sustainability. Perhaps this is one reason why so many musicians and film composers are keen to work with the firm. “The creation of stimulating structures and spaces is a primary aspiration, while economic realities, social dynamics and limited natural resources demand a thoughtful and conscious approach to design and construction,” he adds.

What are some of your current projects?

We’re finishing up a building complex called Remote Control Productions; it’s a group of film composers [that work with] Hans Zimmer. When we started, they owned quite a few buildings—eclectic light industrial buildings—some were converted into studios others into office space. It’s a whole campus. The latest building was ground up, 16 smaller studios and two larger suites. In the new building, the studios are dark, no windows, floating rooms in the building. But when you come out, all the hallways on the upper floors have large skylights. There is also a balcony with cantilevers. You have screens that can move to regulate the shade; it’s very connected to the environment.

How do you begin your design process when working with musicians or artists?

We do research on the work that they do, not just on a technical level, but also their views on design and environment. On the one hand, the space has to be relatively neutral so different people can [work]. It must be conducive to creative work. On the technical side, they have to be isolated from sound and light. So there is a balance between creating public spaces that are connected and the private spaces that allows them to be creative.

Tell me about new technology that you are incorporating.

On the studio side, technology has become easier; everything is shrinking. We’re experimenting with LED lighting. Color can create different moods for a musician. Changing the color of the whole space gives them a range of ambiance, rather than creating a room that never changes. Climate, lighting, louvered shades are being integrated into one system. Lutron for lighting; Crestron as an overarching system. The goal is always to make it easy and simple. We also use computerized fabrication to [design] exterior screens, basically a combination of privacy shade and sun shading, that are [mounted] outside on the glass. They are inspired by an image that is important to the client and we distort it into the pattern.

As an architect you appreciate quality design. Do you admire any products?

What we are looking for is something that is well designed, functional, economical, and sustainable. For example, we always used Macs because we thought [the computer] was more intuitive and an elegant way of working. Tesla is another example that relates to how we try to work. Maybe it’s a problem that’s been around for a 100 years, but something comes along that changes how we work. Doing things the way they are always done is easy. Finding new ways to address old problems is hard.

Any new innovations in soundproofing?

Some of the drywall companies are making boards that dampen sound from the outside. We’ve been able to use the materials and cut down on labor costs and space. For sound absorbing or interior acoustics, we have been using a lot of cotton panels made from recycled denim, Ultratouch by Bonded Logic. It’s healthier for the environment. A lot of the acoustic elements are about diffusion. With new design methods using computerized manufacturing, we’ve been trying to put together new diffuser methods.

This feature appears in our May/June 2014 issue. To subscribe to FORM, click here. Be sure to join us at this year’s edition of Westedge. Grueneisen will be a part of a panel dedicated to creative design for recording artists.

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