At Ambryo we believe that a strong social vision is the driving force behind a happy and productive workforce, which is critical for the
development of a sustainable civil society. With this in mind the practice has produced a constitution that enshrines ideas about community,
teamwork, equity, collaboration, and social responsibility. Key features include ownership of the practice by a charity - no director has direct equity in
the company; the division of profit between employees, charities, and investment; the opportunity for employees of two years standing to donate to a
charity of their choice; and the practice agreement that all works for military projects, prisons or arms manufacturers will be avoided.
Mentoring systems, close ties to local and international universities, fostering young architects, and the promotion of a "Think Tank" philosophy
have earned the practice wide respect. Weekly design meetings provide a vital forum for the discussion of current competitions and on-going
projects, and create a platform for creativity and new solutions appropriate to each design. The practice's approach engages the knowledge and
experience of the entire team, and encourages collaboration both within the design studio and with co-architects, consultants, and specialists. This
process ensures that the final design is a considered, intelligent, and creative reflection of the brief and has, over some three decades, produced
designs that have attracted critical acclaim and dozens of prestigious international awards and honors.
Public participation, as well as working with a client and consultant team, is a critical part of project development. Engaging the public in the
progress of a scheme is an important part of the design process and often also includes working with interested groups, caucuses, social services,
community activists, sociologists, and artists. New participatory procedures go beyond public meetings, to encompass detailed workshops with all the
key stakeholders of a project. Our work outside the US has often involved co-architects and local consultants with whom we have, from time to time,
set up offices on or near the sites, as well as formalizing the relationship through joint venture agreements.
At Ambryo, our method has always been highly intuitive and reflexive. We understand our arena of operation to be one marked by contradiction,
conflict, change, and dynamism. And to that end we are interested in producing work that contributes to the conversation that adds yet another strain
to what some may hear as the cacophony of modern life. We hear it as the music of reality. Additional strains layered into the composition will not
intensify a cacophony, but add to an exquisite complexity. Our interest is not in deconstruction as a response to complexity and contradiction, but
rather it is better described as an interest in reconstruction. Our concern is to establish and work within coherences or orders which are open-ended
and multivalent, organizations that may require more than a cursory examination to discern. While we do proceed with our work through rigorous
process, we are constantly on guard to protect an opening for the unpredictable and the unknowable to affect that process so that it is ultimately
open-ended and reflexive rather than visionary and preconceived. I suppose that our method does somewhat resemble that of Canetti's dog-like
writer - obsessed with sticking his damp nose into everything, insatiably turning over the earth only to come back to dig it up once again.
At the time when prudence and precedent might dictate a rolling up of drawings and a laying down of pencils, our office is often just beginning to
attack the problem from another angle. Our habit is to turn the question and answer paradigm around as we investigate and re-investigate our initial
response. The question is understood to be open, as subject to change; the work is imbued with the process of grappling with the question rather
than with providing a fixed solution. We have found that in order to produce an authentic work of architecture it is often necessary to rephrase and
rework the original questions.
How do we rephrase the questions? Where do we look for inspiration? How do we collaborate to produce a building that synthesizes the needs
of the owners and users while remaining a “meaningful addition to the architectural landscape?” Our approach to any project is to immediately
involve all parties in a creative collaboration to define and understand the scope and the specific objectives of the project. Intensive meetings with
the client, end-users, government agencies, and consultants are held with the goal of reaching a consensus regarding the functions of various parts
of the project.
Out of these intensive meetings clarity of purpose and a coherent set of ideas can be established to guide the project’s development so the
design that develops will be mutually gratifying and successful. The process can and must be a collective endeavor. To assure a successful outcome
we have developed a working method that involves the extensive use of large-scale physical and computer models. "Ambryos'’ design studio is a
fully networked CAD system with the ability to collaborate with various team members and consultants. Models are developed at every logical step as
decisions are made or changed so that the participants in the process have a three-dimensional object or simulation to help them visualize the
design solution. While the programmatic aspects of the project are being defined, our designers begin their assessment of the contextual issues.
The context will be assessed on both micro and macro levels. These contextual "readings", although subjective, are balanced through a combination
of the local indigenous reading provided by our client group and the "outsider" perspective of Ambryo. Our design process begins with a
question/answer paradigm, researching the antecedents and precedents of previous “answers” in order to identify the salient issues.