for those of you who have ever wondered what it is we do for a living and never quite bothered to click on the creative agency link to the left there, i would like to extend a helping hand. fact is, even colleagues in our own industry sometimes ask “no but really, what do you guys do?…” and so, i figured that after exactly 10 years of practice (we opened our doors in the summer of 2000,) perhaps i should, for once, utilize this forum for something useful and answer that most pertinent of questions. to start this conversation right, please find below, for your perusal, a smattering of our favorite things… (it may take a little bit of time to load, but once it does, you will smooth sail your way to knowledge and understanding, so-called, theaptWORKS.)
theaptARCHITECTURE shows how just another brick in the wall does not have to mean conformity.
theaptBRANDING displays ideas for which a visual solution, graphic or otherwise, was needed to accomplish the stated goal.
theaptEXPERIENTIAL details the projects for which we were asked, by a variety of clients, to invent and build experiences utilizing the tools of architecture, branding, marketing and event planning, all at once and never boring.
theaptPRESS is a few pages of our favorite published compliments by some of the most cajoled names in the business.
who is the apartment? we are a full-fledged agency that looks at problems with outdated solutions. there is a glut of old ways of looking at things, old ways to create meaning and old ways to create experiences. that’s where a company like ours comes in. since we don’t have the rules ingrained in us, we allow ourselves us to take risks where others may not dare. the apartment takes on all kinds of projects, from the branding and marketing for a broadway show to creative-directing the planning of a small eco-city in the ukraine. we tend to gravitate towards projects that make our lives more interesting, not ones that simply make our company profitable. it is a luxury afforded us by a life considered and a team of designers the world over for whom experiences will always trump design.
an apartment is where you live. an apartment is where you do all the things in your life that matter, where you cook, read, sleep, listen to music, make sweet, sweet love, watch movies, talk, blog and get dressed, among other things. most importantly, it is the place that you shape so that it may function, look and feel like you. funny thing, that’s exactly what the apartment does! i co-dreamed of the apartment with my partner gina alvarez first in 1999 as an experiment in retail as theater which would offer an alternative to the design stores that operated (and still do) as art galleries. design always felt to us a part of daily life and needed to be shown that way! soon after we opened the doors to our public apartment, where everything curated, from toothpaste to sofas to sandwiches, was for sale, we realized we could do more than barter our lives an object at a time for money. we realized that people, whom we would shortly call clients, wanted complete experiences, for their homes, their offices, their brands. the creative agency was born. our new york-based office imagines and builds such experiences using the tools of architecture, design, branding, marketing and technology, fully integrated for the simple reason that it is how life is built. born from our need to consider our lives, bit by bit, little by little, thoroughly, absolutely, we tackle projects as wide-ranging in scope as the conceptualization of an 8-story museum and the redesign of a line of home-cleaning products. the apartment‘s and my goal stand the same: to tell a good story, with a beginning, middle and end, even if not necessarily in that order; to invent, always.
but not just… fact is, and this is none the more apparent than in the news delivered hourly in our various inboxes, most creative people, be we architects, filmmakers or poets, keep adding to a world that we couldn’t be more vocally vehement about cleaning up. the often damning dichotomy of our innovative endeavors is that, as much as we want more beautiful things, songs and ideas to surround us and impress our friends with, we cannot deny that most new objects, new musical journeys and new reaches into the conceptual future will, eventually, find themselves sitting atop a garbage heap, abandoned and lonely. for our imagined expectations to not only be made real but also last, we must do better, we must subtract, we must look at systems, not just equipment, we must do what the word dictates: design, not merely decorate.
at the apartment, every one of our creative partners around the world understands this superlatively-so, for they know that it is neither their skill with a mouse nor their ability to design beautifully nor even their sense of taste that got them hired here; they know they were chosen for who they are, not what they do. that they are talented goes without saying but, most importantly, they provide us with perspectives unknown. their lives nourish their work, not the other way around, which in turn nourish our clients by offering far-flung multiplicity, looking at problems from new points of reference, examining opportunities with eyes and minds unencumbered by yesterday’s methods, viewing every set of circumstances as a possibility for new and bespoke meaning. that is why we prize culture above all else.
thing is, as i look at it, we evolved from ape to australopithecus to cro-magnon to modern man and, in all that time, haven’t significantly reconsidered most of our tools. even though there have been more advances in the last hundred years than in the last million, we still borrow the methods of those who have come before us and dare not rebel, dare not dream that there might be a different conversation worth having. we are so caught up in the results that we rarely ever pause to wonder if the process may hold a key to a different, more efficient door. and when we do, the procedure of habit-changing is so slow that it can span generations. the apartment believes that the way out of this conundrum is to begin with meaning, intention, passion, in a word, people, not decoration. then, support the development of systems that can allow the former to flourish without having to unlearn and learn again. we design from the meaningful up, not from the stylish down.
ironically, curiosity, the very trait that often detours humans down the easier path, is what we need to get started again to find the just one. that which leads us to create, not re-create, invent, not re-invent. that which necessitates that we put ourselves in danger, perhaps feel uncomfortable and take leaps without knowing whether there is sure footing on the other side and see what comes out. that is how we tackle every new project, every new concept, every new moment, on your behalf. with such an approach, we are not afraid to deconstruct anything, the big or small problems at the root of which considered and willful design always guides us towards relevant solutions. design, it has probably been over-said, is how something works, not how it looks. and i tend to agree, but for this anecdotal caveat: about his juicy salif, somebody once challenged philippe starck, specifically about its apparent lack of usability. he responded, well, i designed it because, one day, it will probably be gifted by a son-in-law to his girlfriend’s mother who haven’t talked much in the past. she probably thinks of him as a slacker and he of her as an “adult.” she’ll open it in the kitchen and they’ll put it up on the counter. and she is going to say “wow, this is interesting. what is it?…” that juicer is going to make a conversation happen. about a juicer, granted, but they will have one nonetheless which may be the beginning of a relationship that wasn’t there before. if design must be ascribed a mission at all, that is one i can approve of: to start conversations that weren’t there before.
that is what we propose to do for you, the clients, the people with ideas and the willingness to execute them, use all of the above principles to imagine the expression of said ideas, of who you have become and how you want to help. in order to do so, we must first immerse ourselves in your culture, understand your motivation, dig deep within your purpose in an approach perhaps more akin to that of a behavioral detective than that of an architect. then will come the application of the findings to the physical plane, the shape of which shall be as unique as you are.
as you can see in the theaptWORKS above, thinking this way for the past 10 years has served our patrons well. from building homes, offices and restaurants, to launching automobiles and developing new brands, we look for the unusual and the unusual always finds us.
for more of what life looks like at the apartment, come back here often and please visit:
i hope this clears that up… and, as usual, have a wonderful week!