ikon.5

An emerging architecture firm that specializes in designing projects for higher education

This is the first installment of "Portfolio of the Week," a weekly peek inside an architecture firm producing interesting work in the U.S. or abroad.

Less than a decade old, architecture firm ikon.5 has quickly become an award-winning practice that focuses on designing higher education and cultural facilities. Based out of Princeton, New Jersey, their portfolio includes work for Schindler Elevator Corporation, Louis Vuitton, Monmouth Battlefield State Park and others.

We asked one of ikon.5's principals, Joseph Tattoni, about the firm and their approach to design work:

What would you say are the major forces behind the changing visual language in ikon5’s designs since its start?

ikon.5 was founded in 2003. The principals that founded the firm have been working together [at a previous firm] since the 1990’s. The major forces behind the changing visual language was the freedom afforded having one’s own firm and exploring design challenges and opportunities in new ways.

ikon.5 recently submitted a proposal for a visitor’s center and urban park in Newark. What are the biggest difficulties that emerge when designing a public space?

The biggest difficulties in designing public space is scale. At the urban level, the intervention has to be robust enough it fit within the scale of the city; yet at the pedestrian level it has to be intimate enough for the casual visitor or citizen to be comfortable in using the space.

The firm seems to specialize in higher education facilities. How was that reputation developed?

About 70 percent of our practice is in designing facilities for higher education. We have been fortunate to develop and nurture college and university clients who are looking for design excellence and devoted performance throughout the design and construction process. Responsiveness is key to strong client relationships.

Your campus housing and community center at Arizona State University looks particularly southwestern. Are there challenges for a Mid-Atlantic firm in designing something for a culture that has different aesthetic norms?

It is easy for architects to assimilate to a regional design aesthetic and develop forms, colors and textures that are of the place. For us, it was more difficult to understand the specific building construction detailing that is different in the southwest from the Mid-Atlantic. Our local architectural partners often assist us in developing that understanding.

ikon.5 has also done work for private companies. Are there obvious differences in public and private sector clients?

Private sector clients typically tend to have a more streamlined approval process. The committee that designs the project with the architect is typically smaller and very decisive.

The firm seems to place a strong emphasis on different forms of art when approaching work. How does this influence ikon.5’s style?

Art and architecture historically are inextricably tied together. Painting, sculpture, literature, music, etc. often serve as inspiration for exploring architectural themes. Creating an artistic expression, free of the realities of a program and site, serves as an initial tool to explore the deeper metaphoric and philosophical underpinnings to solving a problem.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    What Happens When a City Tries to End Traffic Deaths

    Several years into a ten-year “Vision Zero” target, some cities that took on a radical safety challenge are seeing traffic fatalities go up.

  2. photo: A stylish new funeral parlor called Exit Here in London.
    Design

    Death Be Not Dull

    U.K. restaurateur Oliver Peyton’s newest project, a style-forward funeral home called Exit Here, aims to shake up a very traditional industry.

  3. photo: A metro train at Paris' Gare Du Nord.
    Transportation

    Can the Paris Metro Make Room for More Riders?

    The good news: Transit ridership is booming in the French capital. But severe crowding now has authorities searching for short-term solutions.

  4. photo: a police officer in the NYC subway.
    Equity

    Why Public Transit Is an Equity Battleground

    From New York City to Santiago, public transit plays an increasingly central role in debates over social equity, inclusion, and who should get the right to ride.

  5. Life

    Talent May Be Shifting Away From Superstar Cities

    According to a new analysis, places away from the coasts in the Sunbelt and West are pulling ahead when it comes to attracting talented workers.

×