On Thursday, January 29, the ICAA was pleased to present a public lecture by Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, founders and principals of design firm Roman and Williams. The presentation, entitled Hidden Order and Disorder: a Discussion of Opposites and Contrasts, took place in front of a full house at the Library at the General Society. Highlighting some of Alesch and Standefer’s favorite design projects, the lecture discussed the process behind the pair’s designs focusing on the primary theme of the conflicting forces of order and disorder which can be found in all of the firm’s buildings and interiors.
Beginning with Roman and Williams’ very first projects born from their start as set designers for many well-known Hollywood movies, Mr. Alesch spoke to great length about the hidden struggle visible in all of the team’s work. He labeled this dichotomy, the “grandfather versus the youth” or a contrast between refinement and rebellion. Arranged within carefully constructed layers along predetermined centerlines and axes, these moments of disorder grant the spaces a certain dynamism and movement. Meticulous thought is put into how people will feel within the spaces designed by Roman and Williams. Alesch described how while clients may wish to feel a certain freedom within a seemingly chaotic and disorderly space, there needs to also be a certain level of careful order underneath these rebellious moments that create a feeling of warmth and comfort.
During both the lecture and following Q&A session, the importance of designing comfortable and warm spaces was discussed. The use of child-like disorder as a focal point along a central axis prevents those within the space from feeling a sense of intimidation when encountering the design, as opposed to traditional classical architecture or stereotypical modern design. Noting a movement towards a more comfort-oriented culture as a whole, Ms. Standefer discussed that even tech heavy clients of theirs such as Facebook are moving towards a taste centered around more earthy, natural warm tones and textures, which is again reflected within the designs of Roman and Williams.
Hidden Order and Disorder was co-sponsored by the ICAA New York Chapter* and presented in partnership with the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. Alesch and Standefer presented slides illustrating the design processes of many of their projects including their design for the Ace Hotel NY, 211 Elizabeth Street apartments, and homes for private clients such as actor Ben Stiller. Roman and Williams have been the recipients of multiple honors and accolades over the years including the 2010 Palladio Award for 211 Elizabeth Street, the Lawrence Israel Prize in 2013, and the Smithsonian’s National Design Award for Excellence in Interior Design in 2014. We offer our fervent thanks to Stephen and Robin for their insightful discussion into their unique and fascinating design process.
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* Chapter in-formation