Leave it to a group of non-conforming, creative thinkers at Brooks + Scarpa to re-imagine the architectural monograph.
“It’s not the traditional monograph – and it’s not a monograph at all,” says founder Larry Scarpa about “Ordinary and Extraordinary.” “It’s more a book about ideas, in short stories.”
The firm collaborated with author Tibby Rothman to develop the concept and the book. She talked with clients and others who’ve worked with the firm since it was established as Pugh + Scarpa in 1991. Its name changed in 2010 to reflect its leadership under Scarpa and Angela Brooks.
So where most monographs are self-glorifying tomes about grand buildings, this book is refreshing in its honesty – like how the Great Recession affected the firm and its business. “In 2010, we received the AIA Firm Award and we were on the brink of financial disaster,” he says.
Readers don’t have to be architects to read the new book. Rather, they just need curiosity about how creative people work, and how architects get things built.
“It’s about what it takes – the process, the hurdles and the obstacles,” he says. “We go through specific projects like the Colorado Court Affordable Housing project, the first LEED-certified building in the world. There were the contractors not knowing how to do it, and the solar companies going out of business. That was what happened, just getting it realized back in 2002-3.”
The five-story, sustainable building is clad in solar panels – a new technology that fascinated Scarpa at the time. “I had no idea what it was and it was exquisite,” he says. “It rekindled what I had been doing in grad school in the early 1980s, when I had no idea what the term sustainability meant – so it was an epiphany for me and our practice.”
In 2010, Scarpa was also instrumental in designing the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh’s burgeoning warehouse district, along with Steve Schuster of Clearscapes, which designed the city’s new Union Station a block away.
Scarpa will return to CAM in Raleigh on Dec. 15, for an 11 A.M. book-signing and a one-on-one conversation with local architect Louis Cherry, who’s just completed construction on the Northlight Studio at the Penland School of Crafts in Western North Carolina.
It promises to be a non-conforming, creative talk between two gifted architects.