Suchi Reddy started Reddymade Design back in 2002 to radically change the course of design, by giving it a human-centric approach. Her entire design philosophy revolves around the notion of ‘Form Follows Feeling’. She doesn’t look at architecture to just ‘create containers’, but to see how the walls of the containers interact from within.
Her recent project involved giving life to the first-ever physical Google Store in New York. The Google Store is built on the core principles of neuro-aesthetics, which Suchi Reddy explored in her 2019 collaboration with Google — A Space for Being, at Salone del Mobile in Milan. On the ground floor of Google headquarters in Chelsea, Manhattan, the new retail experience is ‘warm and calming, novel yet useful'. We got in touch with her to know more.
What is your design philosophy?
I believe in the power of space and emotion. My work is guided by the mantra ‘Form Follows Feeling’, and is built on the idea that design and experiences shape not just our world, but our DNA. It is created from the viewpoint of neuro-aesthetics: the study of the effects of spatial, sensory and aesthetic experiences on our brains and bodies.
What role, according to you, does architecture play in society as a whole?
I believe that the role of architecture is to uplift the communities we serve. My guiding mantra, ‘form follows feeling’, prioritizes designing from the democratic space of the body — a point of view that can surmount our polarizing differences and privileges the way spaces and experiences make us feel. I seek to inform our built world through an expanded vision of the ways in which architecture can influence emotional and physical wellbeing. Whether artistic or architectural, my projects always explore the poetic potential of individual agency and collective responsibility.
Can you share the concept behind the first-ever Google Store in NYC?
The architecture and interiors of Google’s first physical retail location on 9th Avenue and 15th Street are a playful and pragmatic expression of our motto ‘form follows feeling’, bringing a unique focus to the interplay of good design with human perception. The design of the space re-awakens visitors to the childlike wonder found in the technology and digital innovation on display. The space is warm and calming, novel yet useful. Abounding in soft, tactile surfaces such as cork and wood, the design puts the visitor at ease, welcoming those seeking help alongside those pursuing their curiosity.
A gravity-defying metal line twists its way through the room, introducing the intuitive whimsy of unexpected connections and free-form play, while defining spaces for living. The warm lighting and neutral tones guide the eye to the ‘Imagination Space’, standing at the entry way to the store. A semi-circular node of extruded glass tubing suspended between the ceiling and the floor refract the light and invite visitors to interact with Google’s products and technologies on an individual level in human scale and experience the possibilities of technology. A nod to New York’s window shopping traditions, we installed a series of lit window boxes on 9th Avenue, which captivate observers, displaying Google products while showcasing a special technology that allows an AR interaction with the products on the interior.
The project has an eco-conscious approach. How did you achieve that goal?
The Google Store Chelsea has been designed according to the highest standards of sustainable and renewable practice and has received LEED Platinum certification. Notable materials in the space include cork furniture; flooring made from 100% recyclable material using factory waste in production with chemical free maintenance; low-VOC material wall panels made from 100% PET plastic, containing at least 60% post-consumer content; and, carbon neutral floor coverings verified by the Interface Carbon Neutral Floors Program of Bureau Veritas.
The Google Store Chelsea is one of fewer than 215 retail spaces in the world to have achieved a LEED Platinum rating — the highest certification possible within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system.
Photograph by Chloe Horseman
Do you feel architects should shoulder a deeper responsibility towards society, their client and/or a city?
Too often, architects look at themselves as creators of containers. We can be more attuned to what actually happens within those containers. And the way to do that is learning more about the intersection of neuroscience and architecture, and learning about how feeling and emotion have a scientific side to them in the way that they interact with our environments.
Especially when you see the differences and the tendencies towards polarization in the world, and the devaluation of architecture within our culture. If we can continue to bring the relationship back to the democratic space of the body, a space we all share, we can value architecture from a different place.
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani