Design Vanguard 2019: Adam Sokol Architecture Practice
Architects & Firms
An apt illustration of Adam Sokol’s architectural philosophy is his Black Diamond House of 2011, in Buffalo, a respectful but abstracted version of the pitched-roof houses that surround it. Sokol rotated the building’s ridgeline to allow a view of a former psychiatric hospital designed by H.H. Richardson, now a hotel. The city’s “amazing architectural pedigree,” Sokol says, also includes Sullivan, Wright, and the Saarinens, “and everyone there knows who these people are.” In locations ranging from Buffalo to Beijing and Los Angeles, where Sokol’s main office is, Adam Sokol Architecture Practice (asap) is designing buildings and interiors that combine an emphatically modern aesthetic with historical references and an emphasis on architecture’s narrative and experiential powers.
The Emperor Hotel Qianmen (2013) in Beijing, asap’s first project in China, takes its inspiration from the public bath that once occupied the site, using water as its theme, from the cantilevered rooftop pool to a glass atrium with a 49-foot “rainfall,” to an underground waterfall and pool. “I wanted people to experience water flowing through the interior,” Sokol says. In the more recent Park Hyatt X House, a 2,200-square-foot apartment in Beijing’s tallest residential tower, asap designed a business-entertaining space containing a sequence of eighteen domes, clad variously in materials like gold, glass mosaic, and velvet, and connected by arched openings. The apartment, Sokol says, “feels vast because it has so many spaces. I was excited about developing a typological language.”
Sokol, 39, established his practice in Buffalo in 2011, having moved there to teach at the University of Buffalo. He had received a bachelor’s degree in the history of architecture at Columbia, and a master’s of architecture at Yale. His favorite teachers included Kenneth Frampton, Barry Bergdoll (“He has total mastery over significant chunks of history but can still focus on contemporary work”) and the late Vincent Scully (“He would talk about empathy—an interesting way to think about the world”).
In 2016, Sokol moved his headquarters to Los Angeles, where asap’s current projects include the not-yet-under-construction Spring Street Hotel, in the city’s historic downtown. Sandwiched between two landmarked buildings, the 28-story structure respects the street wall to their shared cornice line (at 150 feet) before morphing into a tower, with folded planes, that was inspired by ancient cliff dwellings. It raises, Sokol explains, “the issue of how to occupy the city—how do you inhabit a mountain?” Other projects in the works include a pair of temporary, inflatable teahouses, a proposed museum in China that will be built inside an artificial hill, and a public market in Buffalo with vaulted bays inspired by historic models in the Middle East. Sokol contrasts his interests with the impermanence of today’s social media and news cycles, saying, “I look at things that last millennia.”
Adam Sokol Architecture Practice
DESIGN STAFF: 5
PRINCIPALS: Adam Sokol
EDUCATION: Yale University, M.Arch., 2004; Columbia University, History of Architecture B.A., 2001
WORK HISTORY: Visiting assistant professor, University of Buffalo, 2006–11; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York, 2004–06
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Arbeit Software, Buffalo, 2019; Park Hyatt X-House, Beijing, 2018; Apartment of Perfect Brightness, Beijing, 2015; The Emperor Hotel Qianmen, Beijing, 2014; Black Diamond House, Buffalo, 2011
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Spring Street Hotel, Los Angeles; Slope Museum, Nanjing, China; Allen Apartments II, Buffalo; residential interiors, Los Angeles & Beijing; traveling exhibition on tea culture; West Side Bazaar, Buffalo