Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen are not paper architects in the traditional sense. Partners in life as well as business, the two founders and design principals of the Vancouver-based firm Molo share an enduring fascination with making things. Their preoccupation with process informs a growing body of work that ranges from an architectonic glass tea service to modular paper walls to a whimsically fluid museum in Japan set to open early next year. Indeed, the name Molo, a playful acronym for “middle ones little ones,” reflects the size and form of this multidisciplinary design and production studio’s output: small (furnishings and products) and medium (interior structures and exhibitions) in addition to large (buildings).
As students, both Forsythe and MacAllen supplemented degrees in environmental studies and architecture with schooling in stonework and fine art (MacAllen has a B.F.A.), printmaking, glass blowing, furniture design, metalwork, woodworking, and ceramics (Forsythe). A stint designing and building houses from the mid-’90s to early ’00s bolstered their hands-on ethic and taught them the value of collaborating with top-notch tradespeople. But the realities of running a small custom firm kept the partners from spreading their creative wings. “We learned that we’re not oriented to working with [private] clients and that we actually just like doing projects that we come up with,” notes MacAllen.
So the architects turned to things they could afford to produce, exploring materials and space-making at a smaller scale. At the same time, they entered select design and architectural competitions. This bold, pragmatic move paid off. Two early projects won competitions in 2001, laying the foundation for a practice that fuses architecture, industrial design, and sales. One winner, a design for a sleek tea set in functional borosilicate glass, led to the couple’s first viable product. The other, a housing complex–turned-museum, will be their first built work since the launch of Molo in 2003 with business partner Robert Pasut.
Today, Molo is self-sustaining and continues to evolve as an entrepreneurial design firm — producing paper and textile modular interior elements, participating in exhibitions, and examining the idea of flexible shelters. “It’s a luxury,” says MacAllen. “We’re trying to find ways we can do more, especially when the business is healthy.”
DESIGN STAFF: 20
PRINCIPALS: Todd MacAllen, Stephanie Forsythe
EDUCATION: MacAllen — Dalhousie University, Halifax, M.Arch., 2000; Technical University of Nova Scotia, B.Environmental Design, 1993; University of Victoria, B.F.A., 1991. Forsythe — Dalhousie University, Halifax, M.Arch., 2000; Technical University of Nova Scotia, B.Environmental Design, 1996
WORK HISTORY: MacAllen — Forsythe + MacAllen, 1996–2001; Shin Takamatsu Architects and Associates, Berlin, 1992. Forsythe — Bing Thom Architects, Vancouver, 2001–03; Johnston Davidson Architecture + Planning, Vancouver, 2001; James Carpenter Design Associates, New York, 1997–98; Forsythe + MacAllen, 1996–2001; Steven Holl Architects, New York, 1995
COMPLETED PROJECTS: Cloud Softlight, 2010; Northern Sky Circle, Anchorage, 2009; Softwall + Softblock System with Integrated LED Lighting, 2009; Kraft paper Softseating, Softwall + Softblock System, Textile Softblocks, Love Letter light, 2006; Textile Softwall, 2005; Float tea lantern and cups, 2004
CURRENT PROJECTS: Aomori Nebuta House, Aomori, Japan, 2011
WEB SITE: www.molodesign.com