Interview conducted and edited by Chelsea Ross.
What do you do here?
It doesn’t boil down to an elevator pitch.
Can you try?
I work on the high-concept side of things; where ideas become physical form.
The alchemy of Architecture. What is your process to transform conceptual designs into physical forms?
It starts with research. We collect a lot of data to understand the existing culture of the client’s organization. The data forms a rational basis for solving the functional requirements. Architecture happens at the great moment when data and intuition intersect in an artful way.
Can you give an example?
In the first weeks working with the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, I sat in on an eighth grade discussion of Fahrenheit 451 and a high school jazz band practice. We talked with students, alumni and current faculty, and we studied John Dewey’s work, the founder of the school. He emphasized the importance of individuation, collaboration, and project-based learning. We also looked at the pervasiveness of technology as a part of daily life and studied strategies for bringing mobile computing into the classroom as a tool for learning. The ideas for Gordon Parks Arts Hall comes from all of that data. The result was a building design that provides students with a functional platform for all forms of expression in a world centered on digital media.
What are you currently working on?
I am working with a small team on an urban automobile showroom for an iconic brand. The future of shopping for a new car will be less about collecting objects, and more about how one’s life can be put in motion.
What project are you most proud of?
The Garmin Flagship store on Michigan Avenue. It’s an immersive environment that started with a blank slate. We worked with the client to create a space that has great materiality and formal qualities. There is lot’s of rigor in the design, but the experience of the space, sensuality of wood against precision of metal, is transformative.
How is space transformative?
It’s an example of how architecture can make a difference. It can make you feel alive, and it can fundamentally change the way that you look at things.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Michael Sorkin was my design studio critic at the University of Pennsylvania. He drove us toward finding intellectual threads and following them to their logical end. Also, Michael Rotondi of Morphosis. He was interested in how the experience of space unfolds–the sequence and phenomenology of space derived from the discipline of architecture. Those were both critical seeds that still influence my work today. And Joe Valerio. I have been working with Joe for 30 years. He brings a level of aspiration, discipline and drive that delivers architecture at the highest level.
Did you always want to be an architect?
My dad was an architect. I grew up surrounded by building design and construction, by the idea that good buildings make a difference. In college, I had to decide between art and architecture. I made the practical decision of a career in Architecture. However, I’ve recently started painting again.
What do you paint?
I’m currently going deep with acrylics. I am influenced by the painters of the Brücke, who broke with tradition, fired by a desire to exist in the fleeting moment. I am inclined to rebel as I paint, starting with the “wrong” colors, so that I see the subject newly each time.
Do you use social media?
I’m on instagram as @randy.mattheis. I’m a bit old school. I post travel pictures and recent sketches on Facebook. At the moment, I am completely addicted to Pinterest.