Ariane Fehrenkamp, LEED BD+C

When you were young, did you know you wanted to be an architect?

I’ve always had an interest in how things are put together and how they work. I was actually set to pursue a degree in math when I entered college, but I also had this strong creative side, which was probably my first love. Before and during college, I had been lucky enough to travel a fair amount, both domestically and abroad. This, along with my first survey course in art history, left me inspired by the many amazing works of art and architecture I saw. So, I changed course and studied art history and fine arts and worked in the field for some time.

What did you do?

For a number of years, I was a writer at Sculpture magazine in Washington, D.C. Researching and writing about artists who were doing installations and/or large-scale sculpture reignited my fascination with architecture. As a discipline, architecture just seemed to fit my interests—it is a constant balance of the social, the formal, the technical, the functional and the creative arts. I then started working toward graduate school to pursue a master’s in architecture.  I did my studies at Berkeley, which is what brought me to the Bay Area.

Do you have an architectural hero?

I’ve always admired Kahn, Scarpa, and Zumthor—their work is so logical while still maintaining moments of pure delight and surprise. Zumthor, at his best, is a master for his use of materials and the meditative quality of his buildings. On the other end of the spectrum, I admire Koolhaus, Bjarke Ingels Group, and Zaha Hadid for their formal innovation. Hadid’s work, in particular, conveys a feeling of dynamism and movement, it breathes.

How do you define great architecture?

It has to be socially relevant in the way that it creates a sense of place and connects with people on a cultural, physical or conceptual level. It should work with its natural environment—the sun, the light, wind; the use of materials should be smart and original; and it should have an aesthetic attitude and rational. At its best, design can be fun. Sometimes you just know when you get it right. You found the answer. It’s not the only answer, but it is a correct answer, an extremely good one.

What artists have been significantly influential or inspirational for you?

I find Ann Hamilton, James Turrell, and Andy Goldsworthy particularly inspiring. I love the expression of time in Goldsworthy’s work—the idea of change built into it. And I am always awed by Anish Kapoor’s art for its use of space and bold pigment; he carves space.

What do you do outside of work?

I’ve been doing set design for the Collected Works theater company. The founders and players in the company are friends of mine who focus on doing site-specific theater in untraditional venues. The most recent play I worked on ran for 3 weeks at San Francisco’s Old Mint on 5th Street. It was such a treat to work in that iconic building—to discover the theatrical potential in the old vaults and galleries. Designing for a production in such an unusual space is challenging in ways different from what one would experience in a black box theater. In the performance the audience moved through the building as the action unfolded, and finding ways to orient the audience’s movement and attention toward the action of the play became an important part of a theater-goers’ overall experience. In theater, the work is ephemeral, so its relationship to time and audience is different, playful.

If you weren’t an architect, what would you be?

I would likely make installation art. Though, that said, I can’t believe we still don’t have jet packs! I walk everywhere I go, and I often think it would be amazing if I could just fly. I might work on developing a really spectacular jet pack for everyday use!

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