Research at ARO
We founded our firm with the belief that research is its own form of practice.
Research at ARO is curiosity with a method. This approach gives our work purpose and intention. We explore project-based, funded, and self-generated research, exploring innovations in sustainable design and materials at all scales.
We firmly believe the best ideas come from a diversity of voices and the success of our projects depends on engaging all who are deeply invested in a place’s social, historical, and architectural context, as well as its growth. We listen and facilitate discussion through intensive workshops and interviews to promote equitable dialogue and to build trust and consensus around a unified vision.
Resilience Analysis and Adaptation
ARO’s holistic framework of sustainability encompasses the health of people, communities, and buildings. Our AIA Latrobe Prize work led by Guy Nordenson within New York and New Jersey’s Palisade Bay inspired MoMA’s Rising Currents exhibition. Building off this research, our proposal in the exhibition, “A New Urban Ground” with DLANDStudio, was a prescient, pre-Sandy effort to safeguard lower Manhattan from the effects of rising sea levels, a precedent for potential sponge streets and ecological infrastructure resonating in cities more than ever.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, new projects and past clients needed to quickly adapt to social distancing and health parameters. Our work with Columbia University GSAPP, New York Quarterly Meeting, and Neighborhoods Now involved developing safe strategies for different clients, scenarios, and scales – from an institution for learning, to gathering and worship spaces, to a community bookstore.
Our inventive use of materials, from construction systems to finishes, is our passion and expertise. At ARO, we elevate materials in our designs to meaningfully respond to each project’s cultural and physical context. Through scale, pattern, and texture, we explore how to enhance existing material properties and frequently engage collaborators outside the office – including fabricators, engineers, landscape architects, and specialists.
Prototyping for Sustainable Housing
We have imagined healthier and more affordable ways to live in a range of built and unbuilt prototypes. R-House is a model for ultra-low energy certified Passive House living in Syracuse, NY; Mtn Hive, a co-living workforce housing project in the Vail Valley, CO, features micro-apartments and shared communal spaces to alleviate demand in high-rent resort communities; and, our exercise in reimagining mid-century office buildings as housing for Curbed envisions the radical transformation of underperforming and underutilized infrastructure in New York City as a result of the pandemic.
Assessing and Adapting Design Processes
Research from ARO’s employee-led initiatives like the Materials Working Group and Zero-Waste Team continuously refine the firm’s design process and impact the behavior and policies of our own office. The Materials Working Group identifies critical questions to ask at the outset of a project to maximize health and wellness, while minimizing carbon and energy use.
The Zero-Waste Team overhauled the office waste streams to divert 90% of the waste from landfills and into composting and recycling. We integrate this research on our projects to ensure that we create healthy, inclusive spaces, and to reinforce design as a tool for positive change.
Through clarity of purpose, rigor of process, and elegance of craft, we create architecture with integrity that improves lives and transforms environments.