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.

Aerial view of "A New Urban Ground" proposal for Lower Manhattan.

Resilience Analysis and Adaptation

ARO’s holistic framework of sustainability encompasses the health of people, communities, and buildings.

Our AIA Latrobe Prize work with Catherine Seavitt and 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.

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On the Water | Palisade Bay
Rising Currents: A New Urban Ground
abstract graphic that reads Neighborhoods Now
Neighborhoods Now: Jackson Heights

Material Innovation

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.

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Close up photo of ARO Array
Close-up photo of glass fiber reinforced gypsum ceiling with integrated lighting
Precast Panels
Photo of two interlocking units of V-Soleil, a terra cotta brise soleil
Terra Cotta
Photo of a CLT beam
Photo of interlocking units of Paper Wall

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.

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Rendering of Mtn Hive in its mountain setting
Mtn Hive
Reimagining a Midtown Office Building as Housing

Designing for Health and Wellbeing

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 group continues to develop best practices for healthy material sourcing. 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.

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Photo of two people looking at material samples in a daylit office
Materials Working Group
Zero-Waste Initiative
ARO at the 2019 Climate Strike

Engaging Design Processes

Our research depends on engaging people and places – through dialogue and building trust as well as through understanding a place’s layered social, historical, and architectural contexts. Through clarity of purpose, rigor of process, and elegance of craft, we create architecture with integrity that improves lives and transforms environments.