Annabelle Selldorf draws on the elegance of minimalist architecture to create buildings that stand out through their pared-down sophistication, and rich, yet understated nature. The New York-based architect and principal of her eponymous studio has worked on gallery designs for a client list that reads like a Who’s Who of the contemporary art world – including private galleries and exhibition spaces for Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner, Haunch of Venison, and Frieze, as well as larger-scale cultural destinations such as her recently completed Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. At the same time, Selldorf applies her skills equally to the domestic space, with projects such as New York’s 42 Crosby Street and 10 Bond Street, as well as a number of private homes under her belt, proving that her work can effortlessly span scales and typologies – a fact proven once more by her most recent endeavour, Vica by Annabelle Selldorf. The furniture and accessories company has just opened its first space, a collaboration with Paul Henkel’s Palo Gallery, at 30 Bond Street in NoHo.
We caught up with Annabelle Selldorf to talk about this, and more.
At home with Annabelle Selldorf
AS: Just now I am sitting on a deck at a cottage in Eastern Long Island looking out on a path, lined with dense growth of bayberry and swamp oaks to a beach on Napeague Bay. It is a quiet, overcast Sunday morning – a mild breeze and the sounds of seagulls and distant waves fill the air.
AS: A cup of coffee.
AS: I called my partner who is on his way back to New York from Maine – my favourite place – see below.
AS: I lost a book called Barkskins by Annie Proulx. It is one of my favourites, albeit a heart-breaking book; it tells the story of the arrival of Europeans, the claiming of land from the indigenous peoples and the deforestation of the New World. The narrative spans 300 years into the contemporary era of climate crisis and global warming. I will not only replace the book but more importantly I will re-read it.
AS: It is not so much where but when I have (more or less) open-ended time to think and play with ideas to see where they take me. Often times it is at my desk on a Sunday when nothing else is scheduled and results or solutions are not the required outcome.
AS: So many favourite places in the world… Perhaps right now, an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine is my favourite place, where one is surrounded by nature – trees, rocks, water, birds, moss and weather and no people.
AS: This is not something I entertain – rather I admire achievement, intelligence, beauty and success when I encounter it without envy.
AS: Still and always an architect and chasing the art of equanimity.
AS: I am reading WG Sebald’s The Emigrants – re-reading a collection of stories. The themes of memory and trauma and the impact of the Second World War and the Holocaust, [and] the ensuing sense of displacement are described in Sebald’s distinct prose and resonate deeply for me.
AS: The possibility of engaging with some of the important topics that affect our work as architects today, from climate crisis to the urgency of bringing equity and inclusion to the public realm and really to everything that we do – how we use resources, consider opportunities for intelligent adaptive re-use and the powerful effect on both social change and on how people can inhabit places with openness and diversity as well as enduring healing environmental impact.
AS: I don’t really want to switch off, so I don’t try to.
AS: There are so many materials I like to work with – yet materials are not the first thing I think about in a project; they seem to present themselves once the space, its use and its context are established.
AS: Find your own curiosity to see, to discover and to experience places rather than staying remote – experience away from mere images to engage the mind and all your senses.
AS: I fail all the time – on all kinds of scales – and recognise with regret one thing or another I could have/should have done differently. Learning to accept and reflecting on why I failed helps me to make amends with others and myself and hopefully provides insight on different future outcomes.
AS: Collaboration is the name of the game – I feel lucky to have dream collaborators in our studio and outside. We have just opened a new space in NoHo for our furniture and accessories company Vica by Annabelle Selldorf that I am very excited about. It is a collaboration with Palo Gallery, an upcoming gallery founded by a dear friend, Paul Henkel, that will showcase the line along with the exciting artists he presents. And we have just begun working on a project for a close friend with Tatiana Bilbao and her studio and that is a special dream collaboration to boot.
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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
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