Rafael de Cárdenas founded Architecture at Large a decade ago after a fruitful career in design and architecture. He draws from an eclectic array of influences to design projects that are both glamorous and fiercely distinctive, including the Gentle Monster flagship store and Demisch Danant galley. Rizzoli is honoring de Cárdenas and Architecture at Large with a monograph on their work. Cultured sat down with de Cárdenas to discuss his new book from Rizzoli. On December 7, de Cárdenas will chat with Aaron Betsky as part of Design Miami.
How did the concept of a retrospective monograph on Architecture at Large and your work more broadly come about?
It was suggested by friends and colleagues—most importantly by Felix Burrichter, who edited the book along with Karen Marta.
How did your experiences as a menswear designer for Calvin Klein and as a production designer shape how your approach your current work?
Fashion and production design are constantly in dialogue with the broader culture, and with other creative disciplines. In fashion you are always responding to the contemporary, in all its dynamism; and in production design you are responding, say, to a soundtrack, dealing with a composition of many parts drawing from many different fields of creativity. The name “Architecture at Large” was always meant to suggest a practice that would engage, in a similar kind of way, with culture at large.
What is a project that you led that continues to astonish you?
What really impresses me is looking at all of the projects together, as a body of work, and seeing the way they have evolved over time—becoming more polished while staying true to certain impulses that have been there from the start.
What do you think the second decade of Architecture at Large will bring?
I really can’t say what it will bring; I can only tell you about my hopes, which are for our projects to become more ambitious as we do the same; and that we can continue to work on exciting projects in new (for us) typologies. One thing that’s really interesting to me at the moment is a trend that’s particularly noticeable in Asia, with hospitality and retail and entertainment becoming less and less typologically distinct: they seem to be collapsing into each other. That’s an area and a phenomenon I hope we can investigate more in the next ten years.
You are speaking with critic and educator Aaron Betsky during Art Week. Can you give our readers a preview of some of the topics the conversation will cover?
I think it’s likely to touch on the instrumentation of atmospherics or mood and its relationship to sexuality, desirability and gender. But we are still figuring out the direction of the conversation.
What role does contemporary design have in promoting progressive and inclusive ideas in light of ongoing national and global developments?
I think it can play a large role and certainly has at different times in history. But I think it could do a lot more, in today’s climate. It’s really the clients that have to lead that, more than designers—and I do think they have a duty to do so. As it stands, the luxury market and the popular one are very polarized.