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TXDW Houston — William Curtis, Philip Gorrivan and Edmund Hollander on the Art of Collaboration

A Lively Talk at Roche Bobois

BY // 07.14.22
photography Johnny Than

Successful design is almost always the result of collaboration: the artful work of a designer to understand a client’s needs and bring his or her vision to life. But the potential for a truly magical result comes when multiple disciplines work together on a project, specifically those overseeing its architecture, landscape, and design. Three distinct areas — and, often, three distinct points of view.

Roche Bobois manager Adriana Gonzalez welcomed three esteemed panelists with three points of view on this subjects for the first event of Texas Design Week Houston. On the panel was Bill Curtis, whose firm Curtis & Wyndham Architects (Houston) is the recipient of the Institute of Classical Art and Architecture’s Arthur Ross Lifetime Achievement Award, two consecutive Palladio Awards, and 23 John Staub Awards; with work published in Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, VIE, Period Homes, Southern Living, The Classicist, and Texas Architect, among others.

Representing landscape design was Edmund Hollander (New York City, Chicago, Sag Harbor), whose Hollander Design is one of the few landscape architecture firms included in Architectural Digest‘s AD100 list. Hollander is a recipient of the ICAA’s Stanford White Award, a Fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a past president of the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Finally, speaking from the perspective of the designer was Philip Gorrivan (NYC), who has product lines with Baker, Holland & Sherry, and Best & Lloyd; his work has been published in Veranda, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, and The New York Times.

The panel was  moderated by Chesie Breen, who co-owns with partner Ellen Niven the strategic communications and brand development agency NivenBreen (NYC).

Designers, architects, and design enthusiasts settled into the beautifully styled Roche Bobois showroom to hear  panelists answer questions on everything from collaboration success stories to the birds and the bees — that is, designing in a way that’s sensitive to the natural environment. Hollander said, “There are times when it takes a little bit of education to show people that we can do beautiful design and collaborative work but still create landscapes that are home for the birds and the bees and the butterflies that enrich our lives.”

A collaborative mindset, Hollander said, goes beyond the team on the project and extends to the surrounding space and its inhabitants. “It can be barrels of fun for [our clients’] kids to identify which butterflies are flying around, [to know that] all of our peach trees and apple trees are going to have abundant fruiting every year because the bees are pollenating them, and there’s a general feeling that there’s a respect for the land and a desire to create a healthy property as well as a beautiful property.”

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Curtis spoke about sensitivity and respect in design — not just toward the natural environment but to the architectural history of a property and a neighborhood. Curtis, as noted by Breen, is a significant steward for Houston architecture, having designed or restored many of the city’s most significant homes. He described having the “good manners” to observe what is appropriate for a property and neighborhood.

“We come at each project asking, ‘What are the rules? What is the neighborhood telling us it wants to be. . . should be?’” Curtis said. “Whether we’re looking at interventions or restorative work, it’s not about ‘Look at me.’ It’s about what is appropriate for that piece of property.”

As one of her final questions, Breen asked the panel about another aspect of collaboration: discovering, working with, and supporting local artisans. “This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately,” answered Gorrivan, who had recently completed a room for the fourth annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach. “Part of being an interior designer and bringing magic to a project is to find that street artist who can make a wall for a client.” He referenced an artist who makes concrete tables in his garage in Los Angeles and another who creates intricate macramé wall installations. He discovered both on Instagram.

“I find lots of interesting artisans on Instagram,” Gorrivan said. “Part of adding value as a designer — because people have access to anything there is — is to constantly be finding new artisans and new things. To bring that discovery.”

All three panelists agreed that their most memorable projects were the result of close collaboration not only with their clients but with other industry professionals. Their unique takes on the concept — whether it be a “collaboration” with the natural environment, the history of the surrounding neighborhood and architectural styles, or with the very artisans and creators of the objects used to decorate the interior — show how close to the heart of design collaboration truly is.

PC Seen: Roche Bobois senior manager Adriana Gonzalez, Ann Wolf, Ellen Niven, Laurie Murphy, Shannon Mann, Phoebe Tudor, Oscar Banta-Guevara, Mark Curtis, Melanie Turner, Ashley Holden, Kari Roundy, Rasha Nesreddin, Claire Lee, London LeMay, Emily Pfister, Abbi Parker, Paul Brockman, Dely Pena, Camille Scott, Helene Dameris, Florencia Foster, Kristin Weikel, Paola Rozo, Ellen Brown, Palmer Brown, Tracy Motley, Alli Ryan Motley, Christina Mullen, Colleen Kotts, Rae Strum, Patricia Lessa, Julie Koch, Heather Lack, Terry Matthews, Daphne Laplante, Linley Stroud, and AJ Bogs.

Texas Design Week Houston sponsors: New Orleans Auction Galleries, Monogram Luxury Appliances, and Decorative Center Houston.

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