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Meet Christopher Warren of WORD (Warren Office for Research and Design) in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Warren.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Christopher. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a 1/2 Korean 1/2 caucasian Denver-borne transplant to LA, by way of architecture school in Philly. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of Korean food, Mexican food and cheesesteaks (Pat’s), but am still waiting for a good food truck fusion. Maybe a steak wit’ kimchi in a corn tortilla?

Luckily, I followed a girl west, she’s my wife now and we live in a house with a view on the westside, near our offices. For six years, I worked as a designer at Morphosis with Thom Mayne, during which time he won the Pritzker Prize and ushered in most of the first generation of the firm’s large-scale work. Working there was definitely grad school 2.0 and exposure to the work and the people there honed my design ethos for what I expect to be a lifetime in architectural practice. Architects never really retire, after all. After 6 years there (we joke that it equates to twelve years billable), I started a small practice with a good friend and Morphosis ex-pat just in time for the economic downturn. That’s when teaching kicked in.

I was able to secure a position at USC’s School of Architecture teaching design studios. This was as much of an education for me as it was for the students. Studios typically run 4 to 6 hours a day, three days a week, and as a professor you’re talking about design, critiquing ideas and giving what you hope to be thoughtful feedback for all the time you’re not sneaking a diet coke in the courtyard. After a few years there, I was nominated by the students to give the school’s commencement speech in 2011, a truly great honor for me. The school also gave me a chance to teach as part of the study abroad programs in China and Italy, so I was able to spend a few glorious weeks each in Shanghai, Rome and Como. I later ended up teaching as an assistant visiting professor of urban design at Washington University in St. Louis. They have a great design program there, and learning about a new city was enlightening. But, commuting by air seventeen weeks in a row is not something I’d like to repeat anytime soon!

My solo office started up in full force around 2010-2011. It’s funny, back with a larger office I was working on international projects of significant scale and budget at the age of 25, but with my own venture in my mid-30’s I found myself working on home remodels and interiors, and using the same moonlighting engineers for a wood framed addition that were used to design massive buildings of steel and concrete . Needless to say, we figured it out quickly. Within a few years, we formed a relationship with the clothing company APC and their French architect, Laurent Deroo, and were able to assist them in constructing three stores in LA, one of which is their US flagship on Melrose Place. That collaboration led to a few more retail projects in fashion and most recently, with a new and amazingly popular jewelry brand, Vrai & Oro.

We continue to take in projects of all kinds, recently venturing into creative office design for production and tech companies, and have also been lucky enough to win a few design awards along the way. One of those projects was for a cafe, Little Ground, near some of the studio facilities in north Glendale. That project was the epitome of what a devoted team can do – the owner and contractor really put forth a coordinated effort to realize the design of a humble space, and it has gone on to win multiple design awards. The same goes for the Shoreheights Residence, where I agonized over the detailing and the builder followed through. In design and construction, I can attest to the fact that the client, consultants and contractors all need to be devoted to the work at hand in order for our designs to flourish.

I run a small office, but it has the ability and experience of a seasoned firm. As we continue moving forward, I rely on the fact that there are many like-minded people out there who are looking for design progressives to work with, in order to create something unique in this oft lacking world.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As many in the creative field might say at some point in their lives, the struggle is in finding a means to bring your work to the world. For architects, that means finding great clients. I can work on a tight budget. I can work with tight constraints. What I can’t work with, and often refuse to, are clients who believe that a project’s worth is simply a tangible calculation of investment and return. Sure, it’s easy to tread this road; it’s cut and dry – pure math. But, there are forces greater than napkin-based economics at work. Quality, longevity, thoughtfulness in design and its presentation to society all play a great role in the real worth of a design. A project’s place in the city, the ‘urban fabric’ so to speak and the projective way it can shape and affect its own context must also be considered as a value in every meaning of the word. I don’t profess architecture to be art in a true sense, but it does have the ability to embody ideas and spur reflection, thought and in rare cases, change.

Please tell us about WORD (Warren Office for Research and Design).
I’ve been told many times that one thing that sets us apart from other offices is the highly personalized service we offer and the sense of trust we give our clientele. We stay organized and respond promptly to every request – my cell phone and office number are one in the same. I completely understand the difficulty in trusting someone with a huge amount of money and venturing with them into a highly obscure process, so that’s why I do my best to explain every step and answer many of your questions before they arise. If my clients voice criticism, it’s about the length of a few of my emails, but I like to be thorough!

Our designs are very detail oriented, but not just in the manner of how pieces are put together. Rather, we examine the more ethereal aspect of details and how certain materials can combine with light and sculpted space to create unique atmospheres and a heightened sense of place. We are constantly searching for ways to enhance the perception of a space, while both highlighting its sense of materiality and elevating its function.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I think back, all of the memories that spring up are of me walking on trails somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I don’t get the chance to do that as much these days, but you can often find me and my wife hiking trails near the coast late on a weekend afternoon.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 2128 Cotner Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90025
  • Website: www.warrenoffice.com
  • Phone: 310-463-7137
  • Email: dialogue@warrenoffice.com

Image Credit:
Paul Vu

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