From single-handedly running Reddymade Architecture’s first project for Wellspring Capital Management, to designing a prototypical recovery room based on principles of neuro-aesthetics, Suchi Reddy is building a body of work that is dynamic, relevant, and a step ahead of everyone else. The CARE room, which was developed in collaboration with the International Arts + Minds Lab at The Brain Sciences Institute at Johns Hopkins University, was her first conscious foray into neuro-aesthetics. She then collaborated with Google, Muuto and the International Arts + Minds Lab at Johns Hopkins University on an experimental installation for the Salone del Mobile design festival in Milan. Now delving further into the field – ‘the study of beauty acting on the brain’, as she defines it - Reddy has been appointed the chair of Plym Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for the Fall 2019 term.
Over the phone from her New York office, Reddy talks to STIR about her career, her design philosophy, and how she chooses projects that matter the most.
Avantika Shankar (AS): Would you say you have a signature style?
Suchi Reddy (SR): The idea of style is one that I find fairly problematic, but I would say I have a signature sensibility. It is a question of really sensing what is right for the client - and it's modern, it's warm, it's usually relatable. I have been fortunate to learn so much from the people that I worked for… I don't think I took away a sense of someone's style. What I did take from the people that I have worked with, who have shown me the possibilities that architecture offers, is a way of thinking. The reason why we are architects is that we want to do things that serve and uplift the people that we work for. And if that is not an option, if we are not achieving that in some way, then we are failing.
AS: What attracts you to a project?
SR: There are spaces that inspire, and there are spaces that don't. I have to sense that there is a vision and that people want to achieve something. Sometimes clients come to you and they just want you to solve a problem. That can be interesting if the problem is really interesting. But sometimes, it is just a pedestrian problem and there is no need for the kind of thinking and the kind of attention to detail that we bring to things. So I do look at it from that perspective, to see if there is something we can bring to the problem that is different. For example, when I was asked to look at a prototypical hospital room that can help children recover faster - there is no better reason than that to work.
AS: What was your first project that dealt with neuro-aesthetics?
SR: Designing recovery rooms was our first concrete project in which we said, neuro-aesthetics is what we were doing… but kind of subconsciously I have been doing this for as long as I have worked. Around the same time, we were redesigning our office, and I was doing the same thing, where I was really trying to look at, how does this space make you feel? You walk in and you have this white corridor, it is like this palate cleanser of a space, it calms your mind down. Then on the one end of the office we have this anamorphic graphic of a cube: I wanted to do something that challenges you a little bit to think. And then on the other side, we did this wall of boxes that create this kind of fractal image. There is certainly a lot of science behind how you see patterns in nature and why fractals are very important and soothing to the brain. This comes, I think, also, from living in India. I would attribute it very much to my upbringing and the fact that growing up in India is a very sensually rich experience, and I think it certainly leaves its mark.
AS: What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
SR: I am really excited about this house in Rhode Island that we are building a tower addition to. It is a wonderful site, it sits on top of a rock. By adding a tower to it, we are giving the client all these vistas and views so you have this experience of the site that is completely different than you did before. Another house in New Jersey (designed based on vaastu shaastra) will be complete by the end of August. There is a project in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which will be a not-for-profit space on the ground floor with a residential space above. And finally, we are designing a house in Virginia where we are keeping neuro-aesthetics front and centre. It is a really nice creative time in the office, where it is like how creative can we be, all the time. It is an absolutely wonderful thing for a design studio, to feel that way.
Whether it is for social justice and welfare, or simply for the benefit of a more aesthetic world, Reddy’s work is about making a difference. As her exhibition at this year’s Salone del Mobile design festival indicated, she is one among an increasing number of architects responsible for creating a smarter, more spatially aware generation. As a successful Indian woman in New York city, Reddy is a trailblazer in more ways than one - and her career is a testament to the evolving, dynamic nature of design and its widening scope of possibility.