An architect, an industrial designer, and a master fabricator banded together to create products and environments that merge the new field of interactive design with good old-fashioned craftsmanship; they call themselves The Principals. Drew Seskunas first collaborated with Charles Constantine and Christopher Williams in 2011 on the Botox Trilogy, and they have been working together ever since. Honing their focus on developing new technologies, they maintain a crafted feel to their objects and installations.
Continuing production on their previous hit products like Bare Bones (For Billy Reid), as well as pursuing their interactive installations at venues like MoMA PS1’s Warm Up Parties, The Principals have a relaxed studio environment, where skateboarding and hanging with friends is of utmost important. Drew invited us for a tour of The Principle’s Greenpoint studio to see the workshop in action, and get a closer look at their internationally acclaimed work.
Can you tell me about the formation of The Principals?
I’m an architect. I was working for this Belgian artist named Arne Quinze first in Belgium, then Berlin after graduate school. We worked on this big project called Bikini Berlin in Germany. I was there for a couple of years running the studio and the project, but towards the end of it when I was getting ready to close up shop, I didn’t know what I was going to do. A friend of mine who had a gallery in Berlin offered me an installation space, and one of my employees started talking about interactive design. I’d never done anything with it before, but got super into it. So that was the first project that’s on the website; the BotoxCloud. After that I thought I’d much rather do this than work on a building ever again!
An architect, a designer and fabricator — it seems like a kind of perfect trifecta.
Yes, we all come from our different backgrounds and for every project we each have a different level of input. We work together because we want to, but it has also proven to be really successful. The projects that we’ve done together are significantly better than the ones we’ve done on our own. We could probably make a lot more money doing a lot of different things, but that’s totally irrelevant to us. It sounds cliché, but we don’t like to conform to the standards of our respective fields.
I’m sure it opens up a lot of different avenues for the type of work you are able to do – like being able to design a very specific product like Bare Bones – but also these kind of amorphous installations.
Exactly, we recently worked on a prototype for PS1 Warm Ups. Here you can see the very first cosmic quilt model we made. The first time we installed it, it broke 20 minutes after we put it up! We were fixing it the whole time (laughs). Which is kind of cool, because you know you’re doing something ambitious when you’re pushing yourself beyond what is possible. People were still really into it, despite the fact that we were having to fix it all the time.
The Principals seem to be producing increasingly much more complex installations.
Yes. And we are always trying to draw lines. With one of our latest concepts we are working with these platonic solids. The client’s brief was all about the idea of people getting together and learning. We were thinking of this famous painting by Raphael, The School of Athens, and the idea of architectural shapes creating a layering effect of space which impacts how knowledge is passed from one person to another.
There is also the product aspect of your work?
Exactly, it’s super cheesy, but in the same respect if you really want as many people as possible to experience your work, you can’t say you have to “get art” to get this.
Have you ever hit a point where you might have to outsource aspects of your work?
We’ve thought about it. I guess ideally everyone wants to design a project that they don’t have to make, and make a lot of money. But that doesn’t really exist. What we really like is that we can immediately change course anytime if we want to. In the beginning we struggled so hard to try and define ourselves, but then we realized it was the worst thing we could do.
Who are some other firms or studios in the field that you are interested in right now?
I really love Fort Standard. They’re good friends of ours. They have also done PS1 Warm Up. Everything they do is fantastic. Snarkitecture is an architect and an artist, and they do stuff that’s between art and architecture. I guess that could be considered more or less industrial design, but there’s some essence to their work that is beyond that and more about concept. They do it in a way that takes it to another level.
Where do you see The Principals going in the next five years, do you have a plan?
I think that’s counter intuitive for what we do (laughs).
Ok, do you have a plan for the space in the next five years?
Yes! We’re going to build another quarter pipe, so by the end of the summer you can skate both sides. That’s of primary importance right there.
Drew, many thanks and we look forward to keeping updated on your future projects. To find out more see the studio’s website here.