LTL Architects — Transforming Challenging Projects into Innovative Designs

February 18, 2020
LTL Architects

LTL Architects, headquartered in Kew’s very own building at 227 West 29th Street, is one of many examples of our talented tenants who are at the forefront of their respective industries. The firm has just wrapped up a wildly successful year in 2019, as it was honored with several accolades and saw the completion of various major projects across the country. To highlight some of its most notable achievements, it was granted the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) New York State Firm of the Year Award, and its partners were inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in homage to their lasting contributions to the design industry.

Throughout the firm’s prolific past, it has catered to a lengthy list of clients, among which are major universities, such as Brown, Cornell, Columbia, and NYU, museums including the MoMA and National Building Museum, state institutions like New York’s departments of design and construction, parks and recreation, and housing, and even retail companies like Urban Outfitters. Given the breadth of its clientele, it is unsurprising to find its portfolio of previous projects ranges from large-scale academic and cultural buildings to intimate interiors to speculative research projects.

Joseph D. Jamail Lecture Hall — Columbia University. Photo: Michael Moran

Yet a firm is only as successful as the minds who built it. LTL was founded in 1997 by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis. All three men not only come from strong architectural backgrounds, as one would expect from work of their caliber, but also continue to mold the next generation of aspiring architects and designers by remaining active in academia. Paul, who received his bachelor’s from Wesleyan and his master’s from Princeton, remains a professor at the latter. He also heads New York’s Architectural League and is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. Marc received his degrees from the University of Virginia and Princeton and is now an adjunct associate professor at Columbia while serving as the newly minted president of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. David completed two master’s degrees in art and architecture at Princeton and Cornell and now teaches at the Parsons School of Design.

The three men, who met while studying at Princeton, first began collaborating on side projects in their downtime while working for separate established firms (Diller + Scofidio, Joel Sanders Architect, and Peter Guggenheimer Architects) and teaching at universities. Their efforts were rewarded when the Storefront for Art and Architecture offered to display examples of their work in the gallery in the summer of 1997. The trio leaped at the chance and immersed themselves in creating “an illusory body of work” in a mere four months. Simultaneously, they fleshed out an accompanying academic theory that would come to underpin all future projects.

Impressive credentials aside, it is this creative philosophy that shapes their firm. They uniquely focus on “inventive solutions,” which entails capitalizing on a project’s challenges or limitations to produce stunning and resourceful design results. The partners quite aptly refer to their work as “a combination of pragmatism and invention” that ventures into “the imaginative, the extraordinary, and, in some cases, the surreal.” You can read more about their singular approach to design in their critically acclaimed published works: Manual of Selection, Intensities, Opportunistic Architecture, and Situation Normal…Pamphlet Architecture #21.

Claremont University Consortium — Claremont, CA . Photo: Michael Moran

The final result of the firm’s vision is work that is far more than just functional, but rather valued for its artistic merit. Visitors to the spaces it crafts are often enchanted by their joyful, unconstrained, and deliberately contradictory spirit. These qualities are evident in its willingness to be unexpected and even, as David says, to appear to be “completely irrational” — a deceptive picture that ignores the brilliant and creative logic on which all of the firm’s projects are based. Examples of LTL’s past achievements are permanently displayed in the MoMA, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. It was even featured at the US Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale.

One of its most recently celebrated works is the Poster House, which opened in June 2019 and earned the firm an AIA NY Honors Award for its interior design. The 14,500 square-foot space is entirely dedicated to displaying over 7,000 examples of poster art — the first of its kind in the US. Visit the stunning location to admire the works of Milton Glasser, Shephard Fairley, and other poster icons, set against the surprising backdrop of city streets brought indoors.

New York University — Office of Strategic Assessment, Planning and Design. Photo: Michael Moran

The firm admits to a particular fondness for designing these communal spaces that play with the public and private, or interior and exterior. Other standout projects in this genre include the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center and HighQ Education Center in Arizona, which the firm professes to be one of the healthiest early childhood learning facilities in the country; Upson Hall, a sleek, energy-efficient new research laboratory for Cornell’s engineering school; the renovated Contemporary Austin-Jones Center for art in Texas, which is a popular social space as much as it is a museum immediately recognizable from its elevated aluminum canopy; and Columbia University’s redesigned, adaptable Joseph D. Jamail Lecture Hall, highlighted for its suspended ceiling complete with custom panels that allow for optimal lighting, mechanical systems, and acoustics in the multi-use space.

Eleven new projects are reportedly already in the planning stages, soon to join the ranks of the roughly 130 completed works the firm’s remarkably small twelve- to twenty-person office boasts. Far from resting on its laurels, we expect LTL to continue to produce stunning projects that shine a spotlight on NoMad’s boundless potential in the art and design world.

Upson Hall — Cornell University. Photo: Michael Moran/OTTO