Rafael de Cárdenas followed a rather roundabout path to professional success. After studying painting and fashion design at RISD, he decided to further his creative education by pursuing an architecture degree. We could say that his trademark in design is the Geometric patterns.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be an architect in the future,” says the designer “I thought I’d somehow come back to fashion.”
Fate had other plans, however, and the opportunities that emerged after graduation—including working with Greg Lynn on a submission for the redesign of the World Trade Center site and collaborating with special-effects production house Imaginary Forces—helped establish him in the field and encourage him to open his own New York-based studio in 2006. Now Architecture at Large is home to 10 creatives who collaborate on everything from residential and commercial interiors to furniture to, yes, architecture.
Though the firm’s name might elicit amusing visions of buildings on the lam, it was actually inspired by a concept from the world of print publishing. “I liked the idea of an editor-at-large position in fashion magazines—someone who lends an ethos or image to the publication without focusing on any one aspect of it,” de Cárdenas explains. “So, I borrowed it.”
Commissions from big names like Cappellini and Nike have kept de Cárdenas and his team busy. Each project offers an opportunity to blend in new concepts, and de Cárdenas often finds himself turning to cinematic references in his work. Furthering this theatrical spirit, he seeks to forgo a singular style for more evocative settings. “I’m more concerned that our spaces be immersive and moody and predispose the observer or occupant to some sort of mood and effect some emotional response,” he says.
There are definitely staples to his style, however, including distinctive black-and-white contrasts, bold use of bright colors, and strategic geometric shapes and structures.
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