We’re grateful for Lil’ Bub. Shown here hanging out in our photobooth in New York this week.
Celebrating a decade of incredible work, Roman and Williams' Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch signed copies of their new book Roman and Williams Buildings & Interiors : Things We Made with some friends and a gallery of shots in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York last week — you can grab signed copies of this beautiful tome on our shop. We’re old friends with Robin and Stephen, and our studio director, Eric, and interiors maestro Loren worked on the Roman and Williams team when Ace Hotel New York was taking shape. They had a chance to sit down with Stephen and Robin amidst the mayhem to ask about the book, their work together and the subconscious.
Robin and Stephen, you still appear from time to time in Eric and Loren’s dreams. Do you find that creative collaboration spiked with a sobering dose of real business tends to dye the subconscious in this way, and do all the collaborators and team members you’ve had continue to affect your psyche?
Well everything that’s difficult tends to dye the subconscious and work itself into dreams, and we are and always have been difficult. We are proud of that tradition. Easy things are forgettable and have no impact –- no staying power. No dream or haunting qualities ever came from something easy.
The title Things We Made speaks to a sort of portfolio of finished products, however we know how important the process of design is, and how imperfections in that process go into your work, aka “fucking things up.” Will readers get any insight into this rebellious stance?
We hope so! We really put so much work into creating a book that would give insight into our ethos –- where readers could get a sense of us as people, not just our projects. We included hundreds of drawings –- we even drew on the drawings. And the text is a series of conversations, rather than just descriptions.
The book celebrates a “decade of design” — what do you hope the next decade will bring in terms of your studio and practice?
Even more humanistic, careful and unpretentious design. We hope to spread the warmth that the Ace embodies. We’d love to design an airport or a hospital in a way that would move people. The International Style, and what it has bred, and benign contemporary design have made for boring, dreary places that need to me be made more interesting –- interesting for everyone, and not just for architects and designers.
We love your beautiful spot in Montauk — how did the garden do this year? For the green thumbs out there, what’s your favorite vegetable to grow?
It was a hot summer and the garden was absolutely prolific. This year, we built eight-foot tall towers for our tomatoes and we grew eight different varieties. We have been harvesting them well into late October. We never thought they would grow that high – but they did –- they could have grown another few feet even! Our peppers also did well this year because of the heat.
We love growing cabbages, artichokes, and brussell sprouts -– vegetables that take two years to harvest. It is fascinating to watch the process -– how the vegetables grow over one summer, how they retract over the winter and then explode the following spring into super vegetable power.
We’ve also love growing medicinal plants like Angelika, Wormwood and Echinacea, which we like to use. We could go on …
In the act of making things there are many people involved in the process, especially with international projects internationally. In your experience, are Americans still good at “making things”?
Absolutely. American manufacturing almost disappeared — another price of the post-war obsession with cheapening architecture and design. It focused on zero craft and lack of detail. American manufacturing is known for being meaty, strong, simple and good. Things we love. We try to support American craftsmanship as much as we can. It is hard to convince developers and owners to pay more for things made in this country, to pay for things that last longer, but we do the best we can. Whenever we build something for ourselves, this is always the case.
We blessed to call you family and we’re honored to call you friends — excited to see what the next decade brings.
We feel the same about the Ace team. The world is a better place with Ace in it. Thank you. So proud to have had our book party in the Living Room! It’s the project that’s closest to our hearts. Thank you!
Photos from the Billy Farrell Agency
Reggie Watts performs tonight at Ace Hotel New York with The Dance Cartel at On the Floor in Liberty Hall. He woke up early to do his hair and found a few moments to talk to us about life, love, luxury problems and Comedy Bang Bang.
How is your morning, er afternoon, going?
Uh, it’s going good. Not out of bed yet, but I’m getting there.
You’ve just been taking interviews from bed? That sounds pretty good.
It’s not bad, it’s fun.
You’re a busy man. Last week when we were having technical problems you were like “Okay you have ten minutes. I have another one in ten minutes, then ten minutes before that.” That doesn’t sound like very much fun for you. Or maybe it is.
Well sometimes it can be. It’s just a matter of it lining up or not. Sometimes people will not call or they will forget. Something like that. Then sometimes they will call a little bit later and then the whole thing is derailed. “I’ll call you ten minutes later, then ten minutes later.” That can be weird, but it’s fine. Literally almost everything is worse than that.
They are first world problems, it’s true. Have things been kind of blowing up since Comedy Bang Bang premiered?
Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think I definitely noticed people a little bit more. I mean people notice me more is what I meant to say. Ha.
You and Alex (Calderwood) are old friends from Seattle.
Yeah, I’ve known him probably since, I’m going to guess like 1996 or something like that maybe. He was throwing parties at — I can’t remember the name of the club, it was right under the monorail. It was the only thing in town that really had any elegance or sophistication to it when it comes to parties. They were killin’ it. But yeah they were cool guys, I’ve known them forever. I love the Ace.
I interviewed Vijay Iyer recently when he was coming to Portland for the Jazz Festival. We were talking about jazz being this democratic wildland where anything can happen. And I was watching some videos of your work on YouTube and various places over the last week, and thinking that jazz and comedy feel kind of related. Especially the sort of performance you do — it’s pretty singular — you have peers in the comedy world and peers in the music world, but what you do with them is sort of unprecedented. I was wondering if you feel like there is some feedback loop with how you approach comedy and how you think about improvisational music, and if they feel related to you in any way?
Yeah, they are definitely related. I mean, if you can improvise in music and if you have a love of music you can just transpose that to being more lyrical. It’s the same technique, it just depends on what you understand. Improvisation is inherent in any art form.