Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael

Rael San Fratello is difficult to define. We do not have a set philosophy. We pursue applied architectural research — we are a studio, an atelier, a workshop of creative people interested in the world. We study architecture, teach architecture, talk about architecture and make drawings, images and full-scale-study models that evoke and question architecture. Architecture is a turbulent form of practice and we battle the forces that shape it as well as those that allow it to exist. Often, just to take part in the creation of architecture (here we use the intellectual meaning of the word architecture—and not the professional term) we have to create disruptive situations that bring attention to our work—otherwise, no one would ever know who we are or what we do. When we do get a chance to play, we attempt to expose the very forces that keep good design down. We try to make the most out of the few resources we have at hand, and make the most of it. It would be impossible for us to say we have a studio philosophy. We just try to keep making. We consider our work to be sketches, and when we are lucky, we get to produce full-scale study models—warm-ups for the chance we get to do another project.

One of our projects, the Emerging Objects Corporation, has the ability to transcend architecture, practice and clients. We have become material scientists, or better, cooks—inventing recipes that would allow us to ask questions about the future of architecture through the lens of 3D printing. In the same way we want to question the practice of architecture through experimentation and provocation, we want to know if we can 3D print buildings, not as some futuristic proposition, but by creating a fundamental architectural component—the 3D printed brick.

So, we try not to define, but rather constantly redefine ourselves. We stay a moving target and abandon set philosophies. We like to discover overlooked places and try to do the most with the least. We think big, use color, never ask “who are we?” and never ask “what do we do?” We are naïve. We say screw context, embrace place, put design first, be the opposition, keep one foot in the past and let the other flail around crazily, play, have fun and take on more that we can chew. We began in 2002. We are a post-911 Studio. We allow project making to be more interesting than the project, do things that keep us up at night. We are the underdog and the best 6th man off the bench.

We are a studio that disrupts the conventions of architecture by tackling topics not typically of interest to architects. We start galleries in the middle of nowhere. We talk to homeless people. We stack straw bales. We play in the mud. We start corporations. We imagine a better border. We question green. We love fluorescents and brown. We write. We educate. We learn. We often lose, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. We believe that the turtle wins the race. We believe old things can be new again. We hope that the new things we make will someday be old. Another company’s trash is sometimes our treasure. We believe there is nothing wrong with making money. We do free work (and lots of it). We print buildings. We love dust. We believe that when there is architecture there should also be food. We believe salt has a place in architecture. We are obsessed by materials. We try to proceed and be bold. We think that, when it comes to design, there is nothing wrong with lying and accentuating. We love making in California and we love Oakland. We have future-forward aspirations. We have rural gesticulations and intonations. We know you’ve never heard of our favorite architects. We know you’ve probably never heard of us. We are willing to deny any of this if it isn’t any fun.