Any student of architecture and design can reel off a list of creative couples who were partners in both work and life. In the 1950s there were Charles and Ray Eames, of course, and Florence and Hans Knoll. Later, plenty of insiders thought that Denise Scott Brown deserved the 1991 Pritzker Prize as much as her husband, Robert Venturi. In more recent years, superstar couples Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, and Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch have seemingly perfected the art of staying happily married while keeping their top-tier firms humming along.
“There’s a very thin boundary between life and architecture because you can look at almost everything through the lens of architecture,” says Amale Andraos, who cofounded the New York architecture firm Work AC with her husband, Dan Wood. “Doing that together creates a very strong bond.” AD PRO asked four designing couples about their work habits, desk setups, and home life – and their best advice for other couples considering a professional partnership.
Dan Wood and Amale Andraos of Work AC
New York City
How they met: They were both working for Rem Koolhaas’s OMA in Rotterdam in 1998.
Cofounded their architecture firm: 2002
Professional dynamic: “We work on every project together but we’re not glued to each other,” says Andraos, who is also dean of Columbia University’s School of Architecture. “We design together in the form of a conversation, constantly sketching on top of each other’s sketches.” Adds Wood, “We push each other. Our motto is that we never agree to disagree. If we disagree, that means it’s not good enough and we have to find another, better solution.” Because Andraos isn’t in the office as often as Wood, he handles more of the business aspects of Work AC. “I do more of the proposals and the numbers,” says Wood. Andraos, meanwhile, does more of the managing of staff. “She’s good at that,” says her husband.
Personal dynamic: “I’m more serious,” says Andraos. “Dan’s more funny.”
Office seating: Andraos has a separate office at Columbia, but at their Lower East Side office they sit side by side at a single long desk.
Home life: “We don’t have set rules about when we work or don’t work,” says Wood. “Sundays when we’re at our house on Rhode Island can be a nice time to get some things done. But our kids [ages eight and five] get annoyed when we talk about architecture, so they are a natural check on us,” he says.
Words of wisdom: “If you’re thinking of working with your significant other, start by doing a single project together, like a competition,” says Andraos. “You’ll know pretty quickly if your partnership is going to work.”
Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill.