We Are The Market

Co-Adaptive Architecture

November 06, 2013 BY COCLICO

Bobby Johnston and Ruth Mandl are co-founders of one of New York’s hottest young architecture firms producing efficient, eco-friendly design.  The firm was the obvious choice to head up the re-design of our Nolita flagship store.  We couldn’t be happier with the results. photo (1)

A few months ago Ruth and Booby invited me into their perfectly curated Brooklyn home, we had some coffee, chatted about design and sustainability,  and I took some snap shots of their beautiful home. Here are the results:

What made you decide to start Co-Adaptive?

Ruth:   We felt something was lacking in the industry, something we wanted to add to it. Architecture is how we interface with this planet, and we believe it could do a much better job at adapting to its environment.


Coclico also believes that taking many small steps toward sustainability can create big change. What kinds of sustainable steps do you incorporate into architecture?

Ruth:  We try very hard to make sustainable decisions for all elements that go into a project – from trying to print less paper in the office, to choosing local products and recycling.

Bobby:  We are very interested in building passive buildings which have much smaller consumption costs. Buildings that allow users to see his/her consumption of resources combined with technologies that adapt to user needs can go a long way to reduce environmental impact. For example, the Nest thermostat monitors how much and when you use your heating and cooling and adjusts automatically once it learns your routine. Architecture


How do you incorporate sustainability into your day-to-day routine? 

Ruth: Where I shop has become important to me. I buy either vintage or well-crafted /locally made clothes/furniture/products. I would rather buy one expensive piece a season that I love and have it forever, than 10 that fall apart within the year.

Bobby:  We hardly ever buy water in a bottle, but filter tap water both at home and the office. We made a conscious choice not to drive in the city (or own a car) and support green alternatives such as Transportation Alternatives. We also get our power at home from Green Mountain which offsets our energy usage by supplying the grid with clean wind energy.


What recent innovations in design are inspiring you?

Ruth: I am really inspired by the passive house movement in Europe. My parents live in a passive house in Vienna, which I helped design with some local architects. My mum was telling me last week that while Vienna had its hottest couple days in June ever (37C), the temperature in their house only rose from 22C to 24C. No air conditioning! I dream about living in a city in which all buildings are self-sustaining, or even give back to the grid.

Bobby: I look to a lot of DIY technology out there. Things like Tweet-A-Watt and Raspberry Pi micro-controllers are very inspiring and economical means to monitor the ways we use spaces. 

useRuth – How does being an architect influence your style and who are some of your favorite designers?

Ruth:   I think it is a real stereotype that architects dress in black. I used to dress really colorfully, and yet find myself drawn to neutral colors and black more and more. I think it’s because you want to recede into the background somewhat, and have your work do the loud talking. I have a few friends who work in fashion, and I love buying clothes that have been designed by someone I know. Recently I buy all my shoes from Coclico. I don’t know another brand that makes better quality, or more beautiful shoes. I love Carrie Parry’s classic clothes that are locally made and use sustainable materials. Some friends just launched Hazore, and they make amazing printed items – that probably means I could never be a stereotypical architect!


Bobby – What are your fashion rules of thumb?

Bobby:  Keeping a classic and consistent appearance is important to me. My grandfather wore suspenders everyday – this tradition has stuck with me. I buy my suits from J Lindeberg which make a great classic slim-tailored suit. Local shop favorites are Unis and Raised by Wolves.

Healthy Addictions: what are 5 things you are each loving right now? 

Ruth: We are both really into Mad Men. (over now, buhu) It has a lot of parallels to our world, and yet it is a completely different animal. I love it. Cooking is a big one lately, we have two relatively new cookbooks by Yosam Ottolenghi. His food is just amazing, I think he’s an incredibly talented chef- and there isn’t one recipe we’ve tried and not loved. 


Bobby:  They are not really this season anymore – but we are into Plumen light bulbs. They are a great design item in the sense that they work with existing light fixtures, are energy saving and yet great to look at. I’m interested in design that can do that – not throw out stuff and start from scratch, but improve upon the existing status quo in some way. In a sense thats what we strive for in our current work.  We loved James Turrell’s piece at the Guggenheim. Simply amazing!

On my way out the door after a lovely afternoon with Ruth and Bobby, I snuck a photo of their shoe line-up in the front hall. Quite a few pairs from Coclico!