The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.
A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
This week David and Marina are joined by Archie Lee Coates IV, a Co-Founder of the extremely multi-disciplinary design studio PLAYLAB. Archie discusses the evolution and future of PLAYLAB, naïveté in design and art, social equity in design practices and design, believing in humanity, design office as permeable amoeba, working with Virgil Abloh for the Louis Vuitton Show, and more.
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Highlights & Timestamps
Archie discusses his college education, why he chose to switch from architecture to graphic design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the early beginnings of PLAYLAB with his business partner Jeff Franklin. (00:00)
Archie talks about how PLAYLAB has evolved and importance of social equity in design and design offices. (03:20)
The world’s always been fucked up and it’s just that we’re becoming illuminated year after year of the realities of the world—especially 2020. So as two extremely white cofounders of this studio, we now know that we have an extreme privilege that we need to examine every day, every week, every month, every year for the rest of our lives as the studio exists. So now the hard work begins, which is, how does this place, the studio, become a place of access and opportunity for everyone else who doesn’t look like us. And that is the hard work. (04:55)
Archie discusses + POOL (the world’s first water-filtering floating pool), the variety of work PLAYLAB does and why every project is equally important. (07:50)
Archie talks about the things that inspire hime, issues of diversity and equality, architecture school, and how it all shapes the office and his everyday life. (24:02)
Everyday there are ten things in the world that break your heart and it’s a constant battle to understand where you fit in to do something. And it’s also a constant battle to understand who you are as an individual and what you want to be doing with your time and where those two things meet or where you have to step out and change yourself and your goals as a person. That’s the studio growth. How do we do that? It’s a huge question—it’s every day and it’s an on-going conversation at home. […] I have a four-and-half-year-old son and we’re talking about these things every single day… about how to be better human beings. And I think in concert with art it’s important. (27:19)
Archie discusses how the office is structured and why they intentionally limit putting out information about how it functions. (41:14)
We know we’re not perfect, so we just don’t need to have the conversation with other people about why we’re not perfect or why our square peg doesn’t fit into your round hole. I care, but I don’t care. If I care, then we’re opening it up to too many, too many things. I have enough to deal with, to solve this studio for the next 50 years. I got my work cut out for my me […] so we have to keep the whole thing tight. […] As much as I’m saying this thing [the office] is sacred. The walls are permeable. The thing itself is an amoeba—it’s constantly changing—and the walls are permeable. So we love adjacencies that are weird, for lack of a better word. Things that doesn’t necessarily feel like they belong together. (49:10)
Archie discusses their work and design process. (55:30)
Archie talks about the office’s history, growth, and end goals. (01:08:10)
I can equally see nobody being here, us not having a studio, and it’s Jeff and I in a desert in a one room apartment doing the same thing. And I think that’s the difference… is that it doesn’t matter. It matters because I really want to be around people and I find that to be the success, but if it scaled back down to Jeff and I… and maybe it does some day, may be it scales back down to two old men attempting something together, that would be great too. Because that’s our journey and I’m good with that. If I went through this whole world with all of the crazy people in it—evil people, bad people, good people, in-between people—and I came out with one person that I trusted, I hit that jackpot. So once you have that, why would you want anything else? (01:21:51)
Archie talks about their move from New York City to Los Angeles. (01:30:15).
Archie talks about getting to work with clients such as Drake (01:38:20) and shares the emotional experience of working with Virgil Abloh on the 2020 Louis Vuitton Show. (01:44:17)
It’s magical. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life and maybe ever will. When you watch these shows, when you watch what’s he’s [Virgil Abloh] built and how he’s done it and how he’s involved people and the messages they are dripping in […] It’s the best form of art I’ve ever seen. Truly. (01:50:27)