New Practices New York Winner Presentation: Taller KEN

Cosentino hosted a lecture by Gregory Melitonov of the winning firm

03/31/2016 By Christopher Curtland

“Architecture is an art form, not a service provider.”

- Gregory Melitonov

While this bit was definitely the most inspirational of the night, it was also perhaps the most incendiary. “Can’t architecture be many different things?” an audience member prodded, during the Q&A session with Michael Caton, architect with Ennead Architects and executive board member of the National Organization of Minority Architects New York Chapter.

Melitonov responded by saying good work requires organizing your priorities and avoiding a quick and dirty approach. “You need the artistic weirdos on the fringe,” he said. “There is no architecture without art. Otherwise it’s just spec’ing.”

The second in a six-part lecture series hosted by Cosentino in the company’s Manhattan showroom, last night’s event detailed the playful yet culturally relevant design approach of Melitonov’s firm Taller KEN, founded with Inez Guzman and based in both New York and Guatemala.

Born and raised in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood, having completed an apprenticeship in Genova, Italy, and with projects like NYC’s Whitney Museum of American Art and a Mayan museum in Guatemala on his resume, Melitonov revealed how design should be whimsical and serious at the same time.

“At our firm, everyone has an equal say. We’ve got team members from New York, South America, the Midwest. Everyone has an equal say,” he explained. “For a tile project in South America, we wanted a fresh, tropical atmosphere, so we just worked with the ‘local dude.’”

In a field that can sometimes get caught up in the stuffy, technical aspects, I found this attitude to be incredibly inspiring. And that slightly surly audience member got onboard too, after more thoughtful words from Melitonov.

“I don’t claim all my work as art or important, but it’s about that mentality,” he said. “If a client asked me to build a McDonald’s, I’d approach it in the same way.”

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