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goCstudio fuses conceptual art with architectural design.

Imagine: The sunset slowly casts a hazy blush over the crest of the Cascades. You step outside your floating sauna to cool off in the late summer air as the waves of Lake Washington lap, lulling around an invisible pontoon.

This slice of nirvana, otherwise known as “wa_sauna,” is slated to debut this summer and is one of many fantastic projects in the pipeline at the architecture and design firm goCstudio. Once up and running, the mobile hot box will be available for public rental—and accessible by kayak.

Co-founded by architects Aimée O’Carroll and Jon Gentry, goCstudio is one of Seattle’s new visionary young firms that aren’t waiting around for a commission to inspire a good idea. Projects like “wa_sauna” are going full steam ahead, backed through Kickstarter and other alternative funding models.

“There is no client in this scenario,” says Alan Maskin, principal at Olson Kundig Architects, about goCstudio’s modus operandi. “It’s indicative of a new form of design culture that is self-generating, that uses conceptual ideas as a generator for the creation of work.”

O’Carroll and Gentry met at Olson Kundig while she was participating in the firm’s International Internship Program and he was employed as an architect. A London native, O’Carroll spent several years working on residential design and unconventional urban development projects in England. Her experience paired well with what Maskin calls Gentry’s raw talent and “misfit” approach to design. Gentry also did a stint with Mw|works Architecture + Design (the outfit who created Capitol Hill’s Rock Box) and is one of the co-founders at Graypants, a custom lighting and furniture design company in Seattle.

After leaving Olson Kundig, O’Carroll went back to London, but she and Gentry began collaborating remotely on projects for international design competitions. Those projects turned heads; their “Spirit Pavilion” proposed to systematically transform Seattle’s 520 floating bridge into a series of dissected, site specific island installations.

In 2012, the two rejoined in Seattle and made their collaborative union official. Their Pioneer Square office is located in a breezy, brick loft overlooking 3rd Avenue. It’s stripped-down with no-frills furniture and communal desks made of sleek, blonde wooden planks. Sipping coffee from a French press, they excitedly discuss their first residential project, as well as the approaching construction of a building at COR Cellars Winery. It will be an earth-berm courtyard nestled into a hillside along the Columbia River, shielding the winery from wind.

“We’re excited to be connected to the avant-garde, connected to the arts and everything that’s happening right now in Pioneer Square,” Gentry says.

For the past year, goCstudio has brought the Pioneer Square Art Walk into the office, nestling fundraisers and small art exhibits among work stations and stacks of design periodicals. Last year they exhibited Suzanne Stefan’s large-scale plasterwork and Julia Haack’s dazzling, patterned sculptures pieced together from scraps of repurposed wood. This June, one of Mark von Rosenstiel’s machine-powered kinetic installations will light up the space.

From April to August, the firm is teaming with local photographers Nikolas Koenig, Benjamin Drummond, John Pohl, Kyle Johnson and Andrew Waits for “Landscape Studies,” where Gentry and O’Carroll will design a series of site-specific projects inspired by locations photographed and presented by each of the artists. Collaboration like this is Gentry and O’Carroll’s philosophical bread and butter.

“The sauna is one of those projects that captures people’s imaginations, and those are the people we want to work with us,” Gentry says. “It leads to the type of work that we’re most interested in doing: conceptual and risk-driven, rather than just focusing on residential work and restaurants.”

“We don’t have so much past work that we’re just regurgitating and pulling from what we’ve done before,” O’Carroll says. “We’re too young to be recycling designs and projects. We want to keep that sense of exploration.”

 

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