Our inaugural post for our new blog series that highlights our fabulous team kicks off with a little one-on-one time with RODE’s very first full-time employee: Ben Wan.
1. How long have you been at RODE?
7 years in June – the transformation of the studio over the years has been incredible and exciting to watch.
2. What attracted you to RODE?
My first exposure to RODE Architects was through our principal and owner here: Eric Robinson, who I was lucky enough to have as a professor in my final year at Northeastern University. Initially, I joined RODE to assist with graphic work and worked my way up to a full-time position on the team.
3. What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve had exposure to a variety of projects that RODE leads, including mixed-use, commercial, and residential developments. Some projects of particular interest that I am currently working on include the Appalachian Mountain Club headquarters, a design which is strongly informed by the organization’s fervent conservation and sustainability missions; 105 Washington Street, a Brighton project in partnership with a residential developer and two established Jewish institutions that is nearing construction; and 420 West Broadway, a redevelopment of an old South Boston theater.
4. What is your favorite building in Boston, why?
I love small, sacred spaces - universities in particular tend to create these - that provide a place of spirituality and reflection in otherwise fast-paced environments. Of course there is Saarinen at MIT, but also Safdie at Harvard and Office da at Northeastern. There are similar spaces in the Prudential Center and at Logan Airport. They are tiny gems that use abstraction to stay non-denominational and are, in my mind, always worth revisiting.
5. In your opinion, what is the most interesting facet of the design industry today?
I've listened to a few podcasts that explore how automation has hollowed out manufacturing employment, and whether the creative industries are next and should be concerned. There are many digital tools that allow architects to play with incredibly complex forms with ease, while also making more repetitive tasks less time-consuming. Is there a point at which the tide flips and the technology edges us out of a job? It may not seem likely in the short term, but we should keep one eye on the machines!
6. Where do you find your inspiration?
There is great benefit to taking time early on in the process to really understand the program and define its potential challenges. The temptation is always to jump right in and begin sketching, but by focusing in on the essential nature of a project you define the core basis of your design, and that can inform decisions throughout the entire project. The spirit of this kind of strategic thinking is really championed by RODE’s process.
7. Any fun facts about yourself?
I was a few pen strokes away from pursuing music performance as a major in college! I still play, and though it's mostly a hobby, I still see the value and overlap in creative pursuits. Design inspiration can come from anywhere so it's important to diversify your interests, and expose yourself to new art forms, ideas, and means of communication.