NEW NEW YORK ARCHITECTS: Interview With Andrea Chiney, Arianna Deane, And Ashely Kuo Of A+A+A
In 2018, former Columbia GSAPP classmates Andrea Chiney, Arianna Deane, and Ashely Kuo came together to form A+A+A. In the past three years, the trio has created participatory projects for the Queens Museum, proposed new approaches to affordable rural housing, and hosted souvenir-making workshops. The young firm also responded quickly to the COVID pandemic, working with grassroots nonprofit Think!Chinatown to aid family-owned restaurants in building functional and attractive outdoor seating. A project that perhaps exemplifies A+A+A’s work is their 2020 collaboration with the Youth Design Center and the Brownsville Community Justice Center in East Brooklyn: not content with simply designing a structure and leaving, A+A+A led framing workshops that built skills and also resulted in the construction of “healing sanctuaries,” personal and communal interactive respites for the neighborhood. What these projects demonstrate is a belief that architecture isn’t just what you build, but how and with whom too.
PIN–UP: Why architecture?
A+A+A: Architecture is unavoidable, we are always surrounded by it. While the impact we are able to make on these surroundings often feels small, we want our contribution to be a positive and productive part of the conversation. Practicing architecture brings us immense joy. If we can share this joy with the people we work with and those who experience our projects, then we’ve successfully done our job.
What or who are your biggest influences?
We have been lucky to have strong female role models and mentors like Tei Carpenter, Oana Stănescu, and Karen Wong, who have been so generous in sharing knowledge and advice. Additionally, community advocates we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with, like Yin Kong of Think!Chinatown, are sources of constant inspiration. Their work has taught us to be flexible and open-minded in our process, challenging us to always question and reinvent the way we work.
Are you building on or rebelling against something with your practice?
Right now there is a renewed interest in rebelling against the traditional tendency in architecture towards spotlighting individual talent. We are privileged to not be alone in this attitude and are always motivated by the ways in which our peers are working to change the discipline. Our studio’s goal has always been to work with communities rather than for communities. We believe that people are naturally intuitive and already know how they want to live, so our design process always starts by asking them directly. We want to be approachable, playful, and transparent in how we design and engage with communities.
How do you split your work?
We usually split up the work equally and take on greater or lesser leadership roles depending on the project. We are always starting and finishing each other’s work in a very fluid process.
What is the story behind the name?
Before deciding on A+A+A, we thought a lot about what the name would be and eventually just thought, “Fuck it — let’s keep it simple.” At the end of the day, it’s just the three of us sitting on a couch, simultaneously writing one email side-by-side and signing off as A+A+A.
What’s your dream new New York project?
The most important thing for us is working with those who share our values and are enthusiastic about working with our process. But if we had to pick one, we’d want to revisit our first project, an affordable-housing proposal for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It was never built, but the process and the ideas in it still feel relevant to the state of housing in New York City and the country as a whole.
Interview by Drew Zeiba
Portrait by Tanya and Zhenya Posternak for PIN–UP
Creative Direction and Design by OBG
Styling by Akari Endo Gaut
Set Design by Julia Wagner
Makeup by Meredith Menchel
Production and post-production by VS+Company
Styling Assistance by Pascal Mihranian
All clothing Bottega Veneta