DaW: Union Studio & Studio Endo
““Union Studio was founded out of a frustration that not enough good architects were really focusing on the stuff that communities needed the most” - Don Powers, Founder/Principal.
Providence-based firm Union Studio Architecture & Community Design began in 2001 with the mission to design sustainable places that will be loved for generations. In 2003, Founder Don Powers was joined by fellow Harvard alum Doug Kallfelz, and together they grew Union Studio into what it is today: an inspired 22-person studio with architecture and community work all over the country.
Union Studio is located in downtown Providence on Union Street. Their studio is vibrant and energized - full of drawings, hand-made models, and conversation - just like their designs! We got to talk to both Principals about their design stories, Union Studio, and designing in Rhode Island:
Why did you start Union Studio? “Working after architecture school, I quickly got tired of designing ‘beautiful’ buildings. I wanted to make really good places that people could live in and experience day-to-day. Communities need stuff that’s not that that sexy - neighborhoods and sidewalks and small-scale retail and all the stuff that makes a place exciting to be in. So I started Union Studio to focus on the neighborhood fabric of a place, as opposed to the museums or churches or special buildings that other people do well. We want to design places more than we want to design buildings.” -Don Powers, Founding Principal
What else influences Union Studio’s work? “We use tradition as a basis for new work. I admire the history and historic architecture of RI, and we also believe that traditional town planning and architecture have resulted in the most vibrant, beautiful, enriching spaces.” - Don Powers
WHY RHODE ISLAND? “I came back to Rhode Island after architecture school to start Union Studio because of the feeling that you can have a bigger impact in a small place. It’s so small, but so vibrant. Rhode Island also appeals to the generation of architects coming up now - there is a collegiality between designers, architects, artists, civic activists… it’s a true community.” -Don Powers
“What’s most interesting about Rhode Island is whatever you’re dreaming about doing or designing, you can do it here. There are smart people and we have ACCESS to all the smart people and the community here. The environment feels young, vibrant, and energized; the community here will help you realize a great design idea.” -Doug Kallfelz, Principal
Images: WaterRower Inc. Headquarters — WaterRower is a local company based in Warren, RI that designs and sells rowing simulation equipment. WaterRower is committed to both high-quality design and precise manufacturing. Union Studio designed a corporate visitor’s center and headquarters that will provide an engaging environment for clients and employees. WaterRowers are beautifully handcrafted machines, and they were the inspiration for the interior design of the building.
Studio Endo makes artful, innovative, contemporary lighting pieces. Hand-made to order, each Studio Endo piece is functional yet sculptural, making a bold statement while letting the surrounding architecture shine.
Born in Tokyo, Japan and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Founder/Designer Miles Endo originally came to Rhode Island to study Industrial Design at RISD. Miles left Providence to design in NYC after finishing school, but he came back to Rhode Island to grow Studio Endo.
“Rhode Island is simply cheaper,” Miles said. “And from a manufacturing standpoint, it’s much easier. Everyone is right here - we can easily work with manufacturers and suppliers who are local.” Studio Endo still has many clients in NYC and all across the world.
The workshop is the center of Studio Endo’s work. Miles says he’s driven by the making process - understanding the materials and emphasizing craftsmanship and quality - and the workshop is where the making happens.
It was amazing to be able to experience the action first-hand in Miles’ workshop at Elmwood Studios in Providence. Take a look at some of Studio Endo’s beautiful lighting pieces in both the studio and in their homes. And stay tuned for behind-the-scenes videos into the workshop and Miles’ design process - coming to our Instagram Stories this THURSDAY (11/15)!
Images from #DesignersAtWork and Studio Endo.
Thank you to the teams at Union Studio and Studio Endo for showing us your work and studios! See videos from Union Studio on Instagram AND take part in their InstaTakeover NOW, then come back for videos from Studio Endo this Thursday (11/15).
Want to join in? Post yourself working on something cool using the hashtags #DesignIsRhodeIsland and #DesignersAtWork on Instagram, or reach out to email@example.com if you know a Rhode Island designer who should be featured in this series!