May 1, 2013
by Greta Hansen
Jason Sheftell, Abby Suckle, FAIA, and Audrey Matlock, FAIA, at the fourth Cocktails & Conversations.Daniel Fox
Toby Cecchini preparing for the evening.Daniel Fox
Toby Cecchini mixes elixirs during Cocktails & Conversations.
Audrey Matlock, FAIA, discussing her first project: a treehouse.Daniel Fox
Jason Sheftell and Audrey Matlock, FAIA, talking and enjoying Toby Cecchini's cocktail.Daniel Fox

Toby Cecchini continued his investigation of the relationship between alcohol and architecture at the fourth Cocktails and Conversation event with a trick of the senses. “One of my duties as a bartender is to open up people’s eyes, he said, and when he found out that architect Audrey Matlock, FAIA, had a distaste for Scotch, he decided to dedicate a drink to her with a particularly peaty variety. Because Matlock prefers more dainty beverages, Cecchini mixed a dark and stormy with a twist classic lime cordial (which, he said, can only be made from scratch) with Plantation Barbados Rum, Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum, fresh ginger, limes, simple syrup, and a touch of soda. The trick he played was in aromatics: he added a few drops of Laphroaig Scotch, a heavy island malt that smells more than any other Scotch I’ve tried, much like delicious rotting earth. The result was quite a ruse: a cocktail that smelled like a Scotch and tasted like a lime cordial.

When Matlock took the stage, she admitted that alcohol had played a role in many of her past projects, whether with colleagues after work at her neighborhood Odeon in Tribeca, or drinking with clients near a job site in Kazakhstan. “Alcohol loosens the tongue,” she said, “allowing us to talk about the things we might refrain from saying otherwise.” Honoring the spirit of the evening, Matlock chose to discuss with the audience and journalist Jason Sheftell her office’s “failures,” about the projects “that got away,” the ones that that lost the competition or that never otherwise materialized.

Like any office with a long and successful career, Matlock’s has many completed designs that were never realized, from residential towers to a proposal for public space near the High Line, and a Museum of Women in Manhattan to a shopping center in Bensonhurst. She showed some projects alongside a winning project, such as her competition entry for the Yokohama Terminal, which was eventually won by FOA.

Matlock did present one built work: the tree house she designed and built herself at the age of ten. (Its dimensions resonated notably with her later residential designs incorporating challenging long-span structures.) A gutsy young girl, she built up her house a few feet high onto a tree, experimented with vertically-installed clapboard siding, attached an entry plank, and covered the structure with roofing paper swiped from her parents’ contractor. Fittingly, Matlock’s first built architectural project itself eventually became a house of booze, for the Bud and Black Label she drank with teenage friends hiding out in the tree house.

Event: Cocktails & Conversations
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.19.2013
Speakers: Audrey Matlock, FAIA; Jason Sheftell, New York Daily News; and Toby Cecchini
Organizer: cultureNOW and the AIANY Architecture Dialogue Committee
Sponsor: Lasvit, Inc.

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