by Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP
Event: New Practices 2010 Winner Presentation: EASTON + COMBS
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.04.10
Speaker: Lonn Combs — Principal, EASTON + COMBS
Sponsors: Lead Sponsors: Dornbracht, MG & Company and Valiant Technology; Sponsors: Espasso, Hafele and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper
EASTON + COMBS, founded by Lonn Combs and Rona Easton, AIA, LEED AP, was established as a firm to watch when Lux Nova was a finalist in MoMA’s P.S.1 Young Architect’s Program. Although the firm did not have the opportunity to build its installation, it was to be constructed with extruded cellular polycarbonate, a material that offers many benefits including insulation, flexibility, and lightness while exhibiting extraordinary structural capacity. The plastic forms of Lux Nova were to pinwheel throughout the P.S.1 courtyard, establishing distinctive, color-coded zones and creating an interesting play of light and shadow. “We were interested in curating the environment,” Combs explained. Perhaps this is why they won the highest honor in this year’s New Practices New York competition.
Though Lux Nova may have put them on the map, EASTON + COMBS’ first built project is in an unlikely location — the Houston International Airport. The open-air, stand-alone parking facility operates at the scale of the automobile and features a long-span corrugated metal roof that arches unexpectedly. The simplistic, monochromatic structure seems to be on the opposite end of the architectural spectrum from Lux Nova in terms of color and scale, but they both illustrate the firm’s talent for making ordinary materials feel fresh again and shaping occupants’ expectations of public space.
Outside of the practice, Combs teaches at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture and oversees the Hunter Douglas Light Research Studio, where students developed a fabric model based on the structure of a typical Venetian blind. They explored the relationship between textile design and architecture “in a more pure way outside of some of the rigors of building,” he said.
He also participated in the design consortium behind HaitiSOFTHOUSE, a lightweight, transitional housing prototype that can be assembled in three hours. Along with three other designers, Rodney Leon, Mark Parsons, and Dragana Zoric, RA, RLA, Combs is forging a model that expresses “new ideas about practice, allowing us to step out of the traditional structure which is often purely about economic gain.”
Murrye Bernard, LEED AP, is freelance architecture writer and contributing editor to e-Oculus.