Welcome to Future Talks by RTF, where we engage in illuminating conversations with design trailblazers. In our today’s session, we are honored to host Garrick Jones, the founding principal of the award-winning and widely published Brooklyn-based Ten to One. With an impressive 30-year career as a designer in the heart of New York City, Garrick has dedicated his studio to championing design equity for underserved communities, both locally in Brooklyn and internationally.
Garrick’s commitment to fostering an inclusive studio environment is evident in Ten to One’s adherence to B Corp certification standards. Over the past decade, the studio has successfully completed 100 projects, allocating 10% of its efforts to pro bono work for design equity. From community development to schools, residences, furniture, and beyond, Garrick’s studio has defied the odds, contributing over half a million dollars in services.
Notably, their pro bono initiatives encompass constructed schools, libraries, community, and climate-action centers, with several large community design projects currently in development. At the core of Ten to One’s design philosophy is the celebration of everyday spaces, forging connections between individuals and their context, contributing to a more sustainable and equitable city.
Garrick’s journey, deeply rooted in Brooklyn, NY, and influenced by his upbringing in Pittsburgh, PA, mirrors the resilience and creativity found in these vibrant communities. Additionally, he draws inspiration from his and his older son’s journey through neuro-diversity.
Join us as we dive into Garrick Jones’ impactful work, explore the ethos of Ten to One, and unravel the extraordinary design stories that weave together a narrative of inclusivity, sustainability, and resilience.
RTF: Hi Garrick, We are glad to have you as a guest on Future Talks by RTF. Thanks for joining us. What does Ten to One Design Studio advocate in their practice that has received recognition at a global scale, winning A|N Best of Design 2018 and contributing to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale?
Garrick: Designing for social and environmental justice: Ten to One invests a minimum of 10% of our resources to pro bono projects which support equitable and sustainable civic engagement projects, contributing a half million dollars in services throughout our 10 year history. We have successfully completed, from fundraising through construction, such projects as the Pan American Public Charter School and Congreso de Latinos Unidos Library Community Workshop and the Ember Public Charter High School currently in construction, as well as the Bedford Stuyvesant Racial Equity and Community Innovative Campus currently in development. As design equity particularly in school construction becomes a primary focus for Ten to One, We are strategizing for our next pro bono frontier to be holistic sustainability such as is embodied in the urban ecologies and archi-structures of our Bathysphere project. This community space proposal upcycles latent el-space (underutilized space below and adjacent to elevated railways) as its site and the geothermal potential of the sewer system as its renewable energy source. The project is a prototypical demonstration of how a future holistic design can address socio-spatial and ecological issues and create a dynamic public platform.
Diversity, Equity, inclusivity in projects, practice and process: Ten to One’s core focus on design equity is implemented at a multitude of scales and shapes our practice and process. Diversity, equity and inclusivity can be manifest in project scope, team building, listening to and collaborating with constituencies and communities, spatial planning for inclusivity and accessibility, spatial design enabling and celebrating the individual within a social and environmental context, and the manifestations of details such as how a brick signifies unit, common and human-centric fabrication and assembly.
Ten to One advocates for inclusivity in our projects as well as fosters an inclusive studio practice and process. We are a studio of individual voices across a spectrum of backgrounds, identities and skill sets. At present, as has been the case throughout our ten years with a stated dedication to inclusivity, all employees represent diverse nationalities, backgrounds, races, genders, LGBTIQA+, and span the neuro-divergent spectrum.
RTF: What was building Ten to One Design Studio like?
Garrick: Building a studio is incredibly difficult, though I’d always seen it as a goal and necessity because I needed to reside within my own design concepts and process. As an indicator to some underlying predispositions, if this might be helpful to others, the previous environments I’d worked in were not always conducive to what I now know as my own neuro-diversity.
RTF: Tell us about your architectural journey before coming up with Ten to One Design.
Garrick: Immediately prior to founding Ten to One I worked in the leadership positions of Studio Director and Associate for the distinguished New York based firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Della Valle Bernheimer (DB, now Alloy Development and Bernheimer Architecture) and collaborated with Architecture Research Office (ARO). Notable projects include; the R House Passivhaus for Syracuse University, recipient of National and NY State AIA as well as Architect R+D and Design Awards; a multitude of mixed-use buildings in New York; numerous residences and large urban developments including Broad Plaza in Los Angeles and the Maine State Pier in Portland Maine. This work has been published most notably in the Think / Make: Della Valle Bernheimer Monograph and Blue Dream and the Legacy of Modernism in the Hamptons: A House by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
RTF: You have also donned the role of design tutor in various institutions. How crucial do you consider inculcating architectural wisdom through lectures and workshops?
Garrick: In the words of Whitney Houston.. just kidding.
I believe teaching, sharing and collaborating is essential in evolving and improving the practice. The architectural profession can be isolating and while the small studio model is vital to magnifying individual voices we need to network our collective knowledge to better serve these voices, ourselves, our communities and foster empathy and collaboration. Teaching is also a reciprocal loop, continually testing me to a standard of best practices in design thinking, practice and communication.
Beyond mentoring through Institutions, I work to mentor and foster each individual within the studio. Ten to One supports individual development both in and beyond the studio, for the greater good of each team member and to further broaden equity, and is currently repositioning itself as a DPC Cooperative which splits ownership amongst all Associates. Many former employees have gone on to launch their own firms.
RTF: Which project of yours has been the most rewarding for you in terms of learning?
Garrick: The Ember Public Charter High School has been the most rewarding project in terms of our learning about our design process through scales of detail and editing, the process and infrastructure of larger project design and delivery, and our identity as a studio and collaborative team of individuals. The project is the most recent and largest thus far initiated from our principle of 10% pro bono for design equity. The clients are long time collaborators and this project is the first constructed culmination of nearly a decade of working together on thus far speculative projects. The design evolved and improved through conversations with the client, where we learned to trust each other. We used basic premises like designing for handicapped accessibility and expanded to a wider lens of designing for inclusivity, be it for neuro-diversity, gender neutrality or even multi-use for atypical constituencies such as parents and other non-profits. We are utilizing digital fabrication technologies and managing the shop drawing process such that translation and construction management is a closer collaboration between design and construction.
RTF: How important do you think an architectural identity is for a firm? What does that ‘architectural signature’ mean to you?
Garrick: Ten to One’s architectural identity is as social justice advocate and narrator and our design identity is best identifiable within this context. This is not an identity in the normative sense of signature style based on formal and theoretical methodologies. While I/we have intently and rigorously honed a design framework of creating social and material narratives over the years, as architects we are at the service to communities and society and should be identified as such, and theoretical methodology is background and essentially insignificant in identification. My/Ten to One’s identity has unveiled itself as a sort of self-actualization through our evolution as a studio. Through our first decade of evolution as a studio, in tandem with all our design work we sought out pro bono work focused on social and environmental justice, eventually codifying this as our 10% for design equity principle. As our design equity projects have come to fruition and grown to a majority stake of our studio’s work, we have come to realize our design is inextricably linked and most identifiable in a social atmosphere where stakes are high and budgets are low.
RTF: How do you look at the work beyond designing for young architects, such as the likes of involvement in publishing, handling media and building an online presence?
Garrick: Architectural ideas are spatial as well as graphic, artistic, environmental, socio-political, cultural, economic. The process of design is conceptual problem solving. Representation is the conveyance of concepts and can take many forms. An architect’s representation can be a product unto itself, with conceptions and implications beyond client briefs, built projects and site boundaries, just as an architect’s process can have cross-disciplinary implications.
RTF: ‘Falling out of love’ with the practice and ‘obsessing’ over a project is not an uncommon phenomenon in creative fields. How does one keep a stable head to pursue design to the best of their abilities?
Garrick: This is perhaps obvious to younger people, but I have thrived recently through dialectical behavioral therapy – or simply mindfulness and meditation, gut and brain health, and through cultivating love of the process more than any single product. I have suffered from extreme highs and lows, barely surviving graduate school. Creative fields in general and the architectural profession in particular can be heart wrenching. I was diagnosed with ADHD only three years ago which started me on a late path to self-care and managing my own neuro-diversity which has taught me to embrace process, care and instincts.
RTF: What approach would you advise young architects to have to excel in the field? And what are some things to be wary of?
Garrick: Seek out how to fulfill your passions and ideals but collaborate humbly and with empathy. Be wary of computer modeling.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. It has been a pleasure getting to know about you and your work. We’re sure that your insights will be highly valuable to our audience which includes architects and design students.