Welcome to Future Talks by RTF, in this exclusive interview with renowned architect Dan Brunn, we dive into the early influences that shaped his design philosophy, exploring his Israeli roots and the pivotal role they played in his approach to architecture. Dan shares insights into some of his most rewarding projects, emphasizing the importance of contributing to his community and leaving a positive impact. The conversation unfolds to discuss the interplay of pragmatism and subjectivity in his designs, the evolving trends in the design industry, and his views on sustainability in urban design and architecture. Dan emphasizes the significance of a constantly learning attitude, drawing parallels between his passion for music and architecture. As a seasoned architect, he offers valuable advice to young architects, encouraging them to stay true to themselves and embrace the evolving nature of the field.
Join us as we navigate through the architectural journey of Dan Brunn, gaining valuable perspectives on creativity, sustainability, and the future of architecture.
RTF: Hi Dan, We are glad to have you as a guest on Future Talks by RTF. Thanks for joining us. Talk us through the early days of design for you that paved the way for Dan Brunn Architecture.
Dan: I think it all started out for me with something quite rudimentary, LEGOs. As a kid, instead of building per the instructions, I would dream up fantasy lands reminiscent of something you’d see in the original Blade Runner movie. I was always drawn to the physical world, and the sun. As a kid, I used to always touch everything, which I think contributed to my understanding of materiality in space. The combination of natural light and materials are the fundamentals of my design ethos and aesthetic language.
RTF: What is your approach towards design? How have your roots in Israel impacted it?
Dan: Dieter Rams’ Less is More philosophy in his 10 Principles of Good Design are truly at my core. Importantly, I do attribute my childhood in Israel having a direct effect at my core. We didn’t have plentiful natural resources, nor space. So you’re constantly having to respond to the absolute minimum, and hitting the nail on the head quite directly. I think it’s also a cultural attribution of mine, that I strive to find creative means to turn an otherwise “no” into a “yes”. Creativity in my field isn’t just manifested in the physical world, but through creative thoughts in anything from a developer’s business plan, or building codes. I find that I am constantly bombarded with what would be hurdles, and instead of just giving up, I seek to create.
RTF: Tell us about some of your most rewarding projects. What made them so?
Dan: Leaving Tel Aviv, I moved to Los Angeles with my family, so this is now “home”. When I get to contribute to my community, it gives me immense satisfaction. Over the course of the last five years, we’d been working on a 20,000 square foot development at the heart of Beverly Hills’ commercial center. There was an existing Art Deco building that was updated with Postmodern elements. We were hired to reimagine the building in its original 20s glory, and added our very own DBA touches throughout. When I see it now, just casually driving by, I get an immense sense of pride knowing that we created this elegant building and connected back to the community.
We’re currently working on numerous hospitality projects which I also find very rewarding because at their core, we get to touch on people’s experiences, plus I find that dining is at the core of the human experience. I feel privileged to work on these types of projects, and hope that we get to do more civic work in the future. Hopefully a spiritual building, that would be great.
RTF: How do you approach the interplay of pragmatism and subjectivity in your designs?
Dan: Through balance really, and it goes back to the 10 Principles of Good Design. Form follows function. Pragmatism is at our core, so it isn’t just a beautiful material or object. We tie it back to the function. I say that any element in our design has to have purpose, and that we shy away from anything that is just flair or simply decoration. When it comes to executing interior design, we take a very similar approach, and strive to find furnishings that embody this timeless principle. This is also a sustainable way of thinking, in that we’re not responding to trends, and design with the intention of longevity.
RTF: How important is it for the designers to shrug off the rigidity in their approach towards design to be on the ever-evolving design bandwagon?
Dan: I think that it’s important for designers to understand their responsibility for the human condition. This means to be stewards of the earth and of humanity. Obviously a lofty statement, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t achievable. As long as this is an aim to a goal, you’re already doing something good that you’ll be able to feel wholesome about in the future. Hence why for me, if asked about trends, I would say that at my core, my favorite trend is that the sun rises on the east, and sets on the west. Done.
RTF: What are your views on sustainability in urban design and architecture? How far have we come from sustainability renders and plans to their real-life execution?
Dan: This harks back to my childhood in Israel. I remember that in order to take a shower, we’d use rudimentary “technology” to heat up the water. Essentially, it was a southern facing flat black panel that had thin water pipes that would flow across it, and when you flipped a switch in the bathroom a valve would open and water would slowly flow getting hot via the sun. You only have a finite amount of time to take your warm shower. This taught me so much, and these same principles are used today. We’ve come a long way since then, and can still do more. Architecture takes sustainability into account, but I find a major chasm when it comes to interior design and consumption. We need to do better and instead of choosing products that are driven by consumerism, we should push towards sourcing products and materials that are either on their second life, or are perhaps vintage.
RTF: How important is a ‘Constantly Learning’ attitude in a field that you’re a part of?
Dan: Absolutely! But I would point out that it is important to not only learn within the
field, but to also venture out. Traveling is a vital component to my creative and
evolved learning. I deeply go into one of my other passions, which is music. At a young age, the guitar called me. So even to this day, I balance musical and design principles.
RTF: What does the mindset of young architects need to be to excel in the design industry? How has your journey been?
Dan: Now more than ever, I think it is connecting to the physical world, and letting go of some technology. To be very clear, this means that we can utilize technology to implement design, but it should be used to either focus or realize versus be the tool that brought you to that design resolution. I see that young designers struggle with the notion of scale, and that is the core of the human experience. Afterall, architecture is the creation of space for human consumption. I hope that my journey is just beginning. DBA is maturing rapidly and we will be celebrating 19 years this august. It boggles my mind to think that, and to look back at the body of work, I have an immense sense of pride. I hope that the next decade will see even bigger growth.
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?
Dan: I have definitely been there regarding the falling out of love, but I was never one to obsess. My attitude is to do my best at any given moment, and that is all. Other opportunities will arise, and that overall this field is about evolution, so it’s ok to let it go.
As for falling out of love, I would be brutally honest and say that this last year was a tough one. Just getting projects done and realized takes so much effort, that it’s getting tiring. Then, you just need to pull yourself together and look back at the accomplishments to realize that it is all worth it. I started 2024 with a fresh outlook and vigor, which is feeding my creativity in abundance.
RTF: Can you reflect on your journey as an architect and give young students and architects some wisdom to excel in this field?
Dan: A lot of people will tell you to “find your passion”. For me, that’s not always achievable, so I suggest to take it easier on yourself, and go through the motions one step at a time. Let things come and don’t always believe that you must follow a prescribed path.
Importantly, while you can look up to people, I’d caution you not to idolize anybody. There are attributes you could pull from heroes, but generally they are also just humans going through something.
Lastly, adding to that, each person has their own story, and thus will create their own history. So while I remember thinking that I might run after a certain goal, the path their would most likely differ, and in fact, even the goal might not even carry the same value as it did at the time.
The world evolves, and staying agile is super important. Be true to yourself. Be good to yourself and your friends. Find the right people to invest in and hopefully everything falls into place. You can’t force it.
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. We look forward to publishing this interview on our website soon.