Profile: PellOverton Architects
Started: 2003 Location: Providence, New York City Focus: Architecture
Story by Nicole King.
Ben Pell believes architecture can be more than a silent backdrop for activity. He works to design spaces that are active participants in our lives, interactions, and communities. By playing with color, materials, and lighting, Pell is interested in how design stimulates different relations between people and their physical environments.
After co-founding PellOverton Architects with Tate Overton in New York City during 2003, Pell initially worked on residential spaces. But as his work evolved, he saw opportunity in larger community spaces: places where groups gather, intervene and engage. With this interest, Pell began creating multi-faceted
domestic spaces that encourage people to notice the unique character of surroundings. Pell explains that this develops a space that responds to us, rather than one that simply listens.
Determined to curate engagement through spaces, he sought to redesign areas that are often forgotten or neglected, like stairwells and hallways, to encourage previously unanticipated interactions. For instance, Pell designed integrated surfaces throughout a school building for students to display work as a way of establishing a holistic learning environment outside the classroom. Manipulating these boundaries of inside and outside helps Pell achieve his
goals to support and reflect the values of the entire community. By designing spaces that increase opportunities for people to connect, he believes his work is participating in the act of strengthening networks and communities.
Many of Pell’s projects are adaptive reuse, which poses unique challenges to accomplishing these goals. When working with the qualities and conditions of existing buildings, environmental hazards and other structural limitations are often present. But, they provide critical resistance which forces Pell to think in innovative ways. These projects encourage him to generate ideas that he would not have otherwise.
By designing spaces that increase opportunities for people to connect, [Pell] believes his work is participating in the act of strengthening networks and communities.
With offices in New York City and Providence, Pell must adapt his approach for these distinct urban contexts. Providence’s small size allows him the flexibility to think of design in a different scale. According to Pell, creative partnership seems to be the trajectory of the architecture and design industry as a whole: with the expansion of technology, people are more connected, allowing diverse design fields to connect and innovate together.
Pell is committed to working with institutions that are creative in their nature, and remains dedicated to working with centers of community, such as museums and small cultural spaces.
Having been in Providence for only a year, he is excited to get more involved in the collaborative and dynamic creative community he’s found here.