Meet Andrew Sieger, The Ecology Center architect. As fate would have it, Andrew discovered The Ecology Center on a fortuitous bike ride and has been part of our story since the beginning. “I first found the center biking by on what must have been the day after groundbreaking, when I thought I could live car-free in Orange County. Soon I was volunteering planting trees and laying paths, and getting into small design projects.” Read on to learn more about Andrew, his approach to design, and some of his favorite projects he’s brought to life at The Ecology Center.
How do you first approach a new design?
Andrew Sieger: While every project is different, each one starts by defining the project goals and determining the constraints. An important part of this step is understanding the context of the project — which may range from an analysis of the surrounding environment, to an interview, or a study of the larger relationships involved. Once the parameters are known, I go quickly into iterative idea mode which will take any and all forms needed to explore an idea: drawings in a sketchbook, collage, mood boards, quick computer or physical models. This is the fun part! The design takes on a life of its own, and before you know it you have a proposal you can’t wait to build.
What do you want people to feel when they enter a space you’ve designed?
AS: Most of my work deals in space — spaces where people work, live, or come together for a meal. First of all I want people to feel inspired without being overwhelmed by a design with a big ego, and then I want them to feel welcomed to use the space as they will. Looking closer will reveal layers of ideas and details. Design can be transformative, but it’s often a fine line between design telling you it’s transformative and allowing you to experience it for yourself.
What are some of your favorite things you’ve built for The Ecology Center?
AS: Designing and building Tools For Change General Store was a lot of fun. We built the shelving without using any glue or screws (yes this is my idea of fun!), and came up with a unique display system of attachments that are completely flexible. I’m also really happy with the way the new shelving winds around the old living and dining rooms of the Congdon house without hiding the details of the old space. Now, with fabrication in full swing on Road Trip, I’m super excited to see it come to life and bring some of the ideas we used in Tools For Change together in a new way.
How does sustainability inform your designs?
AS: I start by thinking of sustainability in pretty broad terms, believing that a design that is loved is one that will have a long life (think of the Congdon House). A long life in a building or an object is good for the planet. A lot of this comes down to quality and thoughtful design. Beyond that, sustainability is a guiding factor in every decision made during the design process — from carefully considering the orientation of a building to the sun and implementing passive design strategies, to choosing responsible materials and installing sustainable building systems like greywater and solar.
What’s one simple solution every one can adopt into their lives?
AS: Ride a bike! Choose to walk or ride instead of drive as much as possible — even one day a week or month can make a difference. I find that when I walk or ride I feel more connected to my environment and community around me, am happier, and am having fun!