GRO Architects is an award-winning architectural practice that privileges the integration of emerging technologies to respond to client needs, project complexity, and collaboration between disciplines. The firm is headquartered in Lower Manhattan, and opened a second office in Shanghai in 2018. As architects we are intimately engaged in providing creative and sustainable design solutions for a broad array of project types and budgets. The virtual design and construction tools we use to realize our design proposals also allow us to bring to each project a more efficient and optimized construction process. Additionally, these tools have allowed us to operate in a highly efficient manner with a staff of four licensed architects and eight project designers. Through the conceptualization of how new digital protocols augment, challenge, and change the authorial process of design we create novel opportunities for our practice.
In response to recent conceptual speculation, GRO entered and was named a winner of the 2016 Secret Life of Objects competition in Austin. The selected work, Skein, was initiated through a collaboration with filmmaker Redmond Entwistle. Increasingly contemplating large-scale planning proposals, GRO received the Bronze Medal for Excellence in Planning from the City of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2015. GRO’s urban infill prototype PREttyFAB won an AIA Merit Award in 2009, a PCI Design Award in 2010, and was named “Project of the Year” by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency that same year. In July 2009, Metropolis Magazine named GRO a “Next Gen Notable” for their Docking Stations project. The scheme envisioned a series of publically accessible floating extensions from Manhattan into the Hudson and East Rivers that powered city street lamps by harnessing river currents. In 2007, GRO won re:Construction, a design competition curated by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and sponsored by the Alliance for Downtown New York. Fabricated using computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) technologies, the resulting work, “Best Pedestrian Route,” was installed at the corner of Broadway and John Street in Lower Manhattan. In 2008, the same project also won an AIA New York Merit Award and a New York Designs Award from the Architectural League of New York. The firm’s design work has been published in the New York Times, the (Newark) Star Ledger, The Jersey Journal, NJBiz, Architectural Record, the Architect’s Newspaper, Fast Company, Azure, Dwell, and Metropolis Magazine.
Each of the firm’s projects have served as applied research that, through virtual design and construction, specifically explores and questions aspects of innovative design output including geometry, fabrication, energy simulation, workflows and logistical sequencing, data translation and parametrics. We have situated GRO in the space between design and construction in a way that privileges iteration between the virtual operations and the material actualization of our work so that novel typologies and processes emerge, a position that has yielded a growing practice, two provisional patents and numerous design awards since its inception.
At GRO our design workflow continues to evolve. In executing our work, we have capitalized on methods of integration that allow us to simulate and share our intentions virtually and exert a greater degree of control over the translation and actualization of our work. Our interest in such methods of working extends beyond the efficiencies that technology affords to the design and construction process. Information modeling tools have the capacity to radically change the way we conceive of, develop, iterate, and share design solutions through both commonplace aspects of cost estimation, clash detection of building components, or data output of CNC toolpaths; and more interestingly in generative design operations and the conceptualization of projects that are ecologically responsive and flexible. In this way, we expand both the agency and the territory of the architect.
Richard Garber, AIA, is a partner at the award-winning New York-based firm GRO Architects. He has written numerous books and essays in which he advocates for technology as it relates to formal speculation, simulation, manufacturing, and building delivery to generate innovate design, assembly, and construction solutions. He is the author of BIM Design: Realizing the Creative Potential of Building Information Modelling (John Wiley & Sons, 2014), and guest editor of AD Closing the Gap: Information Models in Contemporary Design Practice (Wiley, 2009). Both publications examine the continually emerging capacity of design computing and Building Information Modelling to augment design-side operations, as opposed to simply making them more efficient. This has led to his concept of the architectural workflow; and his book, Workflows: Expanding the Territory of Architecture in the Design and Delivery of Buildings (Wiley, 2017). Garber has lectured globally, including, in China, at the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in February 2013 and the Beijing General Municipal Engineering and Design Research Institute in June 2018. He has taught about design and technology at Columbia University, the University of California Los Angeles with the late Zaha Hadid, and at NJIT. He currently teaching in the Architecture Department at the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The December 2010 issue of Dwell Magazine named him as one of 32 new faces of design, and showcased GRO’s precast concrete housing prototype PREttyFAB. He was previously a project manager at SHoP Architects and at Greg Lynn FORM. Garber is a licensed architect in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Nicole Robertson, AIA, LEED AP is a partner at the award-winning New York-based firm GRO Architects. Robertson was named one of 32 new faces of design in the December 2010 issue of Dwell magazine. She was the ‘Emerging Architect’ Visiting Assistant Professor at Barnard College in 2007 where she continues to teach design studios and advanced seminars with a focus on digital fabrication technology. Prior to joining the faculty at Barnard, she taught as an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at Syracuse University. She has taught graduate representation and introductory design studios in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and graduate representation in the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons the New School for Design. Prior to forming GRO, she worked as a project designer for the Embryological House at Greg Lynn FORM in Los Angeles, and later as a senior designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York. Robertson holds a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and a Master of Architecture from the University of California Los Angeles. Robertson is a LEED Accredited Professional and a licensed Architect in New York and New Jersey.