VarVac Wall panels by HouMinn

For nearly two decades, the Minnesota- and Houston-based architectural office of HouMinn Practice has explored an alternative approach to the design and production of novel products, buildings and environments. HouMinn’s founding partners and professors of architecture, Marc Swackhamer (University of Minnesota) and Blair Satterfield (University of British Columbia), purposely decentralize design control in every project.

Two special HouMinn exhibitions will be featured at the Haigo and Irene Shen Architecture Gallery at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture—April 27 to May 20 and August 26 to September 20.

Swackhamer and Satterfield will give a public lecture Monday, April 27, 6 p.m. at the School of Architecture auditorium. An opening reception will follow at 7:30 p.m. in the Architecture gallery.

Swackhamer and Satterfield believe that, by allowing outside experts and forces to influence their work, they foster contextual suitability, project diversity and novelty. These outside influences include multi-disciplinary collaborators who contribute new ways of considering each project and push the work in unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable directions.

The Haigo and Irene Shen Architecture Gallery is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Collaboration across disciplines

Cloak Wall by HouMinn

HouMinn continuously collaborates with experts from diverse disciplines, including computer science, engineering, material science, biology, graphic design, product design, apparel design, digital media and social networking. In this latter category, HouMinn has recently experimented with open-source infrastructures that challenge conventional logic of team organization and construction techniques, yielding a wide range of crowd-sourced building skins, technological systems and material finishes.

Most recently, HouMinn has explored how material behavior can unpredictably contribute to the formal characteristics of a building surface. By removing the limits manufacturing control imposes on the organic behaviors of materials, HouMinn allows the internal logic of materials to have as much influence on the design as the architects themselves.

In all three modalities, Satterfield and Swackhamer place themselves behind-the-scenes, engaging their work as front-end strategists rather than conventional designers who exert their authorial will. They believe that this way of working is most sympathetic to an ethic of connectivity in the built environment.

In all of its projects, HouMinn seeks generate diverse, multi-disciplinary teams, shaped to specifically address messy problems in completely new and unanticipated ways.

For more information, visit the HouMinn blog.