For this month’s Beyond the Build, we spoke with Nathalia Camacho of Avdoo Partners & Development about the art & craft of building design, specifically in an urban landscape. We explore the 58 St. Marks project, set in Brooklyn, New York, with a nature-inspired design that is juxtaposed by its modern and luxurious feeling in an urban backdrop.

We’re excited to welcome Nathalia to the blog and share her inspiration for incorporating craftsmanship into building design.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your work and Avdoo:

NC: Formally, I’m trained as an architect, earned both my Bachelor and Master of Architecture degrees with a focus in Urban Design, and later worked for many years with architecture firms. I have always had an interest in urban infrastructure, and I’m fascinated by the complexities that urban design brings. After gaining valuable professional architecture experience, I transitioned into the world of real estate development, as I have been interested in the hybrid practice of real estate, design, and the construction execution of buildings. My work at Avdoo is focused on the architecture and design direction for our buildings by collaborating with our team of architects, consultants, fabricators, and our in-house construction team to produce artfully crafted products of living.

At Avdoo & Partners Development, through robust collaborations with our partners, we design and build projects that speak to the community and fit into the architectural fabric of the neighborhoods they enhance. Buildings that make an impact are not built overnight. We believe they are built to transform lives and communities. In doing so, we bring to bear a complete set of in-house development capabilities that go hand in hand with our core values. Empathy, confidence, collaboration, trust, and integrity are driving factors behind every decision we make. We are developers and builders, and that has a profound effect on the quality of the buildings we build.

2. How would you define the “Art & Craft” element of building design?

NC: I would describe it as the process that we take with building our projects. We’re so heavily involved, and our in-house team of professionals and builders are physically present on the construction site. When you think of arts & crafts, you think of a layer of tangible constructability of new things, and it’s so important that we weave that into our buildings. Many of our materials come from local craftsmen and give a unique, earthy appeal to our space which maintains its impeccable quality and luxury feel.

For example, we incorporated the use of materials like terracotta, wood and stone and translated it to a modern design. These materials have been used in buildings for thousands of years, but our use here allowed for a custom feeling. Buyers have an appreciation for the arts movement, and these small details contribute to their overall living experience. Everything at our 58 St. Marks project is custom made, not cookie cutter.

3. As a builder, what is the first step to creating a new, luxury building design?

NC: Our purpose is to design and build a better way of living. To us, this means considering every detail of a project from day one and ensuring that the end result is impactful not only to the future residents, but to the community at large. We scrutinize over the design and the material selection and are meticulous about every aspect of a project. Quality and design above all are our priority.

That said, we are not your typical developer. We are both developer and builder, so we have full control over every aspect of a building to create a fully-crafted product of living. We love to work with local craftsmen – whether it’s millworkers, artists, furniture makers – to enhance our level of quality and detail in our buildings.

4. Tell us a bit about the 58 St. Marks project. What was the inspiration behind it? What was the design and build process like?

NC: 58 St. Marks Place is located in the quintessential neighborhood of Boerum Hill in Brooklyn. The neighborhood consists of 19th century brownstones and treelined streets with an intimate atmosphere and an artsy soul. Our design architect’s INC Architecture & Design conceptual approach behind 58 St. Marks Place was the reinterpretation of the traditional decoration of a Brooklyn townhouse in a reduced and modern way through geometric abstraction. The townhouse concept informs the architectural character of the exterior and interiors of 58 St. Marks Place.

An interesting part was the design development of the building façade. Seeing the process from paper sketch to built product was fascinating. Additionally, working with local craftsmen to carefully selecting final materials and developing final construction details and seeing that process on the construction field has been amazing to see through.

5. Were there any challenges in the 58 St. Marks project? How did you overcome them?

NC: The cost of materials to maintain the original design intent within budget, and the lead times of sourcing construction materials during the pandemic year were the biggest challenges. To overcome these challenges, we valued engineered pieces of the project, yet maintained its high quality and original design intent throughout by researching and shopping around to get the right product to be cost-effective. Our construction experts take part in design conversations from the outset in order to foresee potential issues and discover opportunities for value engineering. Such hands-on coordination ensures a smooth construction process throughout. We meet timelines and budgets as a result of astute planning, creative troubleshooting, and shrewd problem solving.

As the pandemic hit, we had to prioritize deep coordination among our consultants and subcontractors, planning and scheduling ahead material deliveries, availabilities, and labor completion to meet our deadlines in the safest manner possible.

6. How does art couple with craft to create building design that is as beautiful as it is functional? What is your process?

NC: Design is an art; to successfully carry out a design vision requires total mastery of craft. As a company, our unique strength lies in bringing together one powerhouse team on the art and the craft of building. Craft and context drive our design process.

Architecture and design give tangible form to a builder’s intention. Our in-house team explores each project’s particular setting, materiality, and end-user requirements in order to create imaginative, site-specific outcomes. We begin with a vision of quality first, then find value through thoughtful sourcing, whether from custom manufacturers overseas or local makers inspired by the American craft tradition. In addition to our in-depth knowledge of market trends, we collaborate with a network of outside consultants to execute every aspect of pre-development, with a design reach that encompasses building function, layout, and finish details.

Specific to 58 St. Marks, we incorporated a lot of nature and organic shapes into our design. Tall windows bring natural light to the spaces, and wood and stone materials used throughout the building add texture and interest. The kitchen really became the protagonist of this project, as our open floorplan allows the kitchen and the design elements that we selected to become the focal point. Thermador appliances helped complete the design of the space our occupants will use most.

7. With so many details and decisions that go into creating a building, how do you select the products and materials used to create a cohesive look and quality space?

NC:  First, developing a design concept that will envision the overall experience of a building/ space following the selection of materials that would complement each other’s connectivity to the narrative of the initial design concept. In doing so, selecting unique materials that will help tell the story of the initial vision of the building/space.

Regarding constructing the building, we refer to the building’s construction documents to guide us through, and we develop further details that will accommodate the product. We work very closely with our suppliers and manufacturers by coordinating all the pieces of the puzzle and ensuring everything is done correctly.

When selecting the products that were used in our kitchens, Thermador appliances rose to the top for their high-quality and luxurious design. It just made sense to go with Thermador to complete our clean look while giving our occupants the best quality product.

8. What are the latest building and design trends?

NC:  Our list of the latest building and design trends in summary as of 2021 include:

– Access to nature, natural light, and natural ventilation.

– Maximizing the open floorplan concept by implementing open multipurpose rooms and workspaces in the home.

– Kitchen is the new protagonist.

– Introducing desaturated color or neutral color palettes with a touch of texture.

– Smart home design.

– Amenities that focus on health, wellness and community.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the 58 St. Marks build?

NC: Yes! We can’t forget to mention the creation of 58 St. Marks Place’s sales gallery building located at 84 St. Marks Place – basically a few feet away across the street. The sales gallery building is a much smaller scale mock-up of the architecture from 58 St. Marks Place displaying the building’s façade intent, the carefully curated custom furniture, lobby’s lenticular wall, bathrooms & kitchen designs with top of the line appliances by Thermador, beautiful wood floors, custom carpet design and stone flooring, the residential corridor design, a garden, a museum-quality gallery narrating facts about the building, neighborhood history and the inspiration behind the creation, as well as a physical building scale model of 58 St. Marks Place.

Additionally, we have chosen to team up with Art Gowanus (a non-profit organization working to support, promote, and advocate for local artists and a sustainable arts community in Brooklyn,) by collaborating to curate unique art experiences in our sales gallery building at 84 St. Marks Place. When you get a chance, come check it out!

We’re excited to continue to bring this level of craftsmanship and quality to New York and upcoming projects.