A + D = A Conversation with Carol Ross Barney

Thesis Inc.; a design studio from St. Joseph, Michigan spoke with Carol Ross Barney about our close collaboration with manufacturers. These interactions and dialogues help influence appropriate material selection with shifts in technology and sustainability.


My name is Carol Ross Barney; I’m an architect in Chicago. I personally believe that often the best of a building type is done by someone who hasn’t done it before, by someone who has to rethink every relationship and isn’t tied down by conventional answers.

Good design is important and it should be in the public realm. It’s not something that you should have to buy. It’s not something that you should have to…you don’t have to be wealthy to afford it.

I think a lot of times people participate in the design process and they don’t realize what tools they have. They think that they’re expected to use the architect’s tools, but they’re not. They can make a big contribution using the tools they have. If I sit down with a teacher to design a classroom, I don’t need her to pick the materials. I need her to tell me what the materials want to do for her.

Architecture is about joining two materials together. That’s where the art and the beauty really lies. You don’t have to build to do it. You’re right; you look around this studio and you see glass that we made and screen walls that we’re experimenting with, but you don’t need to do that. You just have to realize that that’s the challenge, is making those two materials meet each other in a satisfactory manner.

We collaborate with manufacturers pretty closely. In a funny way there are fewer to deal with than there was when I was a baby architect. There are fewer manufacturers who have their products out there that can afford to inform us or market to us. But they’re important just in terms of professional education, continuing education, staying up to date.

One of the things we do most often is we let them come in and teach us about their products, especially new technologies, anything that has to do with sustainability. We need to learn that. It’s changing daily, and they’re vital to us knowing that.


Thanks Thesis for visiting our studio. To learn more about their work, check out their website (http://www.designbythesis.com/).