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Community Highlights: Meet Christopher Pela of Studio Pela

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Pela. 

Hi Christopher, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’m Christopher Pela of Studio Pela, and we are an architectural firm located here in Phoenix Arizona. We love designing for the desert landscape in particular, though we come from a broad background of projects – nationally and internationally. For the past 12-or-so years I have been in Tucson – first studying architecture at the University of Arizona, after which I was fortunate to work with the wonderful team at Rick Joy Architects, for over 7 years. In 2020 I came home to Phoenix in order to open Studio Pela. I was born and raised here in Phoenix, though I spent many years as a child in the frigid northern extremities of Wisconsin as well. The desert feels like home and inspires Studio Pela’s work. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
We opened up at the beginning of the covid outbreaks. It was a bit of a roll of the dice to open when we did – making the leap and leaving a well-established practice in Tucson – but I was fortunate to have a couple of projects lined up at the very beginning, with clients that I knew were all-in regardless of world events at that time. This helped hedge my bets. We are also in debt to the support and guidance of my uncle, John T. Pela – a master Architect, who has been practicing in Arizona for half a century. He has been vital to the creation of Studio Pela, offering necessary mentorship and helping us forge relationships with clientele as he merged into retirement. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Studio Pela is a full-service architectural design firm. Our practice provides all aspects of architectural design, master planning, and interior design for buildings of all types and scales (commercial, public, residential, hospitality – you name it). We find ourselves in our element with high-end residential design, however. We have a lot of fun with these sorts of projects and appreciate the unique dynamic between architect and home-dweller, which is made possible by a careful, and thoughtful design process. 

We specialize in process-driven design, which allows us to provide our clients with authentic solutions to their needs. We study the nuanced aspects of lifestyle and consider how those ideas relate to materials, and to the place in which we are building. For us, good design requires all of these aspects to come together in tandem – each informing the other without sacrifice. We try to find a sense of real timelessness in architecture; being concerned less with a given trend, what ‘looks good,’ or is hip, etc. Instead, we rely on the landscape and culture (the site), on an attention to detail in the arrangement of materials, and on the quality of the resulting experience, to produce the work. It’s added value for our clients, too. The designs we create belong to the place in which, and to the people for whom, they were made – and in this sense, they don’t really have an expiration date. Of course, we live with ever-changing modern ideas and modern technologies, and as the culture evolves, so too does our sense of this process. 

We explore architectural solutions primarily through drawing by hand, versus drowning ourselves in the ever-so-prevalent digital world right off the bat. Expressing architectural ideas concisely and completely by hand is quickly becoming a lost art. They hardly teach you how to draw in architecture school anymore. It’s not arbitrary that we do things this way – it’s not just for the sake of the “art” – we believe the quality of the design benefits from an analog approach; that using our hands to put it down on tangible paper, with graphite or ink, keeps us grounded in the physical world – as we go about the imaginative aspects of the work. Of course, we don’t abandon the efficiencies of the computer. The computer; CAD and other 3-dimensional modeling software, allows for the speed and precision of production that’s required by the building industry. Bringing projects to fruition, what we inevitably come to is a merging of analog and digital methods of thinking; it creates a sort of hybrid. You’ll find some examples of this on our website. We employ a method typically referred to as “over-drawing,” to quickly mass out 3d and 2d ideas digitally, print them out, then overlay hand drawing to refine our ideas. After that, we scan the hand drawings back into the computer and repeat the process – to generate these rich, composite illustrations. It’s a way to think and to design. Using layers on top of layer on top of layers… until something completely unexpected is revealed through that process. There is “soul” to it. 

How can people work with you, collaborate with you, or support you?
Currently, it is me and one other individual who work at Studio Pela. However, we collaborate with engineers, drafters, and other designers on a project-by-project basis. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Studio Pela PLLC

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