Rael San Fratello: Material Provenance

The firm's 2014 Emerging Voices lecture discusses reinvention and experimentation.

June 16, 2014

Recorded on March 13, 2014.

Emerging Voices spotlights individuals and firms based in the United States, Canada, or Mexico with distinct design voices and the potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism.

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, principals of Oakland firm Rael San Fratello, shy away from working within a set philosophy, trying “not to define, but rather to constantly redefine ourselves.” Their work ranges from full-scale projects to folly-like experimental structures to materials development. Throughout, they aim to discover overlooked places and strive to “do the most with the least.”

In their presentation, titled “Material Provenance,” Rael and San Fratello investigate how materials can be active instruments in revealing political, social, and ecological questions through design. Current and recent projects they discuss include Hedge Gallery; Sukkah of the Signs, built for the Sukkah City competition; Emerging Objects, an ongoing project to develop strong and inexpensive structural materials through powder 3D printing; Saltygloo, a structure built from 3D-printed salt panels and lightweight aluminum rods; and SOL Grotto, an installation in the Berkeley Botanical Garden using glass solar rods discarded by Solyndra.

Rael San Fratello was founded in 2002 by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello. Their diverse collection of work ranges from full-scale projects—such as the Museum of Nowhere in Antonito, Colorado; The Mud House in Marfa, Texas; and the art installation Prada Marfa—to folly-like experimental structures such as Saltygloo, a semi-structured shell comprised of 336 3D-printed panels made of salt harvested from the San Francisco Bay supported on lightweight aluminum rods; and Sukkah of the Signs, a.k.a. the Homeless House, built for the Sukkah City competition.


Interview: Surfacedesign, Inc.

Geoff di Girolamo, James Lord, and Roderick Wyllie discuss their practice’s emphasis on personal histories.

Emerging Voices Interview 2014