What was the inspiration in founding Madlab?
After working in other design firms for over 10 years, we felt ready to launch our own vision of a firm. MADLAB stands for Morozov Alcala Design Laboratory, and in a simple sense, that’s also our business plan. Two professionals willing to go beyond conventional practices in order to carry out innovative design. That was in 2003, and we’ve never looked back.
We are definitely at our most creative and satisfied when we’re not just designing, but when we’re making and testing, and learning from that process. It was a no-brainer for us, really, and we probably have our immigrant families to thank for that! We inherited a solid work ethic with a sense of adventure and a tolerance for the unknown. It’s helped us find a balance between having a creative vision, and having the know-how and guts to execute it. Once we set out on our own, we soon realized there was a steep learning curve when it came to getting our design work executed by contractors. We became more and more frustrated, and moved to building prototypes, just to demonstrate that it could be done. Without a proper workshop, we set up a space to tinker wherever we could. In our basements, in our living rooms - wherever we could to carry things out.
Today, Madlab is a hybrid design practice in a 2,000 sq ft space that is part office and part workshop. We love when clients come visit to see where all the magic comes together. They immediately get what we’re all about once they walk through our doors.
What is about a coffee shop that piqued your interest?
The sharper a client’s vision, the better more guiding power it offers us. This is key to a great outcome. With this project, we had the added benefit of knowing the town and seeing the chance to roll out something entirely fresh and unique to Montclair. A coffee shop is an open-ended program. It serves a social purpose in our communities. We wanted to hone this into an environment that isn’t just a backdrop, but adds to the conversation in very subtle ways. We deliberately created little touches throughout the space that catch your attention, but doesn’t overpower it. It’s how we wanted to see “Local” stand out from the crowd of other coffee shops around the world.
The other thing that came through early on was that our clients Robert and Adele are great storytellers. They elevated that cultural aspect of taking a moment for a coffee, alone or with friends, as an important thing to do. Their hospitality background was heartwarming and important. Trusting us was the driving force - and ultimately the opportunity - to deliver something special.
What is the biggest surprise looking back at when we started this project?
Everything! We came into this project with our talent and dedication and an open-ended approach. Once we arrived at a schematic design, the rest was pure energy, blind faith and constant testing of ideas. It made the project fun! It all came together organically as we worked at a feverish pace. There were times when we could have taken shortcuts, but we stuck it out and it was worth it.
What is that something special that you will take with you from this experience that you will take with you on your next journey?
This was by far one of our fastest turnaround projects, and it could not have happened without an all-hands-on-deck design-build approach. It brought out the best in our staff. There’s not a single design element that wasn't touched in some way by our entire crew. There’s a real pride knowing your efforts are contributing to something bigger. ‘Local’ proved that this approach is not just good for our clients, it’s good for us, too. You want to evolve as a business and this project was a tipping point. We should be doing more of these projects. People want it, there is space for it.
We also take away how vital it is to establish trust with our clients at the beginning, especially when there’s just no time for lengthy design reviews and revisions. It’s really easy for an unconventional process like this to unravel - having your clients’ trust is the only way through that. How can we best cradle their needs so it doesn’t become a crisis, but it becomes innovation? We’re excited to explore that more in the future.
Madlab is an award-winning and internationally published architecture firm noted for its research and innovative design services.
More here: www.madlabllc.com