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Emerging Voices> Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects
San Francisco-based firm thrives on the tension between code requirements and formal experimentation.
Dune, Monterrey Bay, CA.
Courtesy OPA

The Architectural League’s 31st annual Emerging Voices Award brings a focus to creative practices that will influence the future direction of architecture. Each of the eight firms will deliver a lecture this month in Manhattan. The next lecture takes place on Thursday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m. when Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects and DIGSAU will present their work.

Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects

San Francisco, CA

“There are different roots for how you can develop your career,” Luke Ogrydziak, co-founder of the San Francisco-based firm Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects (OPA), recently said. “We wanted to start with building, understanding the construction aspect of things.”

Ogrydziak and his partner, Zoe Prillinger, met at Princeton, where they earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture before moving to the West Coast and opening their practice there in 2000.

Their first project was a residential remodel for an art-collector client. “That was a great client,” said Ogrydziak. “Coming from Princeton, we understand that architecture is a language that communicates. Our work is an exploration of architectural conventions. We’ve been lucky with clients who are into approaching their projects that way.”

The Loop, Orinda, CA (left). Honighaus, San Francisco, CA (right).
Courtesy OPA; Tim Griffith

In the past 13 years, that exploration, along with a series of accommodating clients, has led OPA to produce a body of work that seems to thrive on the tension created between a project’s programmatic and code requirements and the architects’ restless formal experimentation.

Ogrydziak summed up their way of designing in two words, tenets if you will: inconsistency and relaxation. “One of the things you see in our portfolio is an exploration of a type of language that is a little bit more relaxed, geometrically a little looser,” he said. “The other thing is a certain amount of inconsistency. The project still has a narrative; there’s some sort of internal consistency, but there’s no one rule that the project follows.”

All of these themes are found in Honinghaus, a residential renovation and expansion that OPA completed in San Francisco. The client wanted a contemporary home, but the existing building, a Georgian-style row house, was constrained by the city’s historical preservation laws to maintain its subdued, classical lines.

Parklet, San Francisco, CA.
Tim Griffith

OPA turned these contradicting forces into the project’s strength, playing the placid and conservative exterior off of what Ogrydziak called “geometric disturbances,” on the interior, namely a fluid and faceted central circulation stair that “erupts” at the penthouse addition in an enclosure of odd-angled surfaces.

Elsewhere, however, OPA’s work, while still relaxed and varied, exhibits what seems the opposite of tension: a yearning for harmony with the natural surroundings. Dune, a weekend house in Monterrey Bay designed for a couple of surfers, is a faceted structure that merges with the rolling forms of the dunes that encircle it. The building’s walls feature angles of not more than 33 degrees—the steepest angle a natural dune can achieve before the sand begins to slide.

Aaron Seward


Parallax, Lotus, CA (left); Triskelion, San Francisco, CA (center); Conway House, Princeton, NJ (right).
Tim Griffith