Long Island City, NY
Erik Tietz and Andrew Baccon, founders of the Queens-based fabrication studio Tietz-Baccon, are a bit like material alchemists. Inside their Long Island City shop, a plank of smooth walnut is transformed into a tufted leather headboard, a series of wooden cabinets is reimagined as a flowing curtain, and a sheet of rigid foam is remade as a rippling wall for a pop-up shop. “We like manipulating materials,” Baccon said. “We’re taking existing traditional materials that are readily available, and new materials, and applying technology in a non-standard way to generate new forms.”
During graduate school at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the 1990s, Tietz and Baccon were fascinated by the design potential that computers were bringing to architecture, but found the availability of fabrication tools to realize their projects lagging behind.
“It’s so easy to create unique things on the computer, but it’s hard to make them,” Tietz explained. He said designers today have more access to new software and fabrication methods beginning in architecture school. “Today’s schools have digital fabrication equipment where previously they only had wood shops.”
In 1997, after graduation, the pair formed Tietz-Baccon, retrofitting large-scale machines left over from the previous generation of manufacturing and adding new cutting edge equipment for a fabrication arsenal that includes laser and water-jet cutters and CNC milling machines.
For Tietz-Baccon, the future of architecture is in this digital world made tactile. “No one is coming out of school today who isn’t digitally savvy,” said Baccon. “In the design community, [digital design] is becoming ubiquitous. The way they’re designing requires mass customization and bespoke manufacturing.”
Their high-tech handiwork is now on display at the SHoP Architects-designed Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the studio reinterpreted the arena’s signature weathered steel facade as a dynamic wall of white Corian at a VIP entrance.
Aside from large architectural installations, Tietz-Baccon has also worked with artists and designers interested in fabricating smaller projects, like furniture. Translating the soft appearance of fabric into other rigid materials has been an ongoing interest for the studio. For example, it fabricated a headboard and dresser set out of dark walnut wood using a CNC milling machine to create a three-dimensional texture that appears soft when its pillowed surface catches the light.
At ICFF in New York this year, Tietz-Baccon will launch its new project, Machine Made, an online interface that makes fabrication as easy as submitting a print order at a copy shop. The website allows architects to upload their digital files and provides access to educational resources and guides. “It’s a way for architects, designers, and engineers to get access to digital fabrication,” Baccon said. “Just upload your project, pick a material, pick a machine, and get going.”