Moto Designshop began with an honest conversation between two graduate students studying at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, both separately questioning how best to apply the lessons of academia toward their passion to design and implement in a poetic, honest, and practical way. Their shared impatience with the established steps of an academic degree led them to conceive of an alternative approach to their thesis project. They proposed to take on a true physical manifestation of architecture, rather than an abstraction in studio, to pursue the actual process of making – personally welding the steel, and mitering the wood – so that they could learn from the full spectrum of design through craft.
“All we saw was potential”
Their proposal was accepted as the University’s first ever design/build study thesis. They soon purchased a blighted property in North Philadelphia through public auction and outlined a project that would combine academic and professional investigations. Over the next 12 months, Adam, Roman and a 3rd team member wrote, designed, and physically built the project, culminating in a thesis that was a great success for their own education, as well as for the University. Following graduation, the two committed to complete the construction process, reviving the entire building and selling the property the following year. Recognizing their compatibility and balance of skill sets, they also committed to moving forward with the professional practice they had begun, and Moto was born.
For many reasons, modern architects have separated themselves from the process of making, from crafting, from physically touching the materials and assemblies of their buildings. For Moto, their first project and almost every project since, has been about reestablishing that connection to materials, to joinery, and to the very tactile process of interacting with the medium of the artform. Their first project taught them to weld, to pour and cure concrete, to understand viscosity of a mortar mix and how to tint it. Constrained budgets have taught them to tear down the typical approach to complex assemblies and rebuild them of their essential parts in a purer spirit. They play with simple materials in new ways to extract unusual effects. All of these pursuits are theoretically teachable, but none of them would have been really understood without first physically building it themselves. The act of making has made them better designers, connected to the materials they use and the knowledge of why they use them. The result is an architecture that is authentic to the materials of our time and always inventive and artful from concept through construction.