Published online Dec 23, 2011

Five Questions With: Kyna Leski and Chris Bardt

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

3six0 Architecture and Design in Providence has had good years before, but this year the firm pulled in all five honor awards given by the American Institute of Architects Rhode Island Chapter at its annual award ceremony. One of the awards was for the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge Design, created jointly with Architect Friedrich St. Florian as Studio Providence LLC, which came in second in an international design competition. In an email interview, company principals Kyna Leski and Chris Bardt spoke about the bridge competition a year later and their other projects.

PBN: What was your reaction when you learned 3six0 had won five AIA honor awards this year?

LESKI AND BARDT: A quiet sense of gratitude. The AIA awards are an anonymous acknowledgement of a job well done. This means a lot to us.

PBN: Did it take some of the sting out of coming in second in the Providence River pedestrian bridge competition to see that design honored, or did it make it that much more frustrating that your bridge will not be built?

LESKI AND BARDT: Many people felt stung by the end game of the process for the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge competition. Having nowhere to turn, they came to us. We were told stories from other designers, businessmen, politicians, prominent figures in the community and other individuals who share a love and concern for Providence. This award doesn’t change the process or what will be built on the river. But it confirms what we [and others] think would be best for Providence.

PBN: Aside from the pedestrian bridge, what design that won this year are you most proud of?

LESKI AND BARDT: That’s like having to name a favorite child. We are especially proud of the Rhode Island-based projects. Each had really challenging, unusual issues and modest budgets. These awards celebrate that good design can happen, even under highly constrained circumstances.

PBN: When you look at all the projects that won awards this year, specifically yours, do you see any common ideas or threads running through them?

LESKI AND BARDT: It seems to us that the judging didn’t fall along stylistic or other simplistic lines but recognized designs that were tailored to the specific situation of each project. Any threads that ran through the winning projects have more to do with economic trends or environmental conditions of our region.

Specific to our projects, we arrive at each through a search for something essential, which for us is spatial in nature, a way of making relations cohere in a fundamental way.

PBN: What exciting projects does 3six0 have in the pipeline now that may turn up at future award ceremonies?

LESKI AND BARDT: We’re working on really diverse projects, from a house on the water in South County, to a little cottage in Foster, to a new building for a growing non-profit in Providence, and yes they are all challenging, that’s what makes them so exciting.