DA bureau Interview
What are the origins of DA bureau?
It all started with a friendship between three students from the Faculty of Architecture of the Imperial Academy of Arts (Saint Petersburg). Anna, Boris and Fyodor are the founders of DA bureau, and they began their partnership before graduating from university.
After that, the 3 founders split up into numerous offices and architecture studios without breaking their strong friendship.
The beginnings of DA bureau were a real learning curve. The founders first gained an understanding of the values and objectives that DA bureau should pursue, and, most importantly, what they wanted to avoid in their work: at DA bureau we strive to create our own kind of architecture and design, both as art and business.
DA bureau founders
What defines you? What is your value proposition?
At DA bureau we are defined by business transparency, a non-hierarchical (linear) team structure, our internal and external ethics, and above all, our aesthetic vision and the belief that our work is about so much more than creating beauty.
We believe that our value proposition is to not only change our environment but also the way that people interact with the beauty of their surroundings whilst valuing the work of those who create it.
What kind of clients do you have at DA bureau?
In general, we look for ambitious, forward-looking clients who want to change their surroundings for the better, be it urban or cultural environments. At DA bureau we are not drawn to soulless projects that lack beauty, impact or meaning.
Usually, our clients are modern business-people, restaurant owners, great hoteliers, and niche retail businesses. We always work with clients who create something we would appreciate creating on our own.
Radius 58 project, work by DA bureau
What sets you apart from the competitors?
As previously mentioned, we stand out from the competition in many ways: our business model, team structure, internal ethics, business transparency, our architectural approach, etc.
Many studios and bureaus show their great projects we really appreciate, but these often appear to be unimplemented concepts.
Unlike them, we showcase almost everything we do and most of these projects are implemented, as for us it is crucial to see the result or our work in real life.
To achieve this, we tend to fully immerse ourselves in our projects, investing not only our energy and enthusiasm, but also our financial resources to bring the project to life. In fact, it is just as important to us that we like the project as it is that it becomes a reality.
Do you follow some kind of creative process? What is your methodology when you start a project?
We pursue a combination of creativity and structured planning.
Initially, of course, we work on the concept and create a suitable plan. We analyze the environment, look for visual references, we develop a metaphore, and then, when we come up with an idea, we start working on a draft. This is the most rational part of the creative process.
Later, during the plan development stage, we add more substance to the initial solution and define the small details: materials, textures – all the micro-solutions that we believe are an essential part of the beauty formula.
Also, we do not follow a formal hierarchy, as is common in many other companies. We never assign the project to a head architect, who has numerous junior and semi senior team members working under him or her, and who supervises the concept, approves everything and directs the creative process.
At DA bureau we allow all team members to show their potential and take on a lot of responsibility. We believe (and we know from experience) that this is how young people are encouraged to show their grittines and guts and present their ideas in front of other more experienced team members, and so produce ground-breaking and attractive concepts. And that can only be achieved with a wholesome and equal team.
BIO MY BIO café project, work by DA bureau
Is the methodology you apply to retail design different from the one used in other types of design?
Not really to be honest. Our method is fairly universal. Of course, when we work with retailers, we take a closer look at the brand and its products, but generally we follow the same processes as when we work with other projects.
What benefits does a good design bring to a brand at its physical point of sale?
Design is an integral part of a brand, even if not the product itself.
The brand represents itself through a logo, yes, but this does not contribute much to its environment, to its point of sale, to the way people perceive it, and this is a fundamental part of the experience that directly impacts the success of the brand.
NO NAME hookah project, work by DA bureau
What has been your biggest challenge working in the retail sector?
The biggest challenge was getting the first project. The retail sector is made up of professionals with a high degree of specialization and with extensive experience and knowledge in this field. The most important thing, and the big challenge in this sector, is to get your first project and develop a good relationship with the client. If you can do that, anything is possible.
Another big challenge is to ensure that everything is implemented how we imagined it. Be it materials, textures or the composition of the elements, we always try to ensure that these are not modified, substituted or altered in any way during the implementation process. In the end, every project consists of small but vital pieces, and we try to keep an eye on every detail so that no piece is lost.
The world of retail is changing very quickly and shops are continually re-adapting. How do you approach this moment of change?
First of all, retail that demands design and architecture is declining, it is a fact. Digitization and the COVID situation have had a clear impact on the demand for physical stores. But this does not mean the end of an era, rather, as you say, a moment of change.
We believe that there will continue to be a demand for emotional, intellectual and physical interaction with products and brands. People will continue to need that connection with objects, with other people and with their immediate environment.
This just means that architectural retail is now becoming much more sophisticated, with the emphasis on how retail spaces are created, and the messages and feelings they generate.
Inevitably we will still have our conventional retail spaces, but more and more people will seek out unique shopping experiences that speak to them directly, and this is part of what we do here at DA bureau.
An example of how retail culture is adapting to change is pop-ups. We enjoy working with this type of project because of its flexibility: a pop-up can come and go within a week, but that does not mean that they should not be conceptual, should not communicate an important message or simply be boring – that is what the utilitarian online medium is for.
DA bureau team
About the author.