Tomorrow Starts Tonight
An interview with architect James Ramsey.
James Ramsey isn’t your average architect. “Most people who practice architecture follow a formula. That’s boring,” he says. As Principal of Raad Studio and Co-Creator of the Lowline, James knows it takes innovation—and uncommon ideas—to bring projects to life.
“I don’t follow the typical recipe for how to live my life. I find more joy when I can come to my own conclusions for how to do things.”
The recipe for an architect certainly doesn’t apply to James. Growing up, he found joy as an amateur paleontologist, digging for fossils in his neighborhood, until a mentor brought him in to work at NASA designing satellites. While studying for his architecture degree at Yale, James fell for more traditional design work: European Cathedrals. There he saw raw engineering principals used to create solutions. “Thinking a bit outside the traditional way people have been solving problems is what I admire about cathedrals builds, and it’s something I try to do myself.”
“We are literally re-inventing the wheel everytime.”
For now, no two days are the same for James. His work at Raad Studio spans every environment, from private residences to office buildings, hotels and public spaces. But his ultimate goal never changes; “If we can create that sense of new discovery and mystery, and make people go ‘Whoa! This is crazy!’ then we have definitely succeeded.”
“Getting things done and sleeping right are important to me.”
James isn’t ashamed to admit that he is an avid sleeper. But he has good reason for getting 8-9 hours a night, “A lot of my design ideas come from while I am sleeping. I will literally just walk around the space or building, then wake up and draw it.” So making the switch to airweave was a big decision. And he confessed it wasn’t what he expected. “When I squished it with my hand, I was like oh, this isn’t soft. But when I laid down on it, it actually behaved very differently. It’s deceptive in many respects.” The biggest surprise of all? The responsiveness of its high rebound airfiber core. “I’ve suddenly realized that I like sleeping on my side! I hadn’t been able do that before.”
In 2015, James presented plans for the Lowline to the world—and the response to the futuristic underground space was pandemonium. “The core mission is to create a meaningful public space for the community,” he says. “With that said, it’s a science fiction park underground.”
“Just a hint that there could be something more than meets the eye.”
Always on a quest for the unexpected, James began researching lost spaces after discussing them with a colleague, who warned that they were dangerous. “I actually went down there, this thing was amazing, it was actually one of the lost beauties of New York City.”
“The joy here is to craft something new that nobody has ever experienced before.”
Working with partner Dan Barasch, James envisioned turning the long-abandoned tunnel into an underground park filled with plants. Lit by futuristic “remote skylights,” the Lowline will most of all inspire awe and wonder in the community. Though that is the project’s goal, James maintains “This is about technology and design, that drives the heart of the Lowline.”
“The way the Lowline looks, I had a dream about it.”
How does James foster the creativity needed to develop cutting edge projects like the Lowline? James credits rest with helping him physically and mentally recharge for the busy days ahead. With airweave, “your weight is distributed throughout the mattress, so you get the resistance [you need],” he says. “It’s been a good night’s sleep.” And with plenty of quality sleep ahead of him, James sees no end to the potential for his remote skylight technology, “Wherever people go, having access to natural sunlight in the middle of a building could be very useful. Hospitals, schools, urban farms, Moon bases! A lot of possibilities.” Dream on James, the world can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
Find Your Airweave
James Ramsey powers his performance with the airweave Mattress.Explore