Aptum is a design practice that focuses on the synthesis of digital fabrication, tectonics, and environmental systems as methods to speculate on future formal and spatial expressions of architectural elements to question material properties and behaviors in order to make the process of making instrumental to form-making. The team poses critical questions that lead to new approaches for architectural design; unpacking the relationship between materials, methods, and the environment by not designing for existing materials, but designing beyond them. As a material practice, we privilege collaboration with industry partner, experimentation, and prototyping, as a way to approach our projects with what we refer to as a 'counterfactual world' for materials; meaning we explore the built environment through the lens of what it would look like if we changed the base assumptions of those materials. Essentially, we know what the ‘facts’ or ‘characteristics’ are of a particular matter, and we aim to question what it could be if we were not bound by that reality. By using material prototyping and speculative drawings, the results reflect the relationship and perception between materials, forms, and the environment.
Julie Larsen and Roger Hubeli are co-principals of APTUM, a design office based in Switzerland and the USA. We are both Associate Professors in the School of Architecture at Syracuse University with a design research focus on architecture as a material practice that is productively informed by computation, fabrication, tectonics, and the environment. Prior to our tenure at Syracuse, we were both lecturers at the University of Michigan, at the ETH in Zurich under the Chair of Marc Angelil, and Assistant Professors at the University of Illinois.
APTUM has received multiple awards for the design work, including national and international recognition from the AIA NY chapter, German Design Awards, and Architect Magazine’s R&D awards. Our work was awarded an ACSA 2018 Creative Achievement Award for a project that bridges materiality, digital form-making and ecology, that was presented at an Educational Session of the 2018 Venice Biennale. We also were awarded the prestigious fellowship at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire in 2011. Julie received the annual $20,000 Rotch Traveling Studio Award in 2012 for her ‘Manufactured Landscapes’ studio proposal.
Our work has been showcased in recent exhibitions at the WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles, Zeitgeist Arts Center in Arabi, Louisiana, the Center for Architecture in New York, the Museum of the City of New York, the International Expo in Cartagena Colombia, the Set Gallery in Brooklyn, California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, the SMOCA in Scottsdale, the I-Space Gallery in Chicago, and the Sam Fox Gallery in St. Louis. The firm’s work has been published extensively in print and online publications, such as Domus, FX Magazine, Architect’s Newspaper, Architect Magazine, Interni, Oculus, MAS Contect, Landscape World, Bustler, Archinect, ArchDaily, Architecture Lab, WeHeart, Frame, Chicago Sun Times and the New York Times, as well as in book chapters, most notably in Performing Architectures and Masjid - Selected Mosques from the Islamic World.
We have been guest reviewers at Columbia University, the ETH, the EPFL, Cornell University, University of California Berkeley, Rensselaer School of Architecture (RPI), University of Tennessee, SUNY Buffalo, Washington University, and University of Michigan.