Women in design: Suchi Reddy
WOMEN HAVE LONG BEEN innovators in design, from the early trailblazers such as Eileen Gray, Florence Knoll, Ray Eames, and Charlotte Perriand to contemporary designers, including Denise Scott Brown, Billie Tsien, and Patricia Urquiola, to name a few. We wanted to focus attention on several women designers whose work illuminates, surprises, and stands out—for its imagination, artistry, technical skill, problem-solving, and plain old beauty. In our Spring issue, we profile a cross-section of women, hailing from different parts of the world and backgrounds, whose furniture, product designs, lighting, interiors, and buildings set them apart and make them leaders in their industries.
“I LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE I SPECIALIZE in diversity,” says Suchi Reddy, founder of New York City–based architecture firm Reddymade. Driven not by a singular approach or typology, Reddy has had a multilayered career that has led to a rich and wide-ranging body of work, from residential interiors to public installations. The common thread, however, is a finely tuned eye that understands the subtleties and defining characteristics of place and the specific circumstances that shape it. “I look at every project almost like a director would look at a film: there’s a story, there’s a set, there’s a context that’s going to make it different,” she explains.
This perspective has been informed in part by a background that has been equally as varied. Reddy grew up in Chennai, India, and credits her mother’s creative ingenuity for her own interest in design—recalling how she would take Reddy to visit the looms to look at materials to weave their own saris. When she was young, her mother and father collaborated with an architect to design their family home. And the house, with its courtyards, layered textures, and gardens, left a lasting impression. “I just knew that space influenced people from a very young age because I was exposed to it,” Reddy says. This, coupled with a curiosity about the natural world encouraged by her father, drew her to architecture.
She started college in India, and then came to the US to complete her studies in architecture. Soon after graduating, she landed her first full-time position at Arquitectonica in Miami and later crisscrossed the country, becoming a partner in a professional illustration practice in Portland, Oregon, followed by a stint at a firm in Wisconsin. But a desire to be in a larger city brought her to Manhattan where she worked for various firms, including Gabellini Sheppard, before striking out on her own and starting Reddymade in 2002. While New York City has become her home, Reddy recognizes the imprint left by her roving background in the US. “I haven’t had the normal trajectory of an immigrant,” she says. “I went to places you wouldn’t normally think somebody would go and discovered what it really means to be American, to live in this country, and to have this sense of foreignness, which I think is actually important for understanding who you are and what your relationship to your environment is . . . it sensitizes you as an architect.”
Her practice—which has grown to about eleven architects and interior designers—has worked on a variety of projects, including office spaces, townhouses, and large-scale renovations, always paying as much attention to the nitty-gritty as to the larger conceptual challenges. “I work on everything—the details of the fabrics to the details of the envelope of the building.” Currently, several projects are underway, including a collaboration with the artist Ai Weiwei on a large addition to an existing home in upstate New York. Recently, she also launched weR2 with her friend Sara Meltzer, a venture that partners with artists to create functional objects. Reddy is not slowing down any time soon. With an uptick in projects on the West Coast, she’ll soon be opening up a second office in Los Angeles. Even as the firm expands into new territory, however, it continues to reflect her point of view. “I tell everyone at the studio to take poetry classes. I think you have to learn how to say things beautifully, succinctly, with the least amount of material. And poetry can really teach you how to do that.”