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Architect Interview: H+dlT Collaborative

A series of to-the-point interviews with local developers, architects, designers, and movers and shakers. This week: Michael Hoffman and Carlos de la Torre, Partners at H+dlT Collaborative. Thoughts on who we should talk to next? Email us at seattle@curbed.com and let us know.

[Photos by H+dlT]

What is it that you actually do?
Hoffman: We're a full-service architectural practice, so we actually do a lot of things most firms don't. That means designing a lot of projects, but it's also a lot of residential projects and remodels too, so the things we do are really varied. You're also working with the Green Factor right now, right?
Hoffman: The Green Factor is really great because it's this new project the city's doing that doesn't just affect public projects, so private projects qualify too. We're incorporating details like living awnings with gardens instead of the normal glass awnings you'd expect on a modern project, and gutters that pull the street water into gardens to filter it a little bit before it hits the Sound. Little things like that aren't invasive and don't say "look, I'm environmentally friendly," but they're great overall and look good.

So what's your aesthetic standpoint when it comes designing across the board?
Hoffman: We believe really strongly that no matter what sort of project you're working on, there's always the opportunity for design. Things can be functional and green and interesting to look at if you make that sort of thing accessible.
de la Torre: We really work with whoever the client is on a residential project to base the design on what they want, not what we like. We've done renovations and worked on houses with old facades and tiles that the owners wanted to keep and we've done really modern designs too. Overall at the heart of it we're both really into that Northwest modern look, but ultimately we're not the ones living in the house so the design has to fit them, not us.

How do you make something so design-centric livable and practical?
Hoffman: We're really interested in taking design projects and green projects and making them developer-friendly, which a lot of the time means you have to break out the numbers. If you show people that building something that looks good and has some green aspects to it, even if it doesn't save money, won't cost you that much more, they're a lot more willing to work it in.
de la Torre: On residential projects we try to squeeze as many square feet in as we can, too. We want the people living there to get the most out of the space without sacrificing the fact that it looks great, so doing things like private elevators to eliminate a hallway and lobby that suck up square footage makes that happen without feeling like you're trying really hard.

· H+dlT Collaborative