Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello
Recorded: March 13, 2014
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, principals of the Oakland firm Rael San Fratello, shy away from working within a set philosophy, trying “not to define, but rather to constantly redefine ourselves.” Their work ranges from full-scale projects to folly-like experimental structures to materials development. Throughout, they aim to discover overlooked places and strive to “do the most with the least.”
In 2014, The Architectural League named Rael San Fratello an Emerging Voice. The annual Emerging Voices award spotlights individuals and firms based in the United States, Canada, or Mexico with distinct design voices and the potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape design, and urbanism. Each year, winners are invited to participate in the Emerging Voices lecture series.
In their presentation, titled “Material Provenance,” Rael and San Fratello investigate how materials can be active instruments in revealing political, social, and ecological questions through design. Current and recent projects they discuss include Hedge Gallery; Sukkah of the Signs, built for the Sukkah City competition; Emerging Objects, an ongoing project to develop strong and inexpensive structural materials through powder 3D printing; Saltygloo, a structure built from 3D-printed salt panels and lightweight aluminum rods; and SOL Grotto, an installation in the Berkeley Botanical Garden using glass solar rods discarded by Solyndra.