We were all architects once. Armed with a rainbow of crayons and the impulse to create, our clumsy lines formed over and over again the same shape: Home. Today, French-born architect Virginie Stolz offers a new vision for the future of domestic living spaces, one built entirely from reclaimed shipping containers. Alongside her partners at LOT-EK (pronounced "low-tech"), an award-winning design studio in the heart of NYC, Stolz believes in making the ordinary extraordinary. We at Coclico had the opportunity to see this firsthand in Claverack, NY where Stolz and her team installed their first container home or c-Home. A marriage of modern industrial aesthetics and an eco conscious outlook, c-Home celebrates innovation through the creative use of recycled materials. Can you tell we’re big fans? In this interview, Stolz talks soulful, sustainable architecture, radical change, and reveals her special connection to Coclico.
Staff writer Anna Kadinoff.
Photo credits for this story go to Aundre Larrow.
From the beginning…
I could begin by saying that I was born in Champagne, France on December 25th! My young parents moved to Buenos Aires when I was a baby where I spent the first 5 years of my life there before moving back to France. At the age of 15, I arrived in Paris where I found my vocation. Until then, I was loving going to school for the social aspect of it— academics were not for me— but as soon as I started Applied Art in high school I totally thrived. Architecture became my favorite subject.
My strongest force is probably my positivity. I am truly an optimist! From that comes the will to do anything. It allows me to make mistakes and be ok with it. Another strong force is my emotional depth. It took me a long time to realize how much of an empath I am and that it can be a strength. It makes me scan the world and myself for Fairness, Respect, Dignity, and Freedom, which then makes me deal with people (and myself) openly and honestly. I expect quality from myself and people around me.
Sustainable and soulful architecture
I have worked at the architectural design studio LOT-EK in New York for 15 years and I am a co-founder of c-Home USA with my LOT-EK partners for 2 years now. I am super proud of that. There is no doubt that the way we design and think is profoundly affecting my vision of the world. Our practice is dedicated to making sustainable and soulful architecture through the transformation of industrial and infrastructural objects, using (of course) the shipping containers that we are so obsessed with! This is a form of adaptive reuse called upcycling, which means: extending the lifecycle of already-manufactured objects, expanding the potential of existing systems, and exploring the futures of legacy platforms.
We make the ordinary extraordinary and that allows me to believe that people are capable of making the world better.
Because I’m a very practical person, I spend a lot of my time figuring out the ways to make our ideas work and perform in their best ecological way. That's probably why I feel more like an Inventor than an Architect!
c-Home was born more than 10 years ago in response to many inquiries we were receiving from people who wanted to buy container homes. The "c" of "c-Home" stands for "container." The design itself was born from a desire to create a beautiful modular building system that brings together distinctive, design-forward architecture with conscious sustainable building practices. The modules are built entirely from reclaimed shipping containers. They are very strong, durable, and have a modern industrial aesthetic that looks striking wherever it goes. We are promoting 7 models on our website, and we have plenty more to come.
Virginie’s favorite building in NYC
The Breuer building, designed by Marcel Breuer and built in the 60's on Madison Avenue. Everything is beautiful: the proportion, the materials, the amount, shape, and size of the openings, the interior details and the light. I took my kids there many times when it was the Whitney Museum of American Art where they learned about Calder, Hopper and many more amazing artists! In 2012, I had the privilege of installing one of our LOT-EK projects called the “Whitney Studio” in the intricate Sculpture Court of the museum. Six shipping containers were stacked on two levels to form a cube with a continuous band of fenestration that was running along two sides and the roof to provide natural light and to offer a glimpse of activities to museum’s visitors. It was then disassembled, removed from the sculpture courtyard, donated to Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens where the new version of the “cube” is about to be installed!
The same way I do with architecture, I hope to see a radical change in the fashion industry. I am truly interested in the creative ideas and efforts designers like Danielle Elsener from DECODE put into Zero Waste for apparel manufacturing. I am so intrigued by the outcomes and shapes that these techniques generate. The same way I am careful with the sustainable aspect of what we build, I’m trying to be as mindful of what I want to wear. That’s why I am interested in brands like Coclico that focus on slow fashion. As a customer, I want to make a conscious choice to support a brand that values sustainability, ethics, and craftsmanship.
That’s why we are starting c-Home // Living: to offer a curated view of sustainable living. Exhibitions for up-cycled objects, ecological materials, and mindful design, that showcases site-specific ideas within the walls of c-Home(s). In collaboration with the artists, designers like Danielle, inventors like Sandra, sculptors, builders, and beyond, c-Home // Living envisions new possibilities and a future that reconsiders domestic living space in harmony with its environment.
1. Jeans. "Relaxed," "Active Rider," "Wonder Mom" with concert Tees and sneakers like my blue KLARA sneakers. That's pretty much me every day!
2. more Jeans. "Casual Chic," "Modern Brooklynite” with flats or sandals like my black IMNA wedges in the summer!
3. and Jeans again! "Modern Rockstar" with high heels when I go out!
I met Sandra, the founder of Coclico, in 2011 when my husband and I moved from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California to Williamsburg, Brooklyn with our 6-month-old son, Ingo. She has always been a source of good advice to us, especially when we moved on to purchase our current 2-family brownstone in Greenpoint.
In 2017, Sandra introduced us to Victoria and Dave. They had just sold their apartment to Sandra and moved to New Jersey where they were going to stay until they developed their project on a property they just bought in Hudson. Dave was in need of a place to stay occasionally so he could continue to work at his office in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He rented the studio in our house for about a year and we started a friendly relationship. For Christmas, I gave them the LOT-EK O+O book we had just released and a few days later Victoria came to us pointing at the pages showing our c-Home design concept saying "I want this!"
In 2019 Victoria and Dave became the first owners of a c-Home, thanks to Sandra.
My family and I are hoping to find a place someday to install our own c-Home. We are envisioning it in the mountains because we are addicted to snowboarding and love the snow. It's an amazing simplified construction process. You have to imagine that while your home is being prefabricated in the factory, your site work and foundations are being prepared simultaneously and once both are ready, the modified container modules get delivered and installed in one day. Waterproofing in between the seams and connections to utilities is all that's left to be done on site. I am an Architect and one of my favorite parts in the design and construction process is getting to know the clients and making them happy. With traditional architecture, this is usually a very long and sometimes frustrating experience. With c-Home, I see a future where I can make people happy faster.