Flux: Three Heads Are Better than One

Architects Michael McDonald, Darin Johnstone, AIA, and Scott Parker were busy working on individual projects and teaching at SCI-Arc and other colleges in Los Angeles when these pages inspired them to take their endeavors a step further, or, rather, a few steps closer together. “We saw that many of the Vanguard firms were collaborations,” says Johnstone. “We were working that way anyway, and that became the impetus to create Flux as an umbrella for a body of work created under a series of partnerships involving the same key players.”

Pooling knowledge has given the three architects a wealth of resources to draw on, a larger portfolio, and a fresh enthusiasm for finding new work. As solo practitioners Johnstone and Parker have collaborated as delineation.spatial design and Johnstone Parker Architecture, while Johnstone also works alone as Darin Johnstone Architecture, and with McDonald as Johnstone+McDonald Architecture. McDonald runs architecture/industrial design firm Park-McDonald with his wife Alice, and Parker works for Los Angeles firm Bauer and Wile. If that weren’t enough, the three architects, as Flux, have even approached a business owner to invent a project. “It almost turned into real work for us,” says Parker. “Our pretend client decided to expand, and at that point our designs became valuable investigations.” Although that particular project never got legs, Flux has attracted the attention of some real clients, including giant urban planning and landscape architecture firm SWA Group, which became interested in finding out what three talented designers can do when they put their heads together. SWA Group is creating a 1-million-square-foot development on a small island between historic Qingpu Island and Zhujiajiao off the coast of Shanghai—a project that could potentially serve as a kind of cultural hub for the region. Flux was asked to adapt an old cement factory in the area, and soon became involved in a larger zoning strategy that calls for a park, residential district, and a cultural center in the rehabilitated factory.

“Projects have come to us through random introductions,” says McDonald, who with his partners admits that partnerships, affiliations, collaborations, and skills have ebbed, flowed, and emerged into the coherent body of work that is Flux. “More of the same randomness would be ideal,” says Johnstone.

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