Stephen Alton Architects
Visualizing ongoing research and exploration
Founded in 1993, with offices in New York and SHANGHAI, Stephen Alton Architects (SAA) has completed projects ranging from multi-unit residential, hotel, retail, and mixed-use projects, to residential projects, restaurants, and prototype designs.
rayogram has had the pleasure to work with noted architect Stephen Alton for many years. His adventurous intellect and thoughtful design sense has guided our collaboration with SAA to the development of forward-thinking and attention getting Web sites. Five years after designing and building the award-winning current version of stephenalton.com, SAA asked us to create a platform to highlight the ongoing research and exploration at the heart of his ambitious architecture practice.
The demands on this new web site, called “Methods And Research Studio (M.A.R.S.)”, were as ambitious as the aesthetic challenges presented to us. Not satisfied with a conventional blogging platform, SAA wanted a site that, like the architecture they produce, would reveal the usually hidden structure behind the surface. At the same time, they needed a site that would be easily updated and allow site visitors to immediately — and viscerally — perceive the changes that would take place over time.
Our exploration led us to a novel user experience, based on columns of content representing the main themes of SAA’s work. These thematic columns themselves change color and width over time, reflecting the age and depth of the content available. These attributes are reinforced by capping the columns with a bar-graph-like display of time and volume data. The resulting navigation system, while presenting a infographic-like display of the site’s content, resembles a city-scape or skyline, suggesting the architecture at the heart of the firm’s exploration.
This experimental nature of the main navigation system extends to the rest of the site’s user experience with its collaged thumnail grids and web of links to related content. M.A.R.S. is truly a modernist design solution, with form following function and structure revealed for it’s inherent beauty. Moreover, the pliable, ever-changing user interface is accomplished without the use of flash or other search enging and accessibility-hindering technologies.