Read the Room

Suchi Reddy, award-winning architect
Photograph by Heather Hazzan

Suchi Reddy, award-winning architect and founder of the celebrated Reddymade Architecture and Design, added Abel Contemporary Gallery to her long list of accomplishments. The historic tobacco warehouse no. 5 finds a revived voice amongst contemporary works of art. Each patron overhears these conversations—evolving banter, chatter, and soliloquy—with their own degree of sensitivity to the space and artist creations, and distinct voices take shape. It’s a hallmark of Suchi’s work. Her approach to guiding interpretation proved instrumental in realizing the vision of gallery owners Theresa Abel and Tim O’Neill.

“You can’t have a good project without a good client,” says Suchi. “And you can’t have a good project without a client who appreciates the skill and expertise that’s being brought to the table as well as the care and concern that we as designers have for the client. Really, if [Theresa and Tim] succeed, we succeed. We want to make sure that what we do is working toward that. This project was a beautiful symbiosis in that sense.”

Cohesion in aims allowed Suchi to mold all of the potential she saw in the building to fit the goals of Theresa and Tim. None of those who worked in the warehouse over a century ago could’ve imagined the space would one day be an art gallery, and though Theresa and Tim knew what they needed to make an eclectic art gallery work, Suchi saw how to incorporate the past to the present. “What we call adaptive reuse tends to be this creative imagination of older spaces that were designed for a different purpose.

“But generally speaking, because it’s a gallery, for me, it’s really important that [Theresa] had the kind of proportions—that she had high ceilings. That she had the width of the wall that she might need. Those kinds of things.”

The process starts by recognizing pragmatics, potential, and performance then building out from each hub to capitalize on the overlap. “When we first walked into [the warehouse], it was in full antique-mall mode. My job as an architect, really every time I walk into a space, is to just strip it of everything, look at its bones, and see what the space looks and feels like and what we could really amplify to bring out its innate qualities and make it into architecture versus just space.” It’s the difference between creating something that works and something that’s working—the former based on function, the latter on thoughtful interactions.

Something that Theresa and Tim knew about the artists they represented was that they would need to have a space that could accommodate any medium of artwork. To increase adaptability, Suchi says, “We came up with a whole easel system, which is almost like a flexible wall system. So [Theresa] can roll them in when she needs to and create the white walls should she need that.”

Though Suchi’s philosophy changes form depending on the project, it shares foundation in methodology, particularly in client relationships. From commercial to residential spaces, Reddymade takes on every project with sincerity—listening before acting and reacting.

Suchi recalls a moment of reflection back in 2001 when the shockwave that was the attack on the World Trade Center reminded a relatively young nation that it was not invincible. A lot of people started to ask themselves if they were living their best lives, perpetuating the character of the world they wanted to live in. Being in New York at the time, Suchi realized that she had been doing the thing that allows her to contribute the most of herself to society through her work as an architect. It’s allowed her to commit to the business with a purpose. “It’s really important that we make better places, always for people,” says Suchi. “it’s the only way to become better, to be healthier, to live better, and just to be better citizens.”

That sense of purpose is what Suchi saw when she offered to design Abel Contemporary Gallery pro bono. The gallery is Alice’s looking glass: a reflection and a portal to something that can somehow come off as both familiar and exotic. Suchi believes Theresa and Tim enrich every community they’ve ever been in with their presentation of thought-provoking gallery exhibits. Theresa told Suchi when she volunteered her services, “I feel like I got a computer problem, and Bill Gates is coming to solve it.” But from Suchi’s perspective, it seems it was another opportunity to show someone that they are doing the thing that allows them to contribute the most of themselves to the rest of the world.

Check out more of Suchi’s work at .

Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor and writer for Home Elements & Concepts.