Highly collaborative and multidisciplinary design firm, Dash Marshall was started by Bryan Boyer, along with Amy Yang and Ritchie Yao. Boyer began studying architecture after working as a programmer in the tech industry. "Coding is great, but architecture felt like a bigger challenge," Boyer explains. "Humans make stuff because it helps us do more than we can on our own, and this is true of both code and architecture. Great architecture helps individuals, families, and organizations do things that they could not do otherwise." Boyer's interest has evolved through degrees from both RISD and Harvard Graduate School of Design.
"Architecture is humanity’s most important tool for telling each other, 'what happens here is special.'" - Bryan Boyer
Boyer met Yang and Yao while working at architect Toshiko Mori's firm and from there learned the value of their different backgrounds and interests coming together. "Years later, as Dash Marshall, we still keep humanity at the center of what we do. I know it’s a cliche, but we really get to know the people we work with. That’s the only way we can design our projects because the design ideas are a development of unique interests, behaviors, and needs that our clients bring to the table," says Boyer.
Dash Marshall's work currently varies between residential, retail, and workspace. "We’ve also been building a line of business in strategic design. With those projects we serve as a consultant with foundations (and occasionally forward thinking companies) to help them envision, design, and implement urban transformation projects." Boyer adds, "That’s a lot of words to say: we’re focused on the future of cities, and not just the buildings. We’re also involved in helping people rethink why spaces exist, what their goals are, and how they achieve those goals."
So how does a small studio achieve such great work? Collaboration plays a hefty role. "Sketches, models, ideas, and sometimes even emails trade hands many times before anything goes out the door. This spin cycle of collaboration ensures that the stuff that we produce has been the subject of extensive internal debate—polite and collegiate debate—and is subjected to multiple different forms of scrutiny."
"We’re constantly taking different angles, which keeps everyone on their toes and makes the work sharper." The work is certainly sharp and often sharp witted. A "Letter to Mies van der Rohe" on the Dash Marshall site humourosly describes a renovation the studio performed on one of the great architect's Detroit projects.
Regarding their approach to architecture and design as a studio Boyer says, "Community is a tricky word. There are lots of communities involved in every project, no?" He elaborates on how a sense of community is not only important within the studio. "Every project also has a whole community of people involved in construction and fabrication. They need to feel like they’re being given the conditions to do their best work, and the ability to work side by side without distractions. And of course as we start to work on more public-facing projects, including our strategic design work, community in the traditional sense is hugely important. In each of these definitions of community, our approach starts with communication. If people do not have good, two-way communication, there is no possibility for community."