The conversation opens with Elie reflecting on his career path, beginning professionally in 2002 but with aspirations starting at six years old. “I loved to draw, I loved to play with blocks,” he said, “but I think the more I knew about the world and about cultures and about the way that architecture affects people, the more interesting it got.” With a portfolio spanning multiple countries, Elie was asked how he approaches designing in different cities. “I think if you’re going to be an architect practicing in a place, you need to have to have a real appreciation and respect for the culture, the environment, the people, the economics, the kind of physical infrastructure of a city, in order to do your best work,” he explained.
Shifting to his work at KPF, Elie was asked how he incorporates his signature style when designing buildings with different programming and locations, notably the NYU Shanghai campus and Atlantis The Royal resort. approach begins with a focus on problem solving. NYU Shanghai is located on a tight site, and both projects had large program requirements. A goal was to breakdown the massing, allowing a viewer to visualize the different programming from the exterior. When asked to share his favorite part of designing NYU Shanghai, Elie revealed it was the aha moment “where the idea of the pinwheel blocks sort of broke down the problem into something that was really an elegant solution…We were all sitting together as a team, we’ve been playing around with different models and the big idea settled in, and I can distinctly remember where we were when that happened. It’s a really beautiful thing.”
Additional topics discussed on the podcast include challenges of building in the Shanghai river delta, the sustainability features of the building, and KPF’s additional collaborations with NYU.
On Magnolia Square is a fully student-run collaboration with NYU Shanghai’s writing department. The podcast provides insight into student life, campus happenings, and relevant world events.