FMA is a London-based international architectural practice founded in 2011 by the award-winning architect Farshid Moussavi. Among its completed projects include the acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, USA; La Folie Divine, a residential complex in Montpellier; a multi-tenure residential complex in the La Défense district of Paris, flagship stores for Victoria Beckham in London and Hong Kong, and the Toys Department for Harrods in London. FMA is currently working on a range of prestigious international projects including an office complex in the City of London and the Ismaili Center Houston, which will be the seventh in a series of iconic cultural buildings commissioned, over the past four decades, by his Highness the Aga Khan in the United Kingdom, Canada, Portugal, United Arab Emirates and Tajikistan. Before forming FMA, Farshid Moussavi co-founded Foreign Office Architects (FOA) where she co-authored the design of many award-winning projects including the Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan, the Meydan retail complex in Istanbul, and the Carabanchel social housing complex in Madrid. Having lectured extensively on architecture worldwide, Farshid Moussavi has been a Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 2006. Farshid Moussavi and her colleagues at FMA have extensive experience of projects with diverse functions for both the public and private sector, and of working internationally. They are also engaged in critical research through FMA’s research arm, FunctionLab, and the publication of “The Function of…” series of books on architectural theory. As a result, FMA has a wealth of knowledge and perspectives of urban and architectural problems, and the agility required to work within different cultures.
Three main principles guide FMA’s work:
FMA believes that since the relationships between each building function and individuals are articulated through the actuality of built forms or their physical presence, the agency of architects lies in how they assemble the physical elements of that built form so as to reframe the conventional relations between individuals and that function, to inspire them to engage with it in new ways.
Architecture is a material practice, not a matter-practice. Architectural materials include the non-physical and physical attributes that define the built environment: politics, climate, time, construction technologies and economics as well as wood, glass and steel. FMA treats these materials as extrinsic and intrinsic parameters that generate the assembly of each of its built forms, avoiding form for the sake of form alone.
FMA regards architecture as an integral part of everyday life and an active agent in shaping culture. The dynamic nature of culture requires that buildings have an in-built sense of order, a consistency against which we can test our experience. FMA’s work generates these internal orders in built forms by each time assembling them in such a way as to construct a unique transversal organization across the complex array of relevant materials. Each FMA project accordingly has a singular physical presence with a new sense of order relative to the multifarious materials that relate to it and it shapes people’s experience of everyday life in unique ways.
FunctionLab, FMA’s research arm, aims to critically examine the discipline of design, its tools and concepts on an ongoing basis to ensure they remain relevant within the constantly changing built environment. FunctionLab’s research projects are developed in tandem with FMA’s building commissions in order to create a feedback loop between practical questions raised in practice and research carried out in a projective manner. FunctionLab projects carried out alongside the ongoing FMA practice include research into the potential for a new approach to ornament in blank retail typologies, the potential to reinvent different structural systems by using digital design tools and fabrication techniques, and alternatives to the ‘white cube’ gallery in contemporary art museums to cater for increasingly diverse contemporary art forms. In addition to architecture-specific research projects, FunctionLab acts as a platform for FMA to engage in direct and indirect collaborative projects with experts from other fields on topical issues. These collaborations take different forms including regular in-house seminars, short pamphlets and longer term publications disseminated via its online platform.