“We create work that is accessible to a greater audience and brings delight to the everyday,” says Design, Bitches Co-Founder, Catherine Johnson. Catherine and her Co-Founder, Rebecca Rudolph, founded the practice in 2010 with a “bold and irreverent vision to make architecture significant in daily life.” In the years since, they have found themselves operating in creative and physical intersections: between architecture and design, between spatial and graphic design, between the built and natural environments.
The two registered architects first met as colleagues at Bestor Architecture before going into practice for themselves. Their Los Angeles-based studio of 8 is now operating locally, nationally and internationally. Together, Catherine and Rebecca are working to transform a collage of influences into architecture which is beautiful, welcoming and layered with meaning. “We are looking for joy,” Catherine says. “On our best days, our work, the creative process and problem-solving all bring us joy. In our best work, we extend that feeling of surprise and joy to those who inhabit the spaces we create. We all have challenging and uninspiring days, especially over the last few years. If we can create more opportunities to find joy in everyday life, why wouldn’t we?”
Design, Bitches was borne of Catherine and Rebecca’s relentless determination to learn and test as many ideas as possible in the built environment, Catherine says, despite early project restraints which required creative and resourceful project implementation. “When we first started, we had collected ideas that we had not yet been able to test. We were information sponges and all project types were new. Now that we have been working collectively for over a decade, we have learned invaluable lessons in both design and in running a small practice.” The determination of those early years continues to fuel their search for new solutions, Catherine says, and their ongoing curiosity has attracted a talented and inspiring team who push the practice in its ongoing quest for innovative applications, solutions and materials.
The result is a practice which embraces experimentation with an adaptive approach to design. “Originally, this experimental approach was innovation borne out of necessity mixed with our intensely varied outside interests. Proportion and the relationship between parts of a design are essential to making the end result feel cohesive and engaging. We apply this idea at all scales, from the tiniest of details to the largest move on a more complex site. Allowing the design to push and pull within itself – and outside itself to the community and the natural world – is essential to creating exciting work.”
The Design, Bitches portfolio spans brand identity and commercial spaces, ground-up residential and cultural buildings on a range of scales. Last year, one of their ground-up residential projects, B+B House, was added to their growing list of award-winners. “We were thrilled to be awarded with an AIA LA Residential Design Award for B+B House. Creating this home with the owners was one of the most impactful creative collaborations of our working life to date. This creative collaboration extends way beyond this one place or architecture alone, and we’re excited by what we may all create together in years to come.”
As native Californians, Catherine and Rebecca both spent most of their childhoods outside. Catherine describes the pair as “observant and imaginative children. Whether we were at the beach, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, or anywhere in-between, nature was always our inspiration. I have always had an odd ability to visualize the spatial layouts of places I visited, even as a child. I loved a good rope swing, especially when hung from a very tall tree. That momentary feeling where you catch air and are weightless before gravity yanks you back to earth – it’s simply the best.”
Within the practice, Catherine describes Rebecca as the risk-taker who challenges her to take innovative leaps, instead of steps. Catherine’s role is as the big-picture thinker with a passion for design and culture. Both of the Co-Founders emphatically agree that an architectural career path was not a fait accompli for them. “Neither of us ever really thought about becoming architects when we were younger,” Catherine says., “because we’d never met one. I was always moving and drawn to dance and music, but I loved making things. Architecture seemed to be a place where imagination is rooted in utility, which I found intriguing. The same holds true for Rebecca, who first studied philosophy before she found herself looking towards architecture and design.”
What they thrive on as business and creative partners, Catherine says, is connection. “We are passionate about how architecture fosters connection: between human beings, to the natural world and within communities.” Looking ahead, Catherine and Rebecca are exploring how they can apply their thinking to larger-scale projects of varying types. “We’re thinking about how smaller installations within an urban environment can create a larger positive impact across a cityscape, how we can be more resourceful and produce less waste in our profession, and how we can solidify our connection to the natural world. There’s so much on the horizon for us.”
To learn more about Design, Bitches and connect with Catherine and Rebecca, visit https://designbitches.com/ and follow them on Instagram.