People

Danny Forster
Danny Forster

Architect. TV host. Producer. Director. Speaker. Professor. Danny Forster is all these things, and through them all he has become a global advocate for architecture. The field of architecture may not appear to need much help: buildings surround us. But that very ubiquity has made it almost invisible; we move in and around buildings but barely notice them. Through his persistent and passionate advocacy, Danny gets people to notice, understand, and value the built environment.

This quest began when Danny was hired, while still pursuing his master’s in architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, to host a television show about impressive feats of construction and engineering. The show would become Build It Bigger, one of Discovery Channel’s most popular series, and run for nine seasons, during which Danny traveled to more than fifty countries, exploring everything from record-breaking skyscrapers to cutting-edge sports stadiums, from airports to tunnels to impossibly long bridges. Besides offering a matchless education for an aspiring architect, Build It Bigger taught Danny how to talk about architecture so an audience wouldn’t just understand how and why a building was designed a certain way, it would care. The key was inviting them inside the process–not just saying what’s important, but showing them in concrete and engaging ways.


In 2010, Danny conceived and co-produced with Steven Spielberg a six-part documentary on the aftermath of 9/11: Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero. The Emmy-award-winning series brought viewers behind the scenes of the massive building project and helped them wrestle with its historic and emotional significance. As a New Yorker, Danny was grateful to be able to respond to the seismic event he and his city had experienced. And he was honored that his firm, Danny Forster & Architecture, was chosen to design a tower adjacent to the World Trade Center campus.

In approaching that project, Danny brought with him the ambition and sense of unlimited possibility created by years of exploring the most incredible architecture on earth. His frame of reference was simple: greatness at the global level. To him, that’s what architecture was, and is.

If your frame of reference is that wide, even building codes and zoning laws seem more like challenges than like limits. His only inflexible rule is to build something that both meets and transcends its program, contributing to the life of its city and to the discipline of architecture.

The resulting, award-winning tower catapulted him and his firm into an era of high-octane productivity that saw Danny designing towers at Hudson Yards and Columbus Circle in New York, master plans in Charlotte and Dallas, a five-star resort on the island of Nevis, and the tallest modular hotel in the world. He brings to each project that original sense of limitlessness–as well as with the energy, intensity, and engagement that viewers responded to in his Build It Bigger days. The man hanging off the side of a skyscraper in Kuwait, gesticulating about the wonders of architecture, is the man clients encounter in conference rooms and on construction sites, working with them to make their buildings better than they thought possible.

Danny also continues to find ways to promote architectural literacy–to teach people how to read a building, not just look at it. He teaches graduate architecture courses at Harvard and Syracuse, as well, and he is happy to keynote professional conferences, but he is particularly driven to speak on behalf of his profession rather than to it. He speaks all over the world, from the TED stage to the fourth-grade classroom, and produces and hosts TV projects about architecture and culture. How China Works I & II dive deep into the Chinese building boom and subsequent social upheaval; Prefab Nation explores the growing modular building trend; PBS’s Revolutions investigates inventions that transformed worlds.

Sometimes that involves disrupting the traditional way of doing business. In several of its more recent projects, DF&A has embraced modular construction as a way to merge deep functionality with beauty and import. The firm’s modular tower in Manhattan is a perfect example of why this underutilized building technique should command the respect of the industry and the public. Since investigating post-Katrina houses a decade ago, Danny has been a committed proponent for modular construction; as an advocate he hopes to get people to discard their preconceived notions of pre-fab and see the potential of modular. But as an architect, he’s aware that, ultimately, it’s his buildings that will do the talking.

 


 

For inquiries regarding film and television work, please contact Danny’s agent at William Morris Endeavor, Jim Ornstein: JOrnstein@WMEentertainment.com.

For domestic speaking engagements, contact Julie Leventhal: JLeventhal@wmeentertainment.com.

For international speaking engagements, contact Hugo Chittenden at The London Speaker Bureau: hugo@londonspeakerbureau.com.

To purchase Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero, click here. To purchase episodes on iTunes, click here.

To watch selected episodes of Build It Bigger, click here. To purchase episodes on Amazon, click here. To purchase episodes on iTunes, click here.

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Jason Buchheit
Jason Buchheit

Jason has a soft spot for industrial design, the process of fabrication and systemization; as a student he almost went the route of naval architecture. He specializes in modular building, which pushes traditional architectural design into the world of the factory.


“Modular is inherently design-build. Everything is so tightly integrated that you have to work with builders or it doesn’t work.”

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Lauren Chapman
Lauren Chapman

Lauren believes she’s exactly 50% artist and 50% logician. In her work for DF&A she solves puzzles: designing a building beset with budget and zoning restrictions; meeting the needs of a building’s program in an ecologically sensitive way; creating buildings that are both beautifully woven into the fabric of their urban surroundings and “quietly spectacular.” 


Lauren has a great respect for the non-iconic New York building: “Fabric buildings,” she says, “are what the city is made of.”

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Jennifer Mckenzie
Jennifer Mckenzie

As an interior designer, Jennifer creates rich, immersive spaces. For her, interior design and brand identity both involve evoking a strong and specific emotion in people. She finds it particularly rewarding to create the emotionally heightened spaces of hotels, whose patrons are actively seeking a transportive moment.


“Travel is a departure from everyday life,” says Jennifer, “so a great guest experience includes an element of escapism.”

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Jong Han
Jong Han

There are two different ways of designing a building, says Jong: big to little or little to big. He prefers the latter, starting with the small unit and extrapolating out to the larger building. The larger the better, in fact: Jong excels at skyscraper design. But whatever the architectural task or medium–drawing, model making, coding–Jong delivers.


With his experience working construction as well as doing construction budgeting and management, Jong has mastered every facet of the building process, and still relishes “How everything comes together in real life.”

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Sean Lee
Sean Lee

Sean has worked on every scale of project at DF&A, from apartment renovation to hotel tower to urban planning. In every case, he starts from the perspective of the individual. “How would it feel to be in that particular space?” Still, there are limits to the spatial imagination, which is why he likes to go on site and help fix whatever problems might arise in the building process.


That’s why his work as a construction administrator is a key part of his role at the firm. “If you look at drawings long enough, you think they are reality. But there are always going to be unforeseen conditions.”

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Anne-Sophie Letourneau-Hudon
Anne-Sophie Letourneau-Hudon

Anne-Sophie creates the environment that allows DF&A to thrive. That includes everything from billing and scheduling to sourcing materials and building databases to curating the studio gallery, The 203. It includes producing, shooting, and post-producing the films made by DF&A. 


It does not include routine. “I’m always willing to learn new things, and in a small firm, you do a bit of everything, you’re constantly doing something different.”

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Kate Cohen
Kate Cohen

Kate’s work with DF&A ranges from strategy–in which she uses her logical powers to shape the firm’s approach to a project–to translation–in which she turns into words a story the firm has “written” as sketches, CAD files, and renderings. But first she has to understand the story herself. 


“I can’t read a blueprint,” she laughs. “I have to be led through like a child.” Like a child, she asks a lot of questions, and that clarifies things both for her and the designers. When it makes sense to her, she can then describe it, explain it, promote it, and even name it–whatever the firm needs.

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Shuang Bi
Shuang Bi

Shuang chose a career in architecture partly because, with an engineer and builder as a father, she grew up visiting construction sites as a child. But she doesn’t take the field for granted. “Architecture is such a responsibility,” she says, citing the energy, space, and money to make a building–and the cost to society if you make a bad one. 


“If a consumer product is bad, no one buys it. If a book is bad, it kind of disappears. But if a building is bad, it stays.”

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Jackie Choi
Jackie Choi

Jackie believes her job description is simple: “To improve people’s lives.” As an interior designer with DF&A, she helps make the spatial and material decisions that will affect the lived experience of office workers, residents, museum-goers, hotel guests, and more. 


Since that experience begins with the architecture, Jackie sees herself as uniquely fortunate to be able “stack on top” of her interior design education a practical education in architectural design.

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Waverly Damato
Waverly Damato

Waverly did her early work in finance in the film industry; as DF&A’s Chief Financial Officer she continues to enjoy the challenges and rewards of guiding a creative organization. “My passion is helping a company I believe in realize its vision.”


Beyond the day-to-day money management, that means doing cost analyses, developing growth strategies, and, above all, planning. “My job is to think 12 steps down the road, so my colleagues can just think about the project in front of them.”

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