Design Dialogues

At SCADstyle 2023, a Melding of Minds on Sustainable Urban Futures

INC Architecture & Design and Supernature Labs joined Surface for Design Dialogues No.58 to discuss how cities can make strides toward ecological harmony.

Drew Stuart, Adam Rolston, Dror Benshetrit, and Jenna Adrian-Diaz at SCADstyle. Credit: Courtesy of SCAD.

“When we’re talking about how to accomplish things, and actually getting to the point that we’re able to manifest them in the real world, we have to understand that if we’re not starting by dreaming as high as we can, then who will?” It was an apt question asked by Supernature Labs’ Dror Benshetrit this past spring, as part of Surface magazine and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) co-hosted Design Dialogue No.58. Every year, the streets of downtown Savannah and Atlanta transform into a dynamic stage for SCADstyle, a platform where creativity finds its voice through the titans of industry who connect with students to discuss the hottest topics in fashion, beauty, art criticism, architecture, and more.

This year’s roster of talent was as influential as ever with headliners like LVMH Prize finalist Raùl Lopez and Tom Ford Beauty’s Dexter King. Surface enriched the programming by bringing together INC Architecture & Design’s esteemed principals Drew Stuart and Adam Rolston, and Dror Benshetrit, the innovative founder of Supernature Labs. Together, with Surface editor Jenna Adrian-Diaz moderating, they dissected the future of architecture and urban planning against the backdrop of escalating climate concerns and the urgent need for nature conservation.  

Rolston and Stuart of INC are renowned for their people- and planet-centric approach to architectural projects, leaving their mark on established cities like New York, Raleigh, and Aspen. In contrast, Benshetrit works with emerging cities to stop urban sprawl before it begins and through Supercells—cellular-inspired building standards that preserve greenspace, minimize roads, and build community. At SCAD Museum of Art, hundreds of students from the university’s top ranked programs including architecture, interior design, design for sustainability, creative business leadership, and more turned out to watch watch Rolston, Stuart, and Benshetrit grapple with the challenging balance between nature and infrastructure.

“The built environment requires an enormous amount of expertise in an enormous amount of fields. Every problem has a solution if you’re talking to the right people, and you’re setting up the right environment for positive interactions, and positive outcomes,” Benshetrit said of Supernature Labs’ cross-disciplinary approach—also an apt description of how, together, INC and Supernature working to solve the same problem. “Relying on expertise, relying on people that are positive thinkers to help us resolve each issue, that’s the answer.”

Drew Stuart, Adam Rolston, and Dror Benshetrit. Credit: Courtesy of SCAD.

Put another way by Stuart, “If you elect lawyers to go into office, you get more laws; but if we can get more people of the built environment going into the legislative world, we’re gonna get better building codes,” he said, following Stuart’s recollection of perhaps the studio’s biggest success in sustainable building. 

The firm’s acclaimed 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is not just a beacon of eco-forward hospitality design, but a blueprint for sustainable development. This project benefits the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre oasis for migratory birds. A rainwater collection cistern crowns the hotel, supplying water for the park’s upkeep, while room taxes directly fund the park’s operations.

As the enlightening conversation neared its end, Rolston imparted a piece of wisdom for students pondering their role in this pivotal movement:  “Vote, because it starts at the top, it’s about leadership.  Evolution is going to come through studios like ours pushing against legislators or individual clients to get the kinds of things done that will help.”

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