Family and PlayLab, two young Brooklyn-based design firms, share work as well as a design ethos. Their current collaboration, Plus Pool, is a floating x-shaped swimming pool designed to filter river water and create a safe, clean swimming arena on the Hudson. Worms, another joint project, was the winning entry in a competition for a street tent design to be used in New York’s Festival of Ideas last May. Both projects epitomize the individual firms’ shared desire to make publicly engaged design. “Our audience is the world,” said Archie Lee Coates, a partner at PlayLab.
Coates, Jeffrey Scott Franklin, and Dong-Ping Wong have known each other since 2007. Franklin and Wong cut their teeth at REX architects in New York, Wong freshly graduated from Columbia and Franklin from Virginia Tech, where both he and Coates studied. In 2008, at the peak of the economic downturn, Wong left REX, establishing Family to pursue his own architectural work with an ecological agenda. Meanwhile Coates had established PlayLab, initially as a platform for simply designing things he liked, such as record sleeves and art installations, and in 2009 Franklin left REX to join him.