Designer Profile: AAmp Studio

Designer Profile: AAmp Studio

AAmp is a BIPOC-led architecture and design studio committed to creating beautiful, informed and transformative experiences. Focusing on design at multiple scales, ranging from commercial, cultural & residential architecture, to branding and graphic identity, AAmp was co-founded and run by designers Anne-Marie Armstrong and Andrew Ashey.

We recently had the pleasure of providing a customised wallpaper design to AAmp Studio (Toronto), so we took the opportunity to speak to co-founder Andrew Ashey about design, inspiration and the Death & Co project.

(Main photo - Dale Wilcox)

Anne-Marie Armstrong and Andrew Ashey

How long have you been in business?
Seven years.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
While our aesthetic naturally falls on the minimal side, it certainly varies. In the end we strive to create simple, elegant and intelligent solutions to complex problems through a collaborative design process. 

Can you describe your design development process?
We consider our clients to be just as much a part of the design team as we are but see ourselves as a tool for them to actualize their vision and goals, to execute it and see it through. We believe in a democratic approach to design and while the Discovery process is a large part of that, it extends beyond to all phases design.

Each client is different, of course, and wants varying levels of involvement, so after the Discovery phase we offer them many opportunities to bring their voice and vision to the table, through construction.  At the end of the day, it's the client’s space - they’ll be living or operating out of it, so we want to be sure it's right for them, not us. It's why each of our projects is unique from the next -- we listen to the client, advocate for the best spatial and aesthetic direction that meets their needs and help facilitate its process to completion.

Ell House - Ontario (Photo - Maxime Brouillet)

What inspires your ideas for each project?
Our clients’ personalities are a big source of inspiration, but most of our inspiration comes from daily observations in the spaces around us. We keep an ongoing log of observations on our website called AAnnotated where we periodically document peculiar or interesting discoveries that we feel have the potential to shift our common perspective or approach to an architecture problem, objective, or solution. These range from a public ping pong table in a Toronto park, a market in Brasilia, to a boatyard along the Maine coast -- design is everywhere, even in the seemingly mundane, we just have to find it.

Related to this, our commitment to teaching, research, writing and advocacy deeply informs the work of our practice as well. As a BIPOC and LGBTQ+ studio, AAmp believes strongly in equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession. Anne-Marie is a founding member of BAIDA (Black Architects and Interior Designers Association), a non-profit organization which focuses on creating opportunities for other minorities within the field. We also engage with the LGBTQ community when possible. For example, last year, we contributed to the Toronto Society of Architects’ call for Virtual Pride Float submissions to celebrate the LGBTQ community through June, in lieu of in-person festivities due to Covid-19. We also submitted a response to the Canadian LGBTQ+ National Monument earlier this year.   

What are the values or ethos that drive your work?
Passion, fun and commitment, attributed to a layered and democratic process.

Artkive - Los Angeles (Photo - Stacey Marengo)

The Ramble Hotel - Denver (Photo - Elliot Clarke)

Tell us about your vision for the Death & Co space?
AAmp was commissioned by Death & Company to design two subterranean bars in Los Angeles’ Arts District. This space is the third outpost of the cocktail group. The design includes two bars flanking a central service core. Each bar takes cues from Death & Co’s spaces in New York and Denver while incorporating playful and patterned elements that reflect Los Angeles. The intimate 30-seat bar at the entry provides a space for patrons to wait with a cocktail for a seat in the larger 80-seat bar beyond. 

Our vision was to create a series of spaces that felt intimate and unique, yet holistic – a space that felt enveloping, intimate, and almost transportive from the LA streets above.

Tell us about the pieces that you have chosen and/or created for the space?
A great challenge for this project was accommodating two bars and large back-of-house space into an existing subterranean space with several structural constraints. This required some clever design solutions and strategizing. For example, deep concrete beams and multiple columns offered a unique opportunity to carve out nooks in the space. Pullman booths are strategically tucked between large columns throughout the space, giving an opportunity for a layered sense of intimacy within the larger space, and duct runs are placed within the millwork to avoid beam conflicts.

The bathrooms provide a moment to bring out more of the rich colors peppered throughout the rest of the space, each one fully saturated in a single color to immerse the patron in its glow. Materials range from brass to natural stained oak and minimalist deco-style curves and details. The pale Calacatta Caldia marble bartop echoes those in NYC and Denver to help connect this new space back to other Death & Co locations.

Why did you select Sediment in a custom colour?
The main bar is kept mostly neutral with rich accent colors flanking both sides. For the Sediment zone we found the deep rusty red to be a beautiful accent through the arches at the end of the bar. Very immersive and comforting.

Death & Company - Los Angeles (Photos - Alex Day)

What are working on at the moment (that you can tell us about!)?
|We’re working on a few residential projects throughout Ontario, Maine and Los Angeles – both urban and rural – all at various phases of design or construction. We’re also developing a number of bars and restaurants in Philadelphia, Portland, ME and Providence, RI which are set to open in the Spring.

You are based in Toronto and Portland, where should we eat / drink / do when we visit?
So many great options! The list is deep, but in Portland some of our favorite spots are Terlingue, Wayside Tavern, Tandem Coffee, Hunt & Alpine Club, and Eventide. A ferry ride out to Portland’s Casco Bay Islands is a must, especially with a stop to Crown Jewel in the summer months!

In Toronto, we’re fans of Twenty Victoria, Lake Inez, The Comrade and Bar Isabel. Toronto has a wonderful ravine system that is a bit of a hidden secret to new visitors to the city. You can go on wonderful hikes or bike rides through a series of interconnected trails – it is particularly beautiful in the fall months with the leaves changing.