Growing up in Chennai, India, Suchi Reddy could not escape the uniqueness of her house. As one of the few houses back then that had been design by an architect, the house was built in a Japanese style with a central courtyard surrounded by gardens on four sides. “It was a protagonist in my life,” she says. “It taught me that the way you feel in a space actually changes you,” a lesson that would be the beginning of her vested interest in neuroaesthetics, the idea that visual aesthetics can impact bodies and minds.
However, if the house was the main character, her mother was the storyteller. “There were all these textures that I was fascinated by that she came up with,” Reddy says. Together, they cultivated her design motto that’s been honed at Reddymade, the New York-based architecture and design practice she founded, since 2002: form follows feeling.
Vernacular Takes Shape
It was when Reddy moved to the U.S. at age 18, that this design philosophy finally crystallized. Moving from Michigan (where she earned her degree in Architecture) to Alabama to West Virginia and finally Florida unveiled a specific truth to her. America is by no means a homogenous country.
“Every place has its vernacular, it’s locality. As an architect, you have to understand the spirit of the place in order to do work that’s relevant. It’s why I’m against a global style of architecture where you take something that works in one country and plunk it in the other.”
From there, every one of her projects came to embody the concept, marrying modern design with the neuroaesthetic approach.
“The same parts of your brain that teach you to think about the future are the same ones that are manipulated by your experience of space,” she explains. “The better your space is, the better you are going to be. When you think about that and you extend that over the entire world, it’s a huge responsibility to make sure we’re designing great spaces for everyone.”
Form Follows Feeling
In working for Google’s first retail store in New York, Reddy wanted the space to be as humanizing as Google’s products. “That’s what the architecture had to do. It couldn’t be anything else,” she says.
What she created was a design that inspires wonder and exploration. Take the entrance, where tubes of extruded glass suspended between the floor and ceiling form what’s called the Imagination Space. The store also features a slew of sustainable materials that helped the project achieve a LEED Platinum status, including flooring made from 100 percent recycled factory waste, acoustic panels crafted with a felt finish from 100 percent PET Plastic, and cork furniture.
In her next project, however, Reddy is pushing the principles of neuroaesthetics even further. Collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on “me + you,” Reddy has created an interactive two-story installation set to debut in November at the Smithsonian as the centerpiece of FUTURES, a building-wide exploration of the future.
Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, guests speak a word about the future into the sculpture, and using algorithms, the vibration of “your voice, your pitch, your emotion” it is then translated into a pattern of light that is woven together to give people their own emotional imprint, as Reddy describes it.
“It’s constantly changing, but it’s also telling us about our individual agency and our collective responsibility,” she says. “I want people to be self-aware when they talk about the future.”
Reddy is as cerebral as she is empathetic—a juxtaposition that has helped her find balance in her work. “I love sitting with a project and really plugging in all of the influences,” she says. “[The idea] expresses itself in whatever way it should. I’m just a channel.
Another version of this article originally appeared on Hospitality Design.