Tal Schori and Rustam Mehta met in third grade. From public school in 1988 they followed a similar but not identical path. Both studied history and worked in the arts before becoming designers and this has been important to their young firm, GRT Architects. Tal and Rus believe their best work comes from a process that makes time to read and write before putting pencil to paper. They have a feeling that truth may be more interesting than fiction, that a nuanced read of a city, building or material won’t fail to establish a unique approach to a project.
Since coming together in 2014, Tal and Rus have slowly grown their Brooklyn office to a staff of six, who engaged in an increasingly broad range of projects. Their work has expanded from an early focus on adapting historically unique buildings in New York City to include collaborations with artists and galleries, commercial and hospitality spaces across the US, product design, volunteer work and teaching.
GRT is presently renovating two of the oldest Greek Revival townhouses in Brooklyn. These side-by-side buildings are in a Landmarked district, notable for their brick-nogged-timber construction in lieu of more common masonry. This project brings together many of GRT’s strengths as it involves a historically informed renovation of the buildings’ exterior, a technically complex integration of insulation and systems to meet Passivhaus energy standards as well as high aesthetic ambitions. Tal and Rus are motivated by the challenge to have their intervention speak in a voice confidently its own but clearly in dialog with layers of visual, material, and technological history.
Each year GRT sets aside time for work that is self-initiated, collaborative or supports organizations with shared values. In past years GRT has supported artist Emily Spivack and voter registration efforts by contributing to the design of an installation in President Obama’s native Hawaii. Currently GRT is designing a public listening room and brewery in Bridgeport Connecticut that is part of that city’s effort to preserve and reuse its wealth of neglected historical buildings.
After work, Tal and Rus make and fix things by hand. As they develop their firm they look for opportunities to do so as architects. Many GRT projects feature detailed elements prototyped in-house which seek to extend the visual language of their architecture in the spirit of gesamstkunstwerk. Recent projects have included custom wall and table lamps making use of marble off-cuts, as well as custom brass hardware and furniture designs. In 2018 GRT collaborated with Kaza Concrete on Flutes and Reeds, a line of cast concrete tiles that reconsider these eponymous surface embellishments seen on classical columns. Tal and Rus teach a course at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Preservation and Planning on designing and casting tiles based on historical visual research.