02/22/19 Generation NEXT Alumni Spotlight: Brett Woods and Joseph Dangaran
In anticipation of our third annual Generation NEXT, celebrating the broad range of independent design work produced by recent alumni of the USC School of Architecture, we decided to chat with past participants and principals of Woods + Dangaran, Brett Woods (B.Arch, ‘06) and Joseph Dangaran (B.Arch, ‘06).
Woods and Dangaran met at USC and were members of the same tight-knit class before graduating together in 2006. After graduation, Dangaran began working at Marmol Radziner, while Woods went out of the country to join a large commercial firm working on the Olympics in China. During this period, the two remained long-distance friends until finally meeting up at a barbecue while both in LA. Over beers, they developed a theoretical project together involving the development of a property in the Hollywood Hills. Their friendship evolved into a business partnership, “with a beer and a barbecue,” as Dangaran put it.
The approach of architectural firm Woods + Dangaran is geared towards simplicity, with a style rooted in mid-century modern aesthetics. They describe their work as modern, controlled, and timeless, attributing their stylistic choices in large part to their location. “It’s difficult not to reflect the history of LA,” said Woods of living and working in one of the birthplaces of mid-century modernism. He emphasized that though they do not necessarily design mid-century homes, the two are philosophically aligned with mid-century values and philosophies -- a shared focus that helped align them in their partnership.
In addition to their location, they credit their education at USC, as members of the last class under Dean Timme, with their modernist approach. “Being one of the last classes in a modernist program allowed for us to really appreciate midcentury modernism, maybe more than others would,” said Woods. “We were one of the very last classes to do ink on mylar presentational drawings...it influences us today in the way we approach our design process. We are very sketch-oriented and floor plan-oriented.”
They also attribute the success of their partnership to their shared education and, consequently, their shared philosophies and creative alignment. Though they admit they are very different people personality-wise, they want the same things architecturally, and their shared experiences have allowed the pair to form a more fluid partnership. Their friendship has also been fundamental to the development of their firm. They have known each other for 17 years now. “Unfortunately,” Dangaran jestingly added. “Obviously, the friendship definitely helps with the partnership, knowing someone so well, understanding how your talents can complement each other,” said Woods.
When asked what advice they had for students pursuing independent design work after graduation, Dangaran said, “Go work for someone else.” “That’s a great point,” Woods chimed in. The two agree that an effective strategy is to work for another firm and then reflect upon the experience, picking and choosing which ideas are favorable and which can be done differently. This process helped shape the way they started their own practice. “We needed those experiences to have that conversation,” said Woods.