DesignIntelligence discusses the circular economy in interior design with Federico Negro, founder of Canoa.
An Interview with Federico Negro, Founder, Canoa Supply PBC
DesignIntelligence (DI): What’s so radically different about what you’re doing?
Federico Negro (FN): It starts with the idea that when you’re doing one building that’s a one-off, that’s called project delivery. But when you have to do several hundred, that’s called a supply chain. It’s as simple as that. Instead of analyzing where things come from and how they get there, working at scale is a fundamentally different framing of the problem of building and operating than most people get exposed to. It’s super fun, something I like to nerd out about. Other people may not find it as interesting.
DI: But more will need to. That’s an industry problem that may never be fixed. The lion’s share of architects may still want to just cobble away on one-off things, because that’s what they got into this business for. But more people may need to go down the road you’re on. I had a good chat with Craig Curtis from Katerra. He talked about platform and scale. I had the mistaken impression they were trying to be as big as possible through acquisitions. He said, “No, we’re just trying to have a platform, and to scale. We don’t want to do all the work ourselves, there’s a place for partners and other people.” My preconception was wrong. But the supply chain and scale notions you’re talking about are at the core of it.
Your career has been eventful. You were traditionally educated as an architect and designer. You formed a groundbreaking firm in Case, and then you became part of the unbelievable growth at WeWork. Now, you’ve pivoted yet again to do a very different thing around supply chain. Tell us about that evolution.
FN: I got into architecture because I love the space. I love design and buildings. I can’t get enough of it. After grad school I worked for an architecture firm. I did my share of design, project management and construction administration. I was on the path to licensure. Then, the 2008 recession came. With a couple friends, we spun-off and started a company called Case. At that time, there was very little investment from a tech perspective. No venture capital money. Real estate technology (‘re-tech’) funding didn’t exist.
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