8 min read

Studio Anand Sheth x CANOA

Anand Sheth has a conversation about design, collaboration, and his Canoa collection.
Written by
Chelsea Flintoft
Published on
May 30, 2024

Studio Anand Sheth X CANOA

Meet Anand Sheth, founder, architect, poet, community activist and now curator. His studio’s holistic design practice approaches architecture and interiors with a strong conceptual, artful point of view from their studios locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

Anand Sheth creates a sense of discovery throughout the design process. From arts-driven hospitality spaces, gathering-focused residences, and localized workplace environments, his work is resourceful and inventive, reframing human perspective with a focus on change making. The result is a series of incidental interactions within each project that add energy to — and shift the dynamics of — our every day. 

Through his collection with CANOA, we explore the best of current American manufacturing. Bringing local artists, fabricators and makers from SF, LA and NYC to the forefront.

"Architecture has taught me to make environment works. But art has taught me how to make environments speak."

In Conversation with Anand Sheth

On San Francisco, LA and NYC

I moved to San Francisco because it was my dad's favorite city. He worked in San Francisco shortly after immigrating here from India in the 80s. And throughout my childhood, we visited as a family. I think the civil engineer in him really appreciates the crazy hillside development and the South Asian in him loves the community and the density. He and my mom chose to live in Los Angeles County to be more centered in their professional industries, but I chased the romance of San Francisco and moved there the summer after high school.

Growing up in Lawndale, which is in the South Bay of LA County was an immense privilege that came with a great challenge. Learning how to navigate a system that wasn't necessarily built for me, I witnessed some of my friends progressively move closer to the beach and others get pushed further into South LA. I noticed the highly-resourced communities outlawing density while the under-resourced communities filled and began to buckle. And then I moved to San Francisco. I've been immersed in San Francisco my entire adult life. Never really leaving for more than a month. Until recently, to establish Los Angeles and New York City studios. 

My experiences in San Francisco are surrounded by philanthropic professionals and self-expressive artists. Who I think live in the Bay Area to do that hard work that's required to build identity and community. And so San Francisco is integral to my value system. It reminds me to prioritize what's important for everyone instead of what's best for a select few. 

Being here in Los Angeles provides me this opportunity to just sort of exist on the surface of the earth. Every touchpoint is not precious and protected. I feel like it's here for iteration and I'm noticing that there's space for growth, and space for mistakes and for a raw imperfect life.

And New York, which is coming up for me next. So far from my experiences there, feels like an outsiders paradise. And I'm curious to see how that lands, as I land.

On practice and focus

I love the word practice. I don't use it enough but it relates really well to an art practice. I think that's the connotation that it brings up for me. While I was studying at California College of the Arts, I explored a lot of other art practices. Alongside my architectural studies, things like filmmaking and painting, creative writing, garment construction. Throughout my work for other architects I strived to bring sort of interdisciplinary edge to our work. Sort of a deep inspiration that's not derived from architecture.

A few years ago, I took ceramics 10 years after graduating from art school and I started to shape this understanding of how my architecture practice could behave and perform more like an art practice. In that process of ceramics I felt like I was putting my hopes and a little bit of wisdom into the kiln. And the outcome was not an exact depiction of the intent but instead a result of the physical forces and the chemical reactions and just that sheer time and will and it reminded me that architecture and interior design has always felt like that to me. We make these lovely visuals to communicate the ideas and to record the process, but the outcome (the actual building or the space) I've always felt it is not really what I'm in charge of. I don't pay for these projects, I don't swing the hammers that build them. My role is to pressurize my knowledge and wisdom with the hope of various humans. I'm just here for that process. I wanted to make a practice for myself where I could nurture that process and it's really not an overly precious process. I feel like it can actually take quite a punch but it's small and it's kind of my way that I help humans navigate an ecosystem in order to reflect their personal values into their surroundings.

The purpose and focus of my studio comes from maybe a little sort of zoomed out philosophy where my studio treats every project as a hospitality project. And what that means is, instead of prioritizing singular moments, I pull focus toward the many touchpoints throughout a project, whether it be a commercial workplace, a residential building, a wellness space, or an actual hospitality oriented space, like a hotel, cafe, bar. My designs tend to the transitions between distinct spaces. So I focus on the opportunities to linger and pause or the ability to gather and to retreat.

It's the journey and the destination. Even if the destination is just for one person. My projects are not the types of projects or spaces where you walk in and take a photo, and the memory of it disappears faster than your Instagram story. That's because my clients are not those types of people, their values are not those types of values. The strategy is to focus on the depth of the human experience and the various incidental moments. Where design can shape an experience so that we can create works that inspire routine visits that change dynamically with the passing of time, that invites questioning and observation, and hopefully support human growth, and so I like practice because it reminds me of art practice.

"My designs tend to the transitions between distinct spaces. So I focus on the opportunities to linger and pause or the ability to gather and to retreat."

“Architecture has taught me to make environments work. But art teaches me sort of how to make them speak.

On major themes in his work

I feel like I'm in that sweet spot in my growth where my process doesn't have to be totally consistent in order to be effective. My practice instead gets to be extremely resourceful and strategic and tailor itself. I find this process begins day one with the establishment of a design intent. That intent references the circumstances of the project as much as the needs. And then my project teams kind of anchor around this intent, which I often interpret and document and add a productive context to our customers desires.

Today I feel that Studio Anand Sheth can be described with a few words. The first two are vulnerable and resilient. I find these words to be in balance with each other. The more resilient we are the more vulnerable we can be and the nature of my practice requires vulnerability. I believe that vulnerability is key to self-expression in design. I chose another word and I cheated because I chose a German compound word, it's Gesamtkunstwerk, meaning "A Total Work of Art".

I would describe it as the atmospheric practice of design. It positions a point of view virtually boundlessly throughout a space. Alvar Aalto used this word to describe his own practice. His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware. He's also made sculptures and paintings. And I read that he never regarded himself as an artist. He always saw painting and sculpture as branches of the tree whose trunk is architecture. And I aligned with this philosophy. And in a lot of ways, it's really been a similar theme of my early career but I also differ because I feel like a big effort in my work is to eliminate the hierarchy between architecture and other disciplines, I think it's a perceived hierarchy.

"I feel like a big effort in my work is to eliminate the hierarchy between architecture and other disciplines."

Four unique artistic prints in various colors show drawings, words, and photos that inspire Anand Sheth.

On Inspiration and aesthetic style

I'm inspired by the ways people communicate through making. Lately, I've committed to seeking this out at art fairs, all around the world, because I've been finding that participating and consuming contemporary art at that scale gives me a feeling of an immediate global pulse check. I think art at its best is very pure communication. And it inspires me to develop design that communicates in a raw and unfiltered way. I think it's the antidote to architecture that serves as a projection of power or symbol of wealth and I've been finding with my experience in different art forms and art practices that I'm learning how to see through that architectural facade, pun intended.

I have noticed an evolution in my aesthetic style, I would describe my current aesthetic style as moody, human emotions play a primary role in my aesthetic. I believe we pulled them from our personal values and we integrate them into our style. How a person feels, whether that be inviting intrigue, surprise, satisfaction. How that person feels is a driving force behind most of the aesthetic decisions in my work. I believe successful design is when you’ve made someone feel something that can’t be quantified. 

On collaborations

I see all of my work as collaborative. My first collaboration is with the client. We dive deep into the forces and the intents that are going to feed the work. Then I collaborate with other designers, speculating on custom furniture, lighting, landscape, artworks. That will eventually anchor the design intents within the architecture. Next, I collaborate with our city agencies, landowners, community groups, that become stakeholders and offer their insights. So, our totally unique expression of self fits neatly into their vision, for the built future. And then I collaborate with contractors, builders, fabricators that inevitably see this vision through their own creative lens.

I've been finding that a surge of chaos and friction ignites each project’s implementation and I get to in a way be in the director's chair, while all of this choreography takes place.

"I've been finding that a surge of chaos and friction ignites each project's implementation and I get to in a way be in the directors chair, while all of this choreography takes place."

On Studio Anand X CANOA 

The inspiration for my CANOA collection is growth. While I grow and CANOA grows, we've chosen to partner on this collection that centers around growing designers and fabricators. I chose to design three independent studios for my own practice in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.  I love working and designing in post industrial buildings that have maintained the character of their former use while serving the needs of modern growing small businesses. I drafted three quirky suites in San Francisco's American Industrial Center,  Los Angeles's Row DTLA and New York's Brooklyn Navy Yard.

My collection for CANOA creates a lush and storied creative workplace setting for the growing nimble hospitality oriented design firm. That spreads across three locales in each city. A selection of furnishings were chosen to represent the location through unique craft and design ideas. All the studio spaces have dedicated workstations for designer and an assistant, a robust materials library, a lounge space and a meeting space. 

I want people to feel intrigued by this collection. The specifications invite questioning and encourage observation. There's an intentional organization and grid of storage that anchors each space and harkens to the utilitarian past of each building with prominent softness where we lounge, anchored by rugs, poofs and side tables that are meant to be moved around. Many of the furniture brands I chose, represent the amazing manufacturing that's happening in America today. Inclusive of some brands that are chosen based on location. I strive to prioritize fabricators that share locales with my three studios. 

About Studio Anand Sheth 

Studio Anand Sheth is a holistic design practice that approaches architecture and interiors with a strong conceptual, artful point of view from their studios in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

Anand's clients rely on his cohesive and highly communicative design process. Beginning with gorgeous hand sketches, architectural drawings, and diagrammatic design representations, his early conceptual phase establishes the design intent and works to fuel the entire project. Quick distillment, interpretation of clear aesthetic visions, and articulation of his clients' values allow the key narratives to be expressed in each space.

Before opening his firm in February 2021, Anand led a decade’s worth of notable design projects at the award-winning San Francisco-based Studio BBA, including The Jesse Hotel in Reno, The Manufactory in LA, multiple Sightglass cafés in San Francisco, and a series of creative offices. Throughout his career, Anand has strived to balance architecture with service, having served as the Design Lead for GROUND – the non-profit urban platform for activating formerly vacant lots and buildings to restore Black use, an artist-in-residence with Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, and a mentor through CCA and NOMA’s Project Pipeline. 

Anand is a licensed architect in California (2017) and obtained his Bachelor of Architecture with Distinction from California College of the Arts (2011). Anand's designs have been featured in Architectural Digest, San Francisco Chronicle, DesignLA, Metropolis, Interior Design Magazine, Domino, California Home & Design, SoCal Design Magazine and Dwell.

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