freise brothers

Contributors: Adam + Nathan Freise

Creative Discipline: Design Visualization / Film

Location: NYC, New York


A t m o s p h e r e It is created through the processing of one’s own experiences. This then leads to the atmosphere that one perceives within a space. Nathan and Adam’s Freise’s work engages the viewer on a level that stirs the mind to ponder many items simultaneously.  Their work is deeply saturated with the relationship of  human and artifice, touching upon current issues that are latent with thought provoking imagery that seems to transcend time. Nathan and Adam Freise have displayed a very particular case on the vernacular of our time. Here is their interview with organicMobb.

“Vision reveals what the touch already knows. We could think of the sense of touch as the unconscious of vision. Our eyes stroke distant surfaces, contours and edges, and the unconscious tactile sensation determines the agreeableness or unpleasantness of the experience. The distant and the near are experienced with the same intensity, and they merge into one coherent experience.”

Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin

Fallen Silo (Play) 2009, mixed media, 24 x 24"


O M : Your montage work is composed of layers both analogue and digital. What advantages have the two of you found in working with this technique?

Fallen Silo, tower detail

Fallen Silo (Dwell) 2009, mixed media, 24 x 13.5" 

N. F r e i s e : For us, it almost always starts with a hand sketch.  I come from a tradition where hand-drawing is really respected and admired and feel it’s the best way to immediately exorcise an idea that before only existed in my head.  There’s definitely an obvious sort of tactile connection and physical process that comes through putting pencil to paper that you just can’t get through a plastic mouse.  However, at the same time, it’s important not to become too nostalgic with drawing, because then I think there comes a danger in rejecting digital technology altogether, which is absurd in this industry as design and technology are so interdependent.  The digital medium is seductive because it offers so much flexibility in terms of workflow.  Another attraction with CG is that it’s fairly easy to establish a tone of realism.  These days 3D software makes it pretty effortless for anybody with a laptop to pop up a quick model and have it textured, lit and looking relatively real in a few hours.  A degree of realism is always necessary in representation, but for us when it becomes photographically real it becomes boring.  Admittedly, photo-real renderings serve their purpose for clients in the professional world, but this is something we avoid when pursuing our own ideas. Architecture and design delineation has almost always relied on some sort of abstraction to better convey the intention and to inspire and speculate.  Even the plan and elevation, for example, are very abstract geometric representations that leave much to the imagination. A photo-real rendering allows no room for subjective interpretation.  With us, the mix of analog and digital affords us a freedom in establishing composition, mood and style, key elements in any type of imagery.  Both have advantages, so we prefer using both mediums when deemed necessary.  In our studio we have an I-pod and also a turntable, both get equal use.


O M : It seems that there is an acute sensitivity within your work to the human experience of an environment. What is your stance on the relationship of landscape and the built environment?


A. F r e i s e : I think it’s impossible to avoid the relationship between the landscape and the built environment.  In fact that’s almost always the problem designers face – How does a proposed idea work with what is already here?  Regardless of whether the existing condition is a fragile wetland, a contaminated brown-field, or an underground dystopia, the human experience is always what we’re interested in.  So naturally, our images tend to place the viewer directly into the context of whatever situation we’re trying to communicate.  We started off doing a lot of design competitions together and quickly realized that making images that form a narrative about how a certain idea could work was much more compelling than producing 1: 100 scale site-plans, wall sections, etc. of how an idea should work.  Our submissions read more like a storyboard than diagrammed concepts.  This much looser approach leaves more to the imagination and allows viewers to fill in their own blanks as opposed to forcing an all-or-nothing approach that specifies exactly how an idea should operate.  I won’t say that this approach wins competitions, but it has become the way we work.

We’re always interested in unique ways that our environment controls us. Architects seem to always be striving to represent their designs as objects or places that serve, comfort, & facilitate a pleasurable human experience. Unfortunately, we rarely find this to be true in the real world and thus are much more interested in exploring environments that overwhelm, stifle, or force a certain type of experience.  As Tschumi said, architecture can be designed to be unpleasant, to not work.  We chose to create the film, The Machine Stops, exactly for this reason- its about an environment that promises intellectual freedom but at the cost of direct physical experience & human interaction.  It’s amazing to think that E.M. Forster, the writer of the original short story, envisioned such a future in 1909.  The presence/absence of technology also plays an important role in our work. In most of our pieces, the human experience is driven by an extreme reliance on, or a total lack thereof any sort of automation. Scapegote, VRT, &  Cinematophote depict man interacting with his surroundings through some experimental form of  unachieved science, whereas Fallen Silo and Unseen Realities portray communities fabricated from existing material, as if the computer never existed.  In a time where technology has come a long way but promises to offer much more, it’s fun to imagine its extremes, a world completely devoid of technology and a world completely driven by it.


O M : How do the two of you locate your own work in the realm of architecture?

Unseen Realties

N.F r e i s e : That’s a bit of a tricky question, honestly.  We’ve created renderings and animations for architects, we’ve made illustrations for books, we’ve created short films that are in festivals, and we’ve created motion-graphics for the commercial world.  I feel we float somewhere between design representation, motion-design and film.  Hopefully it’s the ‘floating’ that brings something different to our work; I’ve always thought cross-pollinated work is interesting because it’s never straight-forward, but somewhat blurred.  Everything we create, from our illustrations to our short films is strongly influenced by, but not necessarily about architecture.  We almost always focus on creating narratives, themes of technology and man and his/her environment.


O M : I know that the two of you have worked under Jean Nouvel in Paris, has this influenced your approach to design?

Transient (The Nomads) 2007, mixed media, 17 x 11"

N. F r e i s e :  Well it was for a short stint, but it’s hard not to be influenced by such talented people.  What has always drawn me to Nouvel’s work is the consistent, yet never repetitive style.  Nouvel once compared architects to filmmakers, mentioning Kubrick and how regardless of what genre he tackled, his signature cinematic style is somehow evident yet never pre-determined, keeping his films immediately recognizable without being redundant.  And this is something we’ve been trying to achieve in our work.

A. F r e i s e : I became extremely influenced by Nouvel’s aesthetic.  His architecture, while very spatial, is not necessarily about pure volumes or the play of objects under light, but usually the opposite. He works with a visual language rooted in imagery, not form.  Notions of transparency, layering, speed, blur, light, the iconic, and cinema are harnessed and translated into spatial experiences.  This was an intriguing approach to design and was the start of a new way of working for me.


O M : What is next for the Freise Brothers?

Children's book concept art by Shiouwen Hong and Nathan Freise

N. F r e i s e :  Recently we seem to have a lot on our plate, which is a good thing.  We keep busy with various rendering jobs for different architecture studios and currently have a couple animations in the works for architects submitting to design competitions.  We’re always interested in working with other studios.  Also, in the past few months I’ve been working in collaboration on an illustrated children’s book.  The eclectic team includes Wes Rozen from Situ Studio, writer Frederica Stahl, and visual artist, Shiou-wen Hong.  Still very much in the works, the story revolves around a girl living near a wind farm who helps a boy give new life to an old oil-powered Ferris wheel.  The narrative unfolds to take the readers on a journey through industrial landscapes and promote an awareness of sustainable infrastructure.

In the commercial world, we’ve been working on another short logo animation proposal for the Tribeca Film Festival preshow here in New York.  We also have a couple more short film ideas story-boarded that we are currently pushing forward and searching for time and money to produce them.

Special thanks to   N a t h a n   and   A d a m  , check out more of their work here:


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