Meet the Architect: Frederick Tang

In this edition of Meet the Architect, we get to know Fred Tang, founder and principal of Frederick Tang Architecture, a 10-person architecture and design practice based in Brooklyn’s Old American Can Factory. Fred established FTA in 2016 as a holistic practice, tying together architectural, interior, branding, and experience design.

The studio’s approach is nimble, applying an ethos of experimentation, curiosity, and collaboration to public and private projects—from gallery spaces, bookshops, and open-format offices to urban apartments and historic townhouses. Fred believes in expressing the stories of buildings and their inhabitants through an iterative and deeply collaborative design process.

Recently, this approach has taken form as a series of collaborations with artist Adam Pendleton, including the strategy and construction of Pendleton’s new large-scale installation spanning five stories at MoMA and the design for the artist’s new Brooklyn studio space. Other recent projects include the pop-inflected interior renovation of an 1899 brownstone in Prospect Heights, covered by Domino, and the gut renovation and addition of a townhouse in Boerum Hill, toured in Architectural Digest’s Clever.

Below, we take a look at these projects and more—and talk with Fred about the rituals and inspirations that drive him.

From the Studio

Photo courtesy Frederick Tang Architecture

Armature for “Adam Pendleton: Who is Queen?”: FTA is the architectural designer of the towering scaffolding that frames Pendleton’s MoMA exhibition, on view through January 30, 2022. The unique armature is the result of a 4.5-year collaboration between FTA and Pendleton’s studio. The New York Times previewed “Who is Queen?”

Prospect Heights Brownstone: Eight years after completing the architectural renovation of an 1899 brownstone in Prospect Heights, FTA returned to the home to redesign its interior, opening the space and giving form to the family’s bold, playful taste. Photos by Gieves Anderson.

Photo by Gieves Anderson

Boerum Hill Brownstone: FTA’s gut renovation and addition for actors Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne of a 2,700-sf brownstone in Boerum Hill converted a two-family structure into a one-family home complete with a new, light-filled addition. The project expanded and refined the historic interior with a bright palette, tactile surfaces, and smooth, curvaceous volumes.

Photo by Gieves Anderson

Mack Weldon Headquarters: The architectural renovation and interior design for Mack Weldon’s Manhattan headquarters was inspired by the brand’s collaborative, informal office culture. Meeting rooms, open common areas, and custom modular furniture shapeshift fluidly to accommodate a range of functions—from individual work sessions and large-scale meetings to casual group lunches and collection launches.

Talking with Fred

Portrait by Gieves Anderson

What led you to architecture?
I was the kind of kid who loved drawing, tracing, and studying floor plans. I never had a “eureka” moment of deciding to be an architect—I just had a feeling of being propelled towards it. I remember talking to an architect at a young age who said, “You should only become an architect if there is absolutely nothing else you can imagine doing.” I thought, “Well, okay…that’s me!”

Do you have a daily ritual?
My office is a 7-minute walk from my home. I love it—it clears my mind, and I start forming my to-do list. I’ve gotten into the habit of using my phone to record voice memos while walking. The simple process of recording that list makes me feel more relaxed…like the tasks are half done.

What de-stresses you these days?
Magazines. One of my favorite aspects of traveling was buying a giant pile of magazines at the airport. We’re obviously not traveling right now, but I still love to flip through as many as I can get my hands on—design, fashion, cooking, news, celebrity tabloids, etc. There’s a rhythm to it that feels meditative.

Who’s been inspiring you lately?
My students. The last couple of years, I’ve taught a design survey for first-year students in the Barnard and Columbia College Architecture Department. It’s not a studio, per se, but there are always a couple of creative workshop projects. The students’ enthusiasm and outside-of-the-box ideas are inspiring and contagious.

Tell us about a project you’re excited about right now.
We’re really excited to start renovations on a large property in Gallatin, New York with sweeping views to Stissing Mountain. For a long time, our work was heavily NYC focused on historic brownstone renovations and apartment combinations. It’s fun to be working outside of the city on free-standing homes with landscapes. We’ve been trying to develop a more extensive portfolio in the Hudson Valley.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
After the kids are asleep…an evening whiskey. I like all of those Japanese whiskeys but lately I’ve loved Kavalan, a relatively new brand of single malt from Taiwan.