Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.
In this installment, we're talking with Makoto Mizutani and Benjamin Luddy, founders of LA-based product design studio Scout Regalia.
Are you an architect working out of the box? Do you know of someone that has changed careers and has an interesting story to share? If you would like to suggest an (ex-)architect, please send us a message.
Archinect: Where did you study architecture?
Ben: We both went to SCI-Arc for our graduate degrees in Architecture. I completed the 2 1/2 year graduate program in 2006. I also have an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Buffalo. When I was at Buffalo, I studied abroad at the Aarhus Academy of Architecture in Denmark.
Makoto: I finished the 3 1/2 year graduate program at SCI-Arc in 2005. While at SCI-Arc, I studied abroad in Japan at Kyoto Seika University. I also have a BA in political science from UCLA.
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?
Ben: My father is a master carpenter, so I think I was always influenced to build and make things. I grew up helping him with projects ranging from large scale remodels to custom furniture. When I was about 18, I realized I wanted to do something creative but also knew that I needed to make a living. Architecture was a natural choice.
Makoto: Up until the middle of my undergraduate studies, I was thinking about a career in the CIA as an intelligence officer. After a couple rounds of interviews, I realized that I wasn’t ready to commit to something so serious. I started traveling more and getting interested in buildings and the history of architecture. At some point, I realized I was a lot more interested in architecture and design than in international politics.
Describe your current profession.
We have our own design firm, Scout Regalia, which primarily focuses on products, furniture, and interior architecture. A lot of our products are inspired by our own personal needs.
Our first product was the SR Raised Garden Kit, which we designed as a response to looking for a raised bed garden system for our yard and not finding anything we liked. The brackets emphasize the corner detail, which is something that is definitely influenced by our architectural backgrounds.
Our next product was the SR Outdoor Table Set, which was again influenced by our own interest in a picnic style table and bench that could be both timeless and unique. The table sets are custom made to order in a choice of 210 powder coating options, which allows our customers to really make it their own.
We work with local fabricators here in Los Angeles for all of our furniture and products. Working with fabricators, we know and trust that supporting local businesses is a really important part of what we do. There are a lot of great resources for manufacturing here in Los Angeles. One of the benefits of working locally is that you can drop by the facility to address any issues or concerns on an as-needed-basis. It’s incredibly helpful to have that type of real time access to your manufacturing process.
Our most ambitious product to date is our Scout Regalia Bicycle, which is our vision for an American-made, American-inspired bicycle that combines performance with style, and design with craftsmanship. Each bicycle is hand built by David Wilson of Firth and Wilson Transport Cycles out of Philadelphia. The Scout Regalia Bicycle takes its cues from three distinct bicycle typologies: a mixte bike, an English-Dutch town bike, and a mountain bike. The rear rack is integrated into the frame and the front rack is attached to the frame and not the fork, so whatever you carry on the front rack stays straight even while you're turning.
What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?
We both worked at various architecture and design offices before we started Scout Regalia. Ben worked at Roman and Williams and Space International, and Makoto worked at M1/DTW and Local Studios. We learned a lot about design, interiors, building, and business from working at these firms.
Our architectural education taught us the skills to solve design problems, but it didn’t really prepare us for how to run a small business. We’ve definitely learned as we’ve grown. You have to be prepared to wear a lot of different hats and not be afraid to put yourself or your product out there.
Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?
Yes and no. Neither of us are interested in getting licensed at this point, but we still love designing spaces and interiors. Our favorite projects are when we can integrate product design and spatial design, like we did for the New Belgium Ranger Station in Snowmass, Colorado. We were the design architects for the bar/restaurant space, which was inspired by national parks, ranger stations, trailheads, and A-Frame structures. We also designed all of the furnishings including the SR Ranger Stools and the SR Matchstick tables.
Scout Regalia's website: scoutregalia.com