Rafael de Cárdenas got his start in painting and fashion, but eventually turned his attentions to the built environment. In 2006, he launched his own NYC-based firm, Architecture at Large. Here’s an OHWOW pop-up in a Cappellini showroom.

Another shot of the OHWOW pop-up.

Another collaboration with OHWOW, this time at the Standard Hotel gift shop in Miami.

A close-up of the bright and beachy-hued space.

Niko restaurant in New York’s Soho.


A luxe show house for AD Interieurs in Paris back in September.

Black faux-marble lines the walls at the temporary exhibition.

Steps to nowhere at an OHWOW pop-up in Athens.

A bit trippy at the OHWOW pop-up.

The Unknown Union boutique in historic Cape Town.


OHWOW Gallery in Miami, inspired by the eye-scrambling World War II dazzle ships.

Geometric shelving web at OHWOW’s Miami gallery.

Nike Bowery Stadium in New York.

Splatter paint on the lockers at Nike Bowery Stadium.

Nue Studio’s creative office space in New York.

Not a bad spot for an afternoon meeting (but no texting under the table).

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The Eye-Popping Interior Designs Of Rafael de Cárdenas

With his New York creative studio, the designer builds engaging, neo-postmodern spaces.

Rafael de Cárdenas followed a rather roundabout path to professional success. After studying painting and fashion design at RISD, he decided to further his creative education by pursuing an architecture degree at Columbia, and later UCLA. "To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be an architect in the future," he tells Co.Design. "I thought I’d somehow come back to fashion."

Fate had other plans, however, and the opportunities that emerged after graduation—including working with Greg Lynn on a submission for the redesign of the World Trade Center site and collaborating with special-effects production house Imaginary Forces—helped establish him in the field and encourage him to open his own New York-based studio in 2006. Now Architecture at Large is home to 10 creatives who collaborate on everything from residential and commercial interiors to furniture to, yes, architecture.

Though the firm’s name might elicit amusing visions of buildings on the lam, it was actually inspired by a concept from the world of print publishing. "I liked the idea of an editor-at-large position in fashion magazines—someone who lends an ethos or image to the publication without focusing on any one aspect of it," de Cárdenas explains. "So, I borrowed it."

Commissions from big names like Cappellini and Nike have kept de Cárdenas and his team busy. Each project offers an opportunity to blend in new concepts, and de Cárdenas often finds himself turning to cinematic references in his work. Furthering this theatrical spirit, he seeks to forgo a singular style for more evocative settings. "I’m more concerned that our spaces be immersive and moody and predispose the observer or occupant to some sort of mood and effect some emotional response," he says.

There are definitely staples to his style, however, including distinctive black-and-white contrasts, bold use of bright colors, and strategic geometric shapes and structures. And despite his field’s shifting landscape, de Cárdenas is optimistic about the future. "I’ve been in business for such a short time—six years—and the industry has changed so much," he says. "But new markets are generating exciting opportunities in design."

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    Advancing this theatrical soul, he looks for to abandon a unique design for more evocative configurations. “I’m more involved that our areas be immersive and irritable and predispose the viewer or tenant to some kind of feelings and impact some psychological response