Time and again over the course of the 20th century, architects embarked on that most bizarre of research exercises: the attempt to identify scientific elements, data or architectural forms that would serve as an antidote against all accusations of formalism. One such example was the endeavour to formulate architecture as a classifiable, and hence transmissible, body of knowledge. In similar vein are the attempts to theorize architecture as an expression of a particular zeitgeist, or to interpret a stylistic strategy - like minimalism or the poetic fragment - as signifiers of social and economic changes driving cultural developments. The same mindset is behind the importance attributed to numbers as a means of holding in check the many and varied extravagances of the individual. Today this striving for happiness, or at any rate, for momentary relief from our mental turmoil appears as an attempt to harness realism and idealism to prove a cause-and-effect principle is at work between preliminary analysis and end product. Which is tantamount to saying that an architecture is automatically the product of site, programme or some other general tangible set of data. A similar process can be seen today when architects of the 21st century try to resonate with a society that seems governed by communications on the one hand and greenwashing on the other. This return to nature, however, turns architecture into a series of natural forms. As a result, the concept of the creative designer is supplanted by an ethical agenda underpinned by environmental sustainability. Being a creative individual today is a problem. Most architects now seem reluctant to exhibit any of the natural egoism of the individual creator, preferring that their work be perceived as the upshot of a wider set of circumstances. Yet, in our contemporary wasteland, architects could chose to be more than simple technocrats put upon by a plethora of experts - marketing, shopping mall, curatorial, and museum pundits to name but a few. They are in a position to demonstrate, even in times of decidedly radical change, how architecture can still be a cultural activity of creation. They can claim this space by becoming the midwives of their own projects. They can reassert authorship by tackling the practical and pragmatic issues of daily living; mindful of the unique properties every site and programme present, they can pay heed to our need for natural light, views, accessibility and the like. Nader Tehrani’s work reminds the observer of this oft-neglected truth of how architect and place can be made to interact. His variegated career that has seen him involved in disparate enterprises is a further reminder of how authorship may be asserted. Tehrani has always adopted an inter-disciplinary stance. His teaching, split between the two famous institutes at opposite ends of Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge - Harvard Design School, at one end, and MIT at the other, where he now heads the Architect Department - to a certain extent epitomises his broad palette of interests. These range from new materials and applications to the development of new construction practices geared to turning around an industry characterised by lengthy, inefficient building techniques. Yet Tehrani eschews so-called “blob” and parametric architecture - in vogue in recent years at the Harvard Design School. He rejects their attempts to produce buildings that look as sophisticated as their digital designs, a misplaced ambition in his view, given the limited timeframes, small budgets and especially the unsophisticated technology available to current building practice. The two works considered here - the Banq Restaurant in Boston, and the Hinman Research Building at the Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture - are very special. Although both are located within existing structures, at first glance they appear authored by different people. On closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that these two very different outcomes are underpinned by the same strategic programme and ambition. Indeed such widely divergent results call into question the very definition of “interior design”, a term that has taken on as many different meanings as it has users in the chaos of globalized semantics. So what is the “hidden” design programme behind these two projects? First, a poetic of “suspension”. In both cases, new elements are hung asymmetrically in symmetrical buildings, creating a new dialogue that blurs the confines between old and new. Second, both are characterized by horizontal and vertical flexibility. The restaurant areas, in the Banq Restaurant, and the teaching spaces, in the school, can cater to the full gamut of diverse uses to which equipment-concealing raised floors can be put. Third, both projects combine original construction techniques with unpretentious, traditional materials with, however, a meticulous attention to detail largely absent in most contemporary construction either for economic reasons or professional incompetence. Built to a financial constrained brief, the Hinman Research Building marries the “functionalist” logic of the original structure by Paul Heffernan with a contemporary agenda. The new programme relates intimately to its 20 m high industrial-shed shell. The gantry of a former travelling crane provides the supporting elements for a new mezzanine floor, justifiably the avatar of the whole project. The mezzanine is multi-functional. It can be turned into a place for design reviews, an examination hall, reception, presentation or film screening room or any other school-based activity. It is the central stage of the whole scenario in which the supporting actors are an elegant staircase linking the ground and mezzanine floors, bespoke hanging luminaires, a spiral staircase enclosed in metal mesh, and an automatic guillotine door. Every element exudes the drama and passion that should characterize a school of architecture. In these two works Tehrani demonstrates an exceptional interest in and skill for creating spaces through the expressive potential of materials. The restrooms of the Boston restaurant take him almost into the realm of the sublime. Although more intimate and demure, these too are stages for the human comedy. Pervasive ovoid forms recall the shapes of the human body - ears and eyes especially. While in visual communication with each other, the separate areas for the two sexes reveal nothing of what takes place on the other side. Tehrani has (rightly) likened himself to a judo player: using what Hemingway would call “grace under pressure”, he exploits the untapped inertia of a pre-existing building to put his author’s seal on the new with a few measured strokes.