Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

From left to right: Herzog & De Meuron, Zaha Hadid, Rafael Moneo, Alvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, PEter Eisenman, Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Bjarke Ingels, Rem Koolhaas, Zvi Hecker, myself, Preston Scott Cohen, Michael Meredith, and Hilary Sample. Missing are Reyner Banham and François Dallegret, who were edited out because of space constraints. You can still see a portion of one of Fraçois’ ‘Automobiles Astrologiques¡ at each end, though.

Woa. It’s been 5 months, already? It seems so, so (cacophony alert) before this blog is officially declared dead, I’m going to throw in some stuff that’s old enough to deserve some recovery. In February 2016, Uncube Magazine published an issue that had been in the works for quite some time at that point, ‘Walk the Line’, focusing on architectural representation and drawing in general. The issue featured an assorted group of interesting names, such as Wes Jones, Moon Hoon, William Chyr (of Manifold Garden fame), Sergei Tchoban,  Raumlabor Berlin, and some others. At that point I had been the house cartoonist ithe magazine for some three years, so Sophie Lovell, editor-in-chief, thought it might be worth having a little chat, illustrated with some ad-hoc cartoons. As usual, this happened at a point where I was swamped by work, which, adding to my proverbial sluggishness meant I ended up producing much less original work than I would have wished. It was a real shame, because by that time we knew the magazine’s run was coming to an end, and I would have loved to go out with a bang. Still, I’m glad we did it. Oh, and that first page with the line-up of starchitects was a hoot to make. I think it would work great as wallpaper material. So, here’s the full interview.

…………………………………………………

The architecture cartoonist Klaus has had a regular slot with Uncube since issue no: 7. His work and approach parallels much of what the magazine stands for in terms of going “beyond” the traditional parameters of the discipline. Uncube’s editor-in-chief Sophie Lovell chews the fat with him about elastic boundaries and the hyperbolic distortion machine.

First things first: You’re an architect, aren’t you? Or at least you studied architecture at some point.

Yes, I’ve been a registered architect for about 15 years now. I’m getting over it, though.

I’m well aware that there are very elastic boundaries between architecture and (let’s say) beyond, but how does cartooning fit into your practice?

It started when I was at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).I was about to start my PhD dissertation, which meant I was desperately looking for excuses that kept me away for it, and the GSD was a great provider of those: you had all these vedettes walking around, lots of stressed students living in their pods, loads of models piling up… it was eminently cartoon-isable. Then, one day Preston Scott Cohen had a hilarious conversation/argument with Ben Van Berkel, and I thought: “ok, I have to make a cartoon of this”. And that was that. Thanks, Preston.

But, going back to the elasticity you pointed out: Yes, there is definitely a lot of disciplinary promiscuity nowadays, due to the decrease in – let’s call it – “traditional architect” work. However, I think that the 2008 crisis [SL1] exposed something that has always been there. Historically,if you had drawing skills and were good at maths, you were often automatically directed towards architecture, so over time, many learnt to vent their artistic urges through architectural design… some times more successfully than others. I think that nowadays, many people with an architectural background are just exploring the intersections between architecture and passions they sublimated through architecture, or some other ones they discovered at architecture school.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

A montage with some of the cartoons I did for Uncube during its 4-year run. There were about 30 of them, which makes it my longest collaboration to date. You can have a look at them by clicking the Uncube tag in this blog, or you can check the magazine’s website, of course. 

What does it mean to be an architect, then?

Many things. Many different things, that’s the point. And you don’t necessarily have to be all of them. In fact, you cannot be all of them. Whenever someone brings in that idyllic metaphor of “the architect as an orchestra conductor”, I feel the urge to ask the speaker to point me towards all these orchestras waiting to be conducted. The profession – and even the discipline – is changing and we need architects specialized in different fields, or people with an architectural background in other professions. And architectural cartoonists as well of course – but not many. Back off, it’s my pie.

Is that the reason why starchitecture is usually the target of your satire? Because it represents this malign understanding of the architect?

Well, yes, but also because it’s so easy to make fun of… egocentric characters have great comedic potential, and architecture education teaches you about narcissism. Also, we love trashing those who are more successful than us at  – what we’ve been told is – our own game.

So you believe in the idea of the architect as critical thinker or provocateur?

There are cases we all know where the simple ability to think would be asking too much. But yes, I do believe in the architect as an intellectual. The main problem here is that we are usually taught to work with evocations[SL2] : architects are great at appropriating concepts, images, strategies from other disciplines and turning them into architectural form or discourse. But this is an attitude that many of us take into whatever we do, so our approach to everything tends to be very superficial: just a hint at the surface and we begin to extrapolate. That’s why architects usually make mediocre poets and terrible philosophers (I think I’m making many friends today…).

I remember listening to Peter Eisenman ranting once about the lack of “close attention” paid by today’s students; however, I think that’s something endemic to the profession. Derrida himself thought that Eisenman’s approach to deconstruction had nothing to do his own understanding of the concept. I like architects thinking out loud, but most of the time they’re just posturing, and bleating the same archibabble -or re-combinations of it- again and again.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

What you do in your role as a cartoonist, or caricaturist,is a quite blatant form of criticism, so are you not just hoisting yourself with you own petard?

There’s a critical attitude behind it, that’s obvious. However, I’m not trying to provide constructive criticism. I’m not even trying to be fair. There is no consistent attitude, or overall unifying discourse: I’ll criticize one thing and then its opposite. It’s all about having fun. I think you mentioned the word “jester”, at some point, and I think it’s pretty accurate, because jesters’ humor could be self-deprecating, if needed, but they were also great pranksters. Anything but mindless good taste.

So, anything goes in your view including offence, if necessary?

Sure, although I think my cartoons are very tame, usually. Of course, I come up with much harsher stuff, but I don’t have the time anymore. My current collaborations take up most of my spare time, so I have to choose. And, believe me, you wouldn’t want to publish the things that creep inside my head. So, there: I sold out. I’ve always been very partial to money.

A colleague of yours, Jimenez Lai, said that humour, parody and exaggeration can also be very productive as form-givers, that one can tread new paths through exaggeration.

Oh, absolutely. We are no born as abstract thinkers, so we obviously learn through imitation, by copying. Some people may have abstract minds, but most of us rely on reactive mental processes, so we react to what we are shown either by copying it, negating it, twisting it (that’s when caricature enters the equation). What’s interesting to me is that, if you copy something sufficiently poorly, or you take exaggeration too far, it becomes something different. Double meanings work very in much the same way: humour is mostly based on twisting words, or looking at things from a deliberately twisted angle, which may, if done mindlessly enough provide with new, interesting perspectives that you would not come upon through realistic, or fair thinking.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

I see: the hyperbolic distortion machine, architectural caricature and distortion as a design force. You’ve spoken elsewhere about the “suspended reality of the cartoon” as a freeing design environment. You certainly have a penchant for fantastic architecture / architecture of fantasy. In contrast, in your architect persona, do you experience designing actual buildings as a straight jacket?

Not a straight jacket so much as a task that requires too much effort in my case. Designing on a paper – or through a model – and getting to build something are related but not they’re not the same thing and you have to be willing to invest a lot of energy. I’m less and less interested in it as time passes. However, built architecture can compensate for all the things you lose when not working in the free reign of theoretical design. That said, non-build, or even non-buildable architecture, paper architecture, visionary architecture… whatever you want to call it, does encapsulate a inexhaustible capability for fascination. Many of us have a penchant for the visionary (not utopian, please) proposals of the 1960s, and the megastructural scene, in general. And, of course, it has to do with the fact that it was never (supposed to be) built. Almost 20 years ago I remember drooling over Zaha Hadid’s book The Complete Buildings and Projects. Each of those crowded drawings suggested so many possibiities… Then she started building, then AutoCad entered her office, and that was that. Well, except for her ill-fated stadium in Qatar –that was excellent cartoon-fodder.

What is the role of drawing in architecture /architectural design, then? Does being a great draughtsman make you a better architect?

No, I don’t think it does necessarily. Obviously, you need certain graphic skills to represent architecture. Also, sketching is a great way to organize and visualize your thoughts. However, I don’t think you need to be a great draughtsman to be a good architect, and having impressive graphic abilities doesn’t guarantee an equal capacity to design impressive architecture. Being too enthusiastic about drawing can even be counter-productive: a beautiful plan does not necessarily produce a good building, and if you’re too focused on making the drawing look good you may take decisions that work good for the plan as a drawing, but not for the building itself.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

Not my office. I wish I had a backlit drafting table. Or an office, actually.

You have been working under the Klaus moniker for about 12 years now. Why the pen name? Does this anonymity simply give you freedom to be more critical? Or is it a way to ensure a multifaceted approach?

Both, actually. “Klaus” is an anagram of my given name. When I started publishing comic strips in a local architecture magazine, I thought it would be a good way to avoid compromising my real name with less-than-serious stuff, because I was also starting to produce academic work. Years later, when I took it up again and went online, people started contacting me as Klaus, and I started writing under the Klaus persona. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me, but also the fact that it had a very distinct voice from my official, academic fare. So I kept both personalities. We get on pretty well, as a matter of fact. And it provides nice threesomes, too.

What does Klaus’ “old castle in Europe”, where he lives, look like?

Oh, when the crisis struck, the bank took it from me. I think they’re selling it to install an Apple store.

One last question: Are you Rem Koolhaas?

No. He’s much taller.

Sophie Lovell: “The [not so] Fine Line: A Conversation Thread about this and that with architecture cartoonist Klaus”.  Uncube Magazine nº 42, February 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 5.59.14 PM.jpg

a10-56-03_sm

Click to enlarge

So, the story behind this one: As the title sort of hints at, this wasn’t actually published in A10 #56 -The interview was, but not the illustration. The only reason was timing: Indira van’t Klooster, then editor of the (late) magazine, contacted me asking if I was interested in starting this series (for all the ‘Interchange’ cartoons, click here). In the end, it turned out that I was, but it happened at a time when I had too much on my plate, and by the time we agreed and shook hands, the magazine was due to go to print. Thus, the first interview didn’t feature its required drawing. As it usually happens, once the seed has been planted, it just naturally grows, so even though I didn’t have the time to produce it, I already had an idea that I quite liked… but which would have to go to one of those ‘missed opportunities’ drawers. Fast forward a couple years, and Indira contacts me again, saying she’s putting together a book compiling the interviews (more info here), and needs the drawing on Jürgen to complete the set. So, here you have, for the first time, Jürgen Mayer H. and his Metropol Parasol in full Alice in Wonderland fashion.

An itch scratched.

……………………………………………

‘I look upon the majority of a new generation with great interest, and I really value the emphasis put on the social aspects of architecture besides new developments in digitalization and new media. But it rarely brings new design agendas and innovations. There seems to be a convention in aesthetics of being a bit too self-satisfied in too early a stage. Now and then I would like to be a bit more surprised by what I see – a bit more risk, I guess… Make it an argument through architecture and show more design ambition, bring out into the built world what is researched and experimented in so many architecture schools and labs all over.’

Jürgen Mayer H. (in Indira Van’t Klooster: ‘Georgian wonderland’. A10 #56, March- April 2014).

inks 03 copia 04-sm

Click to enlarge

Summer vacation is unfortunately over, so let’s catch up with published work that hasn’t made it to the blog yet. Today’s post belongs in the series of illustrations I did for the ‘Interchange’ interviews published in A10 magazine over the last 2 years. As you may know, A10 went out of business last Spring. So, whether this is something permanent or -hopefully- it is not (read announcement here), these posts will remain, for the time being, as the only available peek at the A10 archives. Except, of course, for our Forty and Famous bookwhich compiles 10 of them. There are still some copies left, I believe. Contact @IndiraS if interested.

Today’s post features ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles], a practice led by Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman that ‘researches and intervenes in the contemporary urban landscape with productions ranging from urban plans and architecture to installations and fashion.’

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

When I first interviewed ZUS in 2006, the office had only existed for three years. At the time, principals Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman wondered, ‘Often we ask ourselves which challenges are solvable with good design, and which can really only be solved through politics. After the tsunami in Asia or the hurricane in New Orleans, the question arises to what degree human influence has on our surroundings. What means are still tangible for a designer at larger scales?’ In 2014, ZUS won a major design competition in New York that deals with this exact question. Now they are in America, having just founded ZUS NY.

Since Katrina (2004) and hurricane Sandy (2012), the American awareness of the need for a more inclusive way to solve its climate problems gained ground. After Sandy hit New York it was with amazing speed that Rebuild by Design was founded. The competition’s formula to bring stakeholders to the heart of effective resilience planning has been very successful ever since. Designs were issued (and won) by big firms like OMA and BIG. But among the six finalists was also the team of MIT CAU, de Urbanisten and ZUS Architects, with Deltares, 75B and Volker Infra Design. They received 150 million dollar (of a total 930 million dollar) to realize their proposal for the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The aim is to work with local governments and communities to ensure that the design is incorporated into the lives of everyone involved.

Like in the Netherlands, you deal with communities and stakeholders, with a focus on ecology, community, culture, and landscape design – an inclusive way of working that influences spatial planning and peoples’ lives. Thus, your projects are usually also political. Is working in the US different from here?

If interdisciplinary and proactive work is an ambition in Europe and the Netherlands, it is a necessity in America. To get a project done, you have to work proactively through all the political layers, and you automatically come up against economic and environmental factors. These must somehow be integrated in the plans. You will have to create support from top to bottom. In that sense, working in America is fundamentally integrated and always political. It sometimes takes a little longer, but it’s very valuable.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Inclusive archipolitics – An Interview with ZUS Architects.  A10 Magazine #64. Jul/Aug 2015

477_mg3223-copia-copia

Click to enlarge. Photographs (c) Sissi Roselli

From June 10 to July 3, 2016, the Ca’ Pesaro Museum of Moder Art in Venice will be holding the exhibition Drawn Theories / Teorie disegnate. The exhibition, curated by Sara Marini and Giovanni Corbellini, and organized within the international research project Recycle Italy collects an international landscape of authors who express their positions about recycling in architecture through drawing’. Among some nice graphic installments by more apt professionals, it also features a sequence of drawings by yours truly, which show the shameless recycling of a drawing that was itself using elements from a previous commission. Seeing the whole ensemble, which includes works from some usual suspects such as Jimenez Lai or Wes Jones, I wonder whether I should have produced a piece exclusively for the show, but timing forbade.

477_mg3231-copia-copia

Jimenez Lai: ‘Wrong’, via 

_MG_3434 copia

5_drawn theories

6_drawn theories

That guy. Photographs (c) Sissi Roselli

The inauguration took place be on June 10 at 4 pm at Ca’ Pesaro, ground floor, in the rooms for the small temporary exhibitions. However, if you won’t be able to attend it while in the gallery, the exhibition will later  be set up at Tolentini for the PRIN Re-cycle Italy final conference on September 30, 2016).

15_drawn theories

The authors featured are: Eduardo Arroyo, Aldo Aymonino, Carmelo Baglivo, Piotr Barbarewicz, Baukuh, Rosario Giovanni Brandolino, Pablo Castro (OBRA Architects), Fabio Alessandro Fusco, Wes Jones, Jimenez Lai, David Mangin, Luca Merlini, Riccardo Miotto, Hrvoje Njiric, Peanutz Architekten, Matteo Pericoli, Franco Purini, François Roche, Beniamino Servino, Federico Soriano, Tam Associati + Marta Gerardi, Klaus (Klaustoon), and Yellow Office.This exhibitions is organized within the international research Recycle Italy. It concerns the potential of  conceptual processing connected to drawing and its capability to observe reality, catching latent design-related points of view.

Re/Cycle Research group: Pippo Ciorra, Francesco Garofalo, Sara Marini, Giovanni Corbellini, Alberto Bertagna, Giulia Menzietti, Francesca Pignatelli.

1_drawn theories

 

klaus in marina city_02

Shameless posing in Marina City

In this week and the following, I’ll be giving a couple of lectures in Chicago. The first one will be a short presentation in the third edition of MAS Context : Analog, a one-day event of talks, exhibitions, and an onsite pop-up bookstore. The event, which will take place on Saturday, June 4, 2016,  is organized in collaboration with AIGA as part of Chicago Design Week and it will be hosted at Studio Gang Architects. You can find the full details on MAS Context’s website here. There will also be a limited edition of prints, signed and numbered, available for purchase.

The other event will be a longer lecture, titled Architectural Narratives / Building Stories and hosted by the Graham Foundation, which will take place on June 7, 2016. Full details here. This lecture is also presented in partnership with MAS Context, a quarterly journal that addresses issues that affect the urban context.

FaF_omslag_compleet_sm

Click to enlarge

So, after some waiting, finally my book with Indira Van’t Klooster is out! As  you’ll remember, if you’ve been around for a while, back in 2014 Indira van ‘t Klooster, editor-in-chief of A10 magazine contacted me asking if I would be interested in making some cartoons for a series of interviews with different architects. This evolved into a series, published monthly in the magazine, which has now been (partially) compiled in the book Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects.

The book features interviews with a series of relatively young practices comprising ALA (Finland), KOKO (Estonia), Barozzi / Veiga (Spain), SO – IL (USA), WWAA (Poland), ZUS, (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) and JDS (The Netherlands) Chartier Dalix (France), Jürgen Mayer H (Germany), and Assemble (England). Previews of all those can be found in the links above, or by clicking the A10 tag in this very blog.  Some of these images might be familiar for the usual visitors here, but there are still a few unseen ones, such as Jurgen Mayer’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cartoon, or the cover featuring the whole line-up.

The official launch in this year’s Biennale will take place at the Polish Pavilion, Giardini, Venice on May 27 between 11.00 and 11.30 am. A second event will take place in June 8, 20.00 pm, at Pakhuis De Zwijger, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Amilcar editions is putting out a limited print of the book, so if you’re interested in ordering a copy before they run out, or want any other information, please contact Indira van ‘t Klooster, via email or through her twitter account (@IndiraS)

A10_Book_03-9_sm

A10_Book_03-12_sm

A10_Book_03-15_sm.jpg

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Presented in this book are 10 young European architecture practices. They all found, in the midst of the financial crisis, a new attitude, a hands-on practice, with great commitment and an eagerness to get things done, thinking large-scale against all odds. How did they succeed? By winning competitions (ALA, KOKO, Barozzi / Veiga), by finding new clients outside Europe (SO – IL, WWAA), by raising new issues (ZUS, JDS), by innovating typologies (Chartier Dalix, Jürgen Mayer H.) and by new types of organization (Assemble) – usually by mixing all of the above, after having been educated abroad for some time.

This selection also shows the different circumstances in which they blossom, through clients in America, Asia and Georgia, post-communist courage in Central Europe and Estonia, bottom-up strategies in The Netherlands and England, an international Erasmus generation flowering in Spain, new traditionalists in France, the benefits of young-architect-friendly Finland, and cross-over markets in Belgium.

-Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects. Indira van’t Klooster. Illustrations by Klaus. Additional texts by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado. Amilcar Publishers, 2016.

A10 063 06_sm

Click to enlarge

Since their start in 2000 KOKO Architects (Andrus Koresaar and RaivoKotov) have evolved on the tides of developments in Estonia, employing an intriguing combination of graphics and modest servitude, and literally building an identity for a new nation with new sense of self-esteem. It made them win the Young Estonian Architect Award 2015, but it didn’t make them conceited. ‘We believe in layers of time, and not so much in permanence.’

Between the KOKO office and the house of one of its partners is a tiny door. It’s invisible to who doesn’t know it, situated in the kitchen behind the dustbin. You have to bend deep to go through the door, designed to make it function like an Alice in Wonderland transformation. You enter from the one world to the other. ‘It’s so small on purpose, so that every time I enter it, I undergo some sort of transformation from private to work, from work to private life. As I do this 3 or 4 times a day, you understand how important it is.’ The story is illustrative of the way KOKO works. They feel comfortable in transforming big historical complexes, they have this way of adding something subtle and personal, and there is always a sense of relativity and humbleness. As if to illustrate that they are just one of the many tiny passers-by in many layers of time.

Having regained independency (as the Estonians like to put it, rather than having become independent) in 1991, the country was ready for its first appearance at the World Expo, the Hanover Expo in 2000. The commission was won by KOKO architects, formed by a recently graduated artist and an architect not even out of the Academy. For what is better for a young nation than to be represented by young talent? Now the country is preparing the celebration on a 100 years existence of the Estonian nation (ignoring the Russian and German supremacy between 1918 and 1991), while Russian pressure is again clearly sensible at the Baltic borders. KOKO is looking for ways to expand their practice outside Estonia, for example in Norway and Finland, both countries that have heavily influenced Estonian architecture. And to close the circle: they have just completed the interior of another national pavilion: at the EXPO Milan.

What made you win the World Expo competition in 2000, do you think?

We proposed a maritime theme to connect to the naval history of Estonia and maximum visibility so as to stand out between all the other countries. The result was a flowing movement high above the visitors’ heads, an undulating forest of fir trees, symbolizing both sea, woods and movement. The spectacular result was an instant success: 2.7 million came to visit the pavilion. For us ‘movement’ has become a recurring feature in our work. Not literally, but metaphorically. In this country every 30 years everything changes drastically. We don’t think that buildings or designs will keep their original functions for much longer than that.

(…)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Temporal Layers – An Interview with KOKO Architects.  A10 Magazine #63. May/Jun 2015

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: