Interview with Andrew Kovacs of Office Kovacs
What is architecture?
This is a challenging and difficult question mostly because there are so many ways to answer this. Architecture is shelter, it is thinking, it is beauty, it is representation, it is graphic, it is form, it is program, it is event, it is art, it is history, it is function, it is money, it is clients, it is gravity, it is codes, it is zoning, it is structure, it is construction, it is demolition, it is space, it is scale and size, it is “commodity, firmness, and delight”, it is “the play of forms under light”, it is frozen music, etc….and what all of these share I think is that architecture is an expression of culture.
What is the Archive of Affinities and how it initiated?
Archive of Affinities started when I was a graduate student at Princeton. Archive of Affinities is effectively a project about the architect’s image bank. It is the longest project I have ever worked on continuously – it has no deadline, no client, and no budget – therefore it is totally useless and a project of pure passion. Before I started Archive of Affinities I used to find and save images from the Internet. At some point I couldn’t find things I was looking for, and I started to look for images in books, journals, magazines – basically old media of the past. While doing this, I realized how contemporary the past could be and I began to scan all of what I came across and began sharing it. Archive of Affinities is not about bringing people to architecture, but rather bringing architecture to the people.
Why the interest for the architectural “B-Sides”?
The Architectural B-sides exist on the periphery of the discipline of architecture and because of this allows the limits of the discipline to be challenged, expanded, contracted or redefined. Architectural B-sides are a sort of parallel to the canon of architecture – what is prohibited in the canon is acceptable and even desired for Archive of Affinities.
Sometimes you post your own work on Archive of Affinities amongst all the
“underground” architecture. How does the Archive of Affinities relate to your work?
There is a constant back and forth and both heavily influence each other. The work I do with my office reflects the work on Archive of Affinities and vice versa. All of it is really the same thing to me.
An “easter egg” on “Archive of Affinities” that fascinates me is that tumblr’s native archive of Archive of Affinities points out a clear month-by-month curation of content. One month it’s black-and-white, another it’s your own work, another it’s floor plans, another might be the 80’s, or my favorite: the month of architectural advertisements. How do you choose curation themes? And, was it always done this way?
It wasn’t always like this. Overtime it has morphed into being “themed” on tumblr. The reason is I have less and less time to work on Archive of Affinities as other opportunities begin to present themselves. It is a way for me to keep doing Archive of Affinities efficiently.
What’s the process behind your digital bricolage drawings? How do you reuse old plans and elevations to make new architectural compositions?
So if I were to theorize my process I would call it Making Architecture from Architecture. I view these “old” plans, elevations, images, etc., as material to be assembled into new architecture. At times it is just parts of the found works of architecture and at other times it is the entire whole of the found works of architecture. Usually I am after some overall shape, or composition and these parts or wholes are what make up the new shape or composition.
Found objects are big part of your proposals at the office, mainly for physical models; can you explain how do you select and use them in your projects and at what point they move from representations to literal proposals?
When making physical models with found objects, I am interested in objects with architectural qualities and that is the criteria for how objects are selected. I am looking for objects that have an appealing shape, texture, form, material, recognizability, etc., and how these objects might then assemble with other objects of similar qualities. It really depends when and how they move from being representational proposals to literal projects. At one level everything at every stage in its development is attacked as a project in it of itself. For example the project might be to make a model, but that model might be submitted for a competition – at another level the project might be an interior for a project with a client, a budget, etc. At all of these different junctures I always try to implement found objects. How each found object is used in each project varies in terms of the scale and size of the project.
Do you know where does this fixation come from?
I think I am an obsessive person and if I am doing something that I enjoy that obsession is amplified.
Do you have any favorite acquisitions on your physical or digital collection?
All of it. One thing isn’t more special than another. They are all equals and as equals they help make up a new totality.
Your work plays with the dissolution of scale and the unconventional placement of familiar objects on space; could you elaborate on why these peculiarities exist in your work?
I think it is about producing a heightened sense of reality. We really don’t need architecture to survive as humans, but architecture does make the world more enjoyable – I think that is part of a heightened sense of reality.
It’s apparent you like Claus Oldenburg. Could you talk about your history with him and how you relate to him?
I’m not really sure when I discovered Claes Oldenburg. But when I was a graduate student it seemed like architecture wanted to be art and didn’t want to be a duck. Claes Oldenburg was both architecture as art and as a duck, or a baseball bat, or an extension plug, or a teddy bear, or some everyday object made colossal. At that time as a graduate student, in that context, Oldenburg was somehow exactly the status quo and not. I think the work of Claes Oldenburg helped introduce me to architecture as being art.
Which book are you reading or consulting at the moment?
At the moment I am looking up books related to architects in Panama. I recently went on a trip with UCLA architecture graduate students to Panama City and it was an incredible experience. In the last 10 to 15 years Panama City has constructed a number of new towers, and according to some lists the city is now ranked 20th in the world in quantity of towers. The result is a city that is an astonishing patchwork of high and low, tall and small, and jumbo and micro.