Architect Giorgi Khmaladze was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1982. After graduating from the Tbilisi State Academy of Art in 2002, he was accepted to AA in London but at that time he could not afford studying there. He remained in Georgia, working on his own projects, as well as taking part in various international architecture competitions. In 2010, Khmaladze became the first Georgian who was accepted to Harvard’s GSD on full scholarship, which was provided partially by the university and partially by the Georgian government. He graduated with Master’s in Architecture in 2012 and returned to his practice in Tbilisi. In 2014, his groundbreaking Gas Station/McDonald’s in Batumi won 2014 ArchDaily Building of the Year Award in Commercial Architecture. The architect’s other projects include Georgia National Pavilion at 2010 Shanghai Expo and Coffee Production Plant in Tbilisi. We met at the architect’s small office located at an attractive prismatic glass volume with a pronounced concrete exoskeleton to his own design. We discussed the architect’s intentions, inspirations, and that every one of his projects starts from scratch.
VLADIMIR BELOGOLOVSKY is the founder of the New York-based non-profit Curatorial Project. Trained as an architect at Cooper Union in New York, he has written nine books, including New York: Architectural Guide (DOM, 2019), Conversations with Architects in the Age of Celebrity (DOM, 2015), Harry Seidler: LIFEWORK (Rizzoli, 2014), and Soviet Modernism: 1955-1985 (TATLIN, 2010). Among his numerous exhibitions: world tours of the work of Harry Seidler (since 2012), Emilio Ambasz (2017- 18), Sergei Tchoban (since 2016), Colombia: Transformed (American Tour, 2013-15), and Chess Game for Russian Pavilion at the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale (2008). Belogolovsky is the American correspondent for Berlin-based architectural journal SPEECH. In 2018, he was a visiting scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has lectured at universities and museums in more than 30 countries. Belogolovsky’s column, City of Ideas, introduces ArchDaily’s readers to his latest conversations with the most innovative international architects. Since 2002, he interviewed over 300 architects. These intimate conversations are featured in the curator’s ongoing site-specific installations made up of voice recordings and thought- provoking quotes.
Cities’ greatness should be judged by whether they have succeeded in accumulating extraordinary works of architecture. They can be fantastic for their food, music, or lifestyle overall, but if there is no architecture, they are hard to grasp, they are not anchored, not grounded, not memorable… not real, in a way. Maybe I am a maximalist but there are a number of cities that I visited with just one goal in mind – to see a single extraordinary building. For the record, these cities are Fort Worth, Bilbao, Valencia, San Sebastian, Guangzhou, Sydney, and Kuala Lumpur, among others. The last one on this list has acquired its instantly recognizable image in 1996, when the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers have risen high above it. These unique buildings remained the world’s tallest until 2004. This iconic structure was designed by Argentine-American architect César Pelli who passed away last week at the age of 92.
New York-based architect Eran Chen (b. 1970) was born and grew up in Be'er Sheva, Israel where his Polish-born grandparents, Holocaust survivors, settled right after World War Two. Early on the original long Polish surname was abbreviated to short Chen, which is pronounced “Khen.” In Hebrew, it stands for charm. After four years in the army, following high school, Chen studied architecture at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, the top architecture school in the country. Upon graduation in 1999, he ventured to New York to gain professional experience. He was hired by Perkins Eastman, a global New York-based giant of over 1,000 architects. In just a few years Chen was made the youngest principal in the company to oversee the design of his own diverse projects, including several competition-winning entries. By then he got married, became a father, a licensed architect, and settled in the city that he now calls home. In 2007, Chen decided to strike on his own. He focused on working with developers on residential projects, mainly in New York, as well as other major cities in the US and around the world. Many of Chen’s projects are situated in dense urban places. They are about reinventing the familiar living typology of buildings as extruded boxes. We met at the architect’s busy Manhattan office of over 100 young, ambitious architects helping Chen to make our cities more livable. We discussed his concept of vertical urban village and the truly democratic idea that every apartment, no matter where it is positioned in the building, can be turned into a penthouse.
As the founder of SITE (Sculpture in the Environment), an architecture firm most widely-known for its seminal series of buildings for the BEST discount-store chain in the 1970s, James Wines (b. 1932, Oak Park, Illinois), originally an artist, introduced his unique approach of practicing architecture as a form of cultural criticism. It struck a chord by delighting the public and infuriating many architects and critics for corrupting architecture with his witty ideas. His buildings were among the first to engage nature head-on, both for pure delight and to raise environmental issues.
“Buildings Have their own Philosophical Backgrounds”: In Conversation with Nikoloz Lekveishvili and Natia Lekveishvili of TIMM Architecture, Tbilisi, Georgia
Nikoloz Lekveishvili (b. 1986), originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, has left his country in 2004 for his bachelor studies to Istanbul Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and to get Master of Architecture at Politecnico Di Milano. He then practiced architecture in Italy, Germany, Turkey, and India until 2017, when he was attracted back to his home country by emerging economic opportunities and bustling creative scene in this former Soviet republic in the Caucasus. Nikoloz has started his practice, TIMM Architecture the same year together with his younger sister, Natia Lekveishvili (b. 1989) who has graduated from Georgian Technical University in 2012 and worked in local architectural and design-build firms.
The partners’ studio is located in the heart of old Tbilisi in the same building where their parents, architecture professors and practitioners, lead their own research-based office known for documenting historical monuments in the region. We met with Nikoloz and Natia at their studio which also serves as an architectural salon where young architects and students are welcome. In the following conversation, the architects spoke about a journey of emotions, transitioning from light to darkness, being interested in Kintsugi, traces of time, treating buildings like human beings, and of the importance of being selfish in order to create architecture that’s unique and personal.
"If You Can’t Do Beautiful Things You Are Doomed": in Conversation with Zhang Li of Atelier TeamMinus
I live in a bubble. I hop from conversation to conversation with architects who live in their own bubbles. I bounce from one bubble to the next. These bubbles are formed by the gross misalignments and discrepancies between what these architects say and what they do. I like venturing into their fascinating minds; they form the mythology of architecture that I love to inhabit. In the following interview Beijing-based architect, educator, and critic Zhang Li helped me to diagnose these discrepancies. He said, “No matter how moral, how ethical, how correct you are if you can’t do beautiful things you are doomed… Architecture is great because it is beautiful.”
Zhang Li graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing and taught at prestigious European and American universities. He has been a Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Architecture Department in the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, China’s most prestigious university. His 50-person practice Atelier TeamMinus was founded in 2001. Since 2012, the architect has been serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the leading Chinese monthly magazine World Architecture. The following is an excerpt from our recent conversation at his Beijing studio.
“One Day All the Dreamers Will Get Together to Build a Fantastic World”: In Conversation with Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas
Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas were both born and grew up in Rome. Both graduated from La Sapienza University – he in 1969, she a decade later. He started his studies as a painter, she initially persued the history of art. In the early 60s, Massimiliano assisted Giorgio De Chirico and after graduation worked for Archigram in London and then for Henning Larsen and Jørn Utzon in Copenhagen. He started his first practice, the GRANMA in 1967. Doriana joined him in 1985 and became an equal partner in 1997. Subsequent offices were opened in Paris (1989) and in Shenzhen (2004). In 2000, Massimiliano Fuksas served as the Director of the 7th Venice Architecture Biennale under the theme "Less Aesthetics, More Ethics." The duo’s most recognized built works include Museum of Graffiti in Ariege, France; Shenzen Bao'an International Airport; EUR Convention Centre in Rome; New Milan Trade Fair, Rho-Pero; Zenith Music Hall in Strasbourg; and Peres Peace House in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. I met with the architects during their recent visit to New York where so far, they completed only one project, Armani 5th Avenue Flagship Store. We discussed how they start again with every project, their preoccupation with the future, and why buildings should try to become something else.
“As Architects, We Should Be Confident in Our Work”: In Conversation with Weiping Shao of Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and UFo
Contemporary Chinese architects can be divided into two main categories. One is a huge network of government and university-owned design institutes and the other –independent, privately-run architects’ studios, a phenomenon that was started by Beijing-based architect Yung Ho Chang when he opened the very first such practice in 1993. While it is these independent architects that succeeded in producing many, mostly small-scale original works that collectively established a new architectural identity that is unmistakably Chinese, it is the design institutes that produce the greatest bulk of the built environment in the country. For this reason, I wanted to talk to Weiping Shao, the Chief Executive Architect of the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, BIAD. In a way, Mr. Shao is the chief architect of the Chinese capital. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Architectural Society of China. Shao graduated from Tongji University in Shanghai in 1984 with a master’s degree. Apart from heading BIAD’s design efforts, the architect is the head and leading designer of his 30-architect studio called UFo, which was founded in 2003. We met at Shao’s office, full of international magazines and with an expansive view over Downtown Beijing and spoke with the help of translator and architect Zewo Zhou who works at the studio.
"For Us, Every Project is About Moving Forward": In Conversation with Jason Forney, Jason Jewhurst, and Dana Kelly of Bruner/Cott Architects
Established in 1973 by Simeon Bruner and Leland (Lee) Cott, Bruner/Cott Architects is now led by three second-generation principals, Jason Forney, Jason Jewhurst, and Dana Kelly, who took over the practice in 2016. Architects of a broad spectrum of work regionally and nationally, the firm is widely recognized for adaptive reuse projects of historical, industrial, and mid-century buildings, including MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, as well as future-focused net zero design such as the R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
“We Want to Enjoy the Work, Enjoy the Fight”: In Conversation with Qing Fei and Frank Fu of Renhe Architecture
Last year I was invited to teach design studio for the first time by Tsinghua University in Beijing, home to the top architecture school in China and one of the strongest in the world, according to the latest international ratings. There, I met husband-and-wife teaching practitioners Qing Fei and Frank Fu. As soon as I witnessed their unorthodox way of teaching by challenging students with rigorous questioning, I wanted to interview them. Their innovative approach did not fit my impression of how architecture is tackled in China. Fei and Fu are Tsinghua graduates; they moved to America in the late 1980s where they studied, worked, and researched both art and architecture for almost two decades.
“Architecture Making is Like the Unveiling of a Surprise": In Conversation with Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates was founded by two women, Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel, in 1982, later joined by a next generation of partners, Josiah Stevenson, and Tom Chung. The majority of their work is done on university campuses across America, but this can hardly be identified as the firm’s focus, as campuses are actually cities in miniature, containing nearly every building type imaginable. The point of difference, however, is that campus buildings are generally designed with more idealism than projects in our chaotic cities and mundane suburbs.
“Intuition Must Be Grounded to The Site and Context”: In Conversation with Oscar Ko of Interval Architects
Oscar Ko was born in Harbin, China and moved with his parents to Hong Kong at the age of five. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the University of Michigan and Master’s from Columbia University in 2006. After spending seven years in America, he relocated to Europe where his original plan was to stay for four-five years or longer but after talking to older friends practicing in China he quickly realized that there are more opportunities in his native China. After working for less than two years for several prestigious firms – Josep Lluis Mateo Architects in Barcelona, David Chipperfield Architects in Berlin, and Space Group Architects in Oslo, Norway – he returned to China where he worked at two leading Beijing-based practices: Studio Zhu-Pei and Chiasmus Partners for several years.
The following is an excerpt from our 1.5-hour conversation at the busy Renzo Piano Building Workshop in New York, right across from Piano’s 2015 Whitney Museum that may not be as inventive as his earlier projects, but still, this battleship of a building pulls you in again and again to discover something new with every visit, both within and in the surrounding city from its open decks and connecting stairs. We discussed some of the architect’s current and earlier projects, while he reflected on beauty, intuition, imagination, and, of course, the necessity of a protest.
It is the end of May 2016, Alejandro Aravena’s “Reporting from the Front” Biennale is about to kick off the next day and I just landed at Venice airport. Vaporetto waterbuses are no longer running at this late hour, so I am heading for a water taxi, thinking that it will cost me a bundle to get to the city. But maybe not! I see a lonely figure, “Are you going to Venice? Would you like to share a taxi?” A young Chinese woman agrees without hesitation. As soon as the boat leaves I keep pressing my luck, “Are you an architect, by any chance?” Yes! The next hour flew unnoticed, as we discussed our discipline and common friends. Two years passed, and I am back to Venice Biennale. At the opening of the Chinese Pavilion, I am hopping from conversation to conversation until I am introduced to Xu Tiantian, “China’s most promising female architect.” We looked at each other and said in unison, “The taxi girl/guy!” We finally exchanged contacts and on my next trip to Beijing we met at Xu’s DnA Design and Architecture studio. What follows, after a brief introduction, is an excerpt from that conversation.
Where does originality and independent thinking come from? The answer is prosaically straight forward – from an inquiring individual, and an experimental environment wouldn’t hurt to stimulate it. Rem Koolhaas is credited with fostering such an environment, both through building his practice, Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), a 300-architect network of seven global offices, and teaching at Harvard’s GSD, as well as lecturing all over the world. Koolhaas now has eight partners. One of the eight, since 2008, is Shohei Shigematsu who heads OMA New York since 2006. The studio originally numbered just a handful of people and over the years has grown into a large practice of 75 architects with a focus on projects in North America.
Meeting with many leading, independent Chinese architects and visiting their built works throughout China in recent years has shaped my understanding of their contributions as regionally sensitive, poetic, photogenic, and even seductive. Yet, so many of these projects can be confused as being produced by a single, narrowly-focused practice. These works are often small in scale and built far from urban centers where ordinary people could benefit from them most. There is a lack of diversity and risk-taking. The following excerpt from my interview with Beijing-based architect Li Hu on his recent visit to New York overturned my doubts and gave me much hope for China’s urban future.
“Form-Generating is Similar to Music – You Try to Compose Music and Suddenly the Melody Comes”: In Conversation with Kevin Roche
American architect Kevin Roche passed away this past Friday, March 1 at the age of 96. He was born in 1922 in Dublin, Ireland, educated at the University College Dublin (1945) and Illinois Institute of Technology (1948). In 1966, he formed Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA). He has designed more than 200 buildings, including renovation to the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012), National Conference Centre in Dublin (2010), Lafayett Tower in Washington DC (2009), J.P. Morgan Headquarters in Manhattan (1992), Central Park Zoo in Manhattan (1988), The Knights of Columbus Building Headquarters in New Haven (1969), The Ford Foundation in Manhattan (1968), and Oakland Museum of California (1966). In 1982 he became the fourth Pritzker Prize winner and in 1993 was awarded the AIA Gold Medal. The following excerpt is from our 2011 interview at the architect’s office in Hamden, Connecticut.