INTERVIEW: CHECKING IN WITH TOWN AND CONCRETE
CHECKING IN WITH TOWN AND CONCRETE
You can always count on Town and Concrete to bring much needed joy and whimsicality to the otherwise very functional urban landscape we live in. Fascinated by the notion of scale, the architect’s dreamlike installations instantly transport you to an imaginary land where the world is a playground, and life is a game.
Why the pseudonym?
I wanted a pseudonym that expresses a duality: a place and a material in this case. Duality is an important part of my work: the real and the fictional.
When you think Instagram, you either think influencers or designers. You’re one of the very few architects who became Insta-famous. What’s your take on Instagram?
Professionally, I use Instagram as a laboratory. I used to work a lot on architectural images to convince customers about an idea, but with Instagram, I can find a customer who likes an idea that has already been presented. It changes everything.Personally, I use it to discover artists,and I don’t just mean their work. It is very easy to send a small message and to exchange with other creatives.I see Instagram as not only a mood board but also an instant messenger.
Your installations always bring much needed whimsicality to urban spaces. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I reflect on spatial experiences that I would like to live in, through imaginary houses but also transposed into immersive sculptures that take up the guiding ideas.
How much impact does the location have on the work itself?
The impact is physical but also social. The choice of the project in relation to the site is important not only for its practical dimensions, but its meaning and interpretation.
Your installations look like the best playgrounds on earth. Ever thought of designing one?
Yes, absolutely! My installations can be perceived as playgrounds from both a physical and mental point of view. I would like to go further into the experience and explore the idea of erasing the boundaries between playgrounds and sculptures.
When doing commercial work, what is the ultimate deal breaker?
The limit is the freedom of design. To create an experiential work, every detail counts, outside the budget that is controlled, the other choices are an integral part of the work.
Architecture is an art, and yet, most people don’t interact with it as emotionally as other forms of art. How would you explain that?
Architecture has a function and an occupant. Immersive installations are focused on the experience, all the emotions are not diverted, and people have more freedom to interact.
What sort of spaces do you long for in our current urban landscape?
Our current urban landscape lacks surprise.That being said, there are works out there, such Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel which defy the current trends and opens possibilities for new ways of designing and using space and material.
On your website, it is mentioned that your projects highlight the “social cloud” we live in. What do you mean by that?
Our data will follow us more and more in the public space. We will leave a true imprint. There is our own experience, but also various recordings, augmented reality, etc., that add to the experience. Regarding my own installations, I always discover new points of views from what people post online and how they see my work. It makes for an interesting exchange.
What would you like to see more of in modern day architecture and why?
It may sound strange to you, but I think it's in the habitat that there is the most progress to be made. I am always surprised to see so many new houses being built with tiny windows for economic reasons. It is better to put poorer materials (doors, flooring ...) but keep the money for a higher ceiling and more windows.
Ever thought of designing a temporary installation for the Notre Dame Cathedral?
No, I was marked very strongly by the fire. Notre-Dame was symbolic, it represented eternity for me. It disturbed me, like many people around the world. I have read sociologists' texts on how the fire of Notre Dame has traumatized many, including those who have never seen the cathedral live.
What’s next for Town and Concrete?
I just recently made a new installation in Santiago Chile based on my Arches modules and the Flamingos. I am also very happy to participate in the group show "flutter experience" in Los Angeles, which will be open several months.
There will be new facilities in NYC and Philadelphia this summer as well.
I have also been working for several months on a large installation that will last 3 months at the Cleveland Library. In a few days, my first big permanent metal sculpture will be delivered in Krakow. I am starting to work more on permanent sculptures
INTERVIEWED BY RALPH ARIDA