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In this edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring our 10 question conversation with Kyle Schroeder of Archtalks.com. Kyle is a graduate of Bennington College, where he studied architecture and music production. His hometown is Kansas City, MO and he currently lives in NYC.

Arch Talks was created as a resource to synthesize architecturally relevant material (i.e. documentaries, lectures, interviews, building tours etc) in audio, video and transcription format. The goal is to gather all of the best quality videos/audio that exists online and inspire people to both document and share their own captured/archived media.



1) Arch Talks is an open source depository for digital design media related to architecture and the design profession. What gave you the idea to begin to gather people and videos in one place?

Yes, at this point the website is focusing mostly on lectures, interviews etc. in audio, video or transcription format. I'm looking at gathering quality in-depth material. The idea is the coming together of several points of interest in my life, I've wanted to do this for awhile. I first got the idea about a year ago after watching a video of David Shapiro interviewing John Hejduk. I remember a striking comparison he made, this isn't an exact quote, "I went to a lecture that a surgeon was giving...and he said that he had been using a scalpel long enough that he could tell exactly where he was spatially in the body by the sound of the cut he was making...now that is an architectural manifestation!".

I've yet to find more footage of Hejduk which is kind of a bummer, he had a very unique way of describing things. But after looking around I came across interviews with other architects on websites like ArchDaily and YouTube of course and I started to become aware of the amount of footage available. I enjoy collecting things and I think that this is a particular body of media which is large and at the same time very spread out so I think there is some value to condensing it into one database.

It's inspiring to listen to people talk about their work, especially when it's a discipline such as architecture where everyone has their own definition...particularly as a student of architecture, it's inspiring be able to hear people like Renzo Piano or Jean Nouvel communicate a project's evolution.


2) While the website is a based on the idea of a community gathering together to share content, there is a man behind the site: Kyle Schroeder. Raised in the Midwest, college in Vermont, and now living in New York City; if Arch Talks is the hobby, what's the day job?

Actually, ArchTalks is the product of having a little time on my hands from not having a day job. I spent a good deal of time after graduating last fall working for a small firm in midtown, work slowed down so I started to do some bike messengering which I'm still doing...definitely gearing up to apply to graduate school this coming fall, possibly for architecture.


3) You studied architecture and music production at Bennington College and received a BA in Visual Art. Bennington is known as one of the more non-traditional schools. What was the effect of your education on what you're up to now and the formation of Arch Talks?

Bennington is all about the interaction between disciplines. My interest in architecture grew tremendously due to this and I found outlets for architectural experimentation in literature, science, ceramics and music. I worked a lot with the idea of translating architecture into music and vice versa. My mind has kind of been permanently programmed now to look for modes of translation. Whenever I come across an idea that influences me I try and find ways of connecting it to other seemingly unrelated ones.

This line of thought lends itself nicely discipline such as architecture which encompasses a wide range of other disciplines. I posted a TED talk a few days ago by architect, Mitchell Joachim who has a biology lab in his office. It's well known that Eisenman and the Deconstructivist movement were inspired by Derrida. One of my favorite instances of translation is Terragni's Danteum, which is based on the Divine Comedy. So while ArchTalks is primarily concerned with architects I'm also trying to facilitate this sort of translation by including material on other fields which has or can possibly (depending on the listener) inspire architecture.

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(Terragni's Danteum)


4) Your visual arts training is apparent in your online portfolio with a grab bag of playful art and architecture sketches. Talk a little bit about the role of hand rendering and it's importance and role to you as a young designer.

My architecture professor at Bennington had us drafting by hand and a lot of the work on my site is from my time there. Also a lot of the work that has had the most impact on me has been hand rendered... work by people like Sant Elia, Raimund Abraham (check out his book [Un]built) and Lebbeus Woods. Venturi's drawings for his mother's house, especially the earlier iterations, and sections, really made an impact on me as well.

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(Sant Elia's La Citta Nuova)

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(Raimund Abraham's House without Rooms)


5) With @arch_talks you are a part of the ever-expanding juggernaut that is social networking through twitter, facebook, foursquare, et cetera. What do you think the role of social media and open-source, online community means to the design field and how do you use it to your advantage with Arch Talks?

Well that's kind of the foundation that ArchTalks is built upon. Nearly all the material on the site at the moment is stuff that already exists on the internet which I have found through these various social networks. I hope that ArchTalks starts to grow into a reason for people to contribute new material to the online community. It aspires to be a site which brings together people who are talking about and searching for interesting and important ideas. Hopefully it starts to serve as a resource which stimulates a sense of curiosity and excitement for those interested in architecture.


6) With over a hundred videos and over sixty interviews already on the site, if you could name just a couple of your favorites, what would they be?

Hmmm I'll do a top 5 thing here.

1.) Eisenman brings to light a few really good points about architecture and where it's headed.
http://www.archtalks.com/archtalks-home/2010/6/3/peter-eisenman-concerned-lecture.html


2.) I've learned a lot from Xenakis and it was really great to be able to find some footage of him discussing his work.


3.) I did my senior analysis project on Scarpa's Brion Tomb and spent a lot of time watching these two tours of the grounds...no talking but very valuable footage.


4.) Great documentary on Ledoux's Saltworks
http://www.archtalks.com/archtalks-home/tag/claude-nicolas-ledoux

5.) Interesting little transcript with Juhani Pallasma
http://www.archtalks.com/archtalks-home/2010/6/9/juhani-pallasmaa-transcript.html


7) Judging by the list of designers and the corresponding number of videos, do you think that Arch Talks will be more heavy on the contemporary theorists or do you have a hope for the direction of the content?

There is and will continue to be a lot of footage of contemporary theorists since everyone has a video/audio recorder. My greatest hope is that older content will start to arise due to ArchTalks. There isn't much footage online of anyone talking before the 80's.

Of course older books and magazines are a good resource for transcripted interviews. But there isn't much in the way of video or audio of that generation of thinkers and architects (people like Le Corbusier, Mies, Kahn the list goes on) who influenced this generation. The footage is out there it just takes some collective interest to bring it to light.


8) Building on that, where would you like the Arch Talks to be in a year? In five years?

1 year Best case scenario in a year would be a:

-Large group of regular contributors. People contributing both material that has yet to be collected from the internet and as I mentioned above adding new material not found on the internet...interviews and images from old books...old footage of lectures etc.

-Conduct our own interviews (which I hope to be doing soon actually).

-It would be great if some universities and colleges let me link up with their lecture series and or archives.

-Possibly overhaul the website to facilitate easier navigation.

In 5 years: Building on the foundation which will hopefully be established above.


9) Whom or what in the design world are you into right now? (links, firms, projects, people, ideas, etc.)

Two websites which I frequent are BLDGBLOG and npr's RADIOLAB. I recently came across the work of Rob Carter which I am very fond of. He creates beautiful architectural animations and collages.

Stone on Stone [CLIP] from Rob Carter on Vimeo.



Firm wise I am really into the work of Tom Kundig and OSKA based in Seattle, especially his Brain house. Also an older firm which I recently discovered is Clark and Menefee.

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(Tom Kundig's Brain House)

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(Clark and Menefee's Inn at Middleton Place via Dick Jagger)

A great book came out last year compiling Walter Benjamin's writings on architecture, his arcades project is definitely something worth looking up. Two other people of interest who come to mind are Theo Jansen and Roman Signer.


(Theo Jansen's Strandbeest)



(Roman Signer via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35iYo0LOrVI)


10) What are your thoughts for a young professional or student to up their architecture?

Do some digging on ArchTalks!

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I hope you enjoyed our talk with Kyle. ArchTalks.com is a great site to visit and get lost for a weekend in all the accumulated rhetoric and inspiration. We've received a great response to all our inquiries about Q. and A.rch and will be featuring the creators of Architexts (architexts.us) a comic about the profession as well as new progress from Works Progress, and a number of other interesting people. Stay tuned!

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In this edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring the second part of our 10 question conversation with Justin Merkovich of RAW (Real Architecture Workshop) Dakota. He shares his personal thoughts on RAW in response to another set of Q. and A.rch questions geared to pertain to an adventuresome design/build class being held this July 26th-August 6th in Custer, South Dakota.

Also, be sure to come out and see Citizen Architect at the Walker Art Center this Thursday if you're in Minneapolis or check out www.citizenarchitectfilm.com to see it as it travels around the country this summer. After the screening at 7pm there will be a panel discussion featuring Maureen Colburn of AFH-Minneapolis/St. Paul, Paul Neseth of Real Architecture Workshop as well as myself. More on that in the next few days. For now, on with the show...

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Justin and his son at a Minnesota Twins baseball game


1) RAW is in its first year. Although it was originally a facet of Paul's vision, how did the rest of the project team come together and what is your shared vision for the project?

The rest of the project team has a close relationship with Paul through the Biloxi design/build project through the University of Minnesota and through Locus Architecture. For me personally, Paul has been a professional mentor as I try to navigate the world of architecture.


2) In addition to a strong University of Minnesota contingent, Adam Jones is an instructor at Vesper College in Minneapolis. What more could you tell people about Vesper and the ethic of the work being done there and its effect on the RAW project?

I have known the president of Vesper College (Dan Noyes) for about 10 years. Dan actually wrote a letter of recommendation for my M Arch applications. Vesper College and RAW are kindred spirits. My interpretation of Dan's vision for architecture is that it be a seamless combination of beauty, functionality, and sustainability which is congruent with the ethos of RAW. Vesper College is deeply concerned with creating meaningful architecture by hand, not just on a piece of paper, or a computer - the haptic quality of materials is essential to Vesper's approach. Both RAW and Vesper College strive to reclaim materials or gather materials locally even if they be unmilled or what some may consider to be unsuitable for construction-both programs desire to be fully invested in the inherent qualities of materials in whatever form they might take and to challenge themselves to make them work architecturally.


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3) How did the decision come about to do work in the Black Hills of South Dakota rather than a locale in Minnesota? Does the rural setting afford more flexibility in design and construction?

RAW hopes to be an agile and mobile program, taking place wherever the opportunity presents itself whether that be an island in Lake Superior, Black Hills of South Dakota, or the foothills of Mexico and beyond. The Black Hills site was dependent upon the client in this case. In my opinion, the fact that we are working for a client/owner who fully supports and trusts Paul's overall vision for RAW is crucial. The ability to harvest and build with local materials that fully engage the beauty of the Black Hills area allows us to create something that is truly unique to the place and that is something that I think every RAW project will do.


4) What kind of collaborations is RAW involved with to make something like this a success and what kind of community interaction do you have, if any?

RAW is collaborating with local Native American tribes as well as the mining community in the Black Hills through lectures, tours and critiques/reviews. Perhaps most importantly, RAW students will be spending time biking, rock-climbing, and hiking in and around the Black Hills. The opportunity to experience the landscape from a physical standpoint will be a truly unique experience in architecture. I can think of no better way to fully understand how the local stone acts and feels than to try to gain a handhold while climbing a rock face.


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5) RAW is currently an independent program that is available for young architects and students. Do you see trying to integrate the program into a university setting?

As of this writing, Vesper College is offering college credit to their students taking part in RAW so the process of university integration has begun. I think there are some challenges involved to integrating with the accredited architecture programs in the region and beyond but I'm sure it would make enrolling students much easier.


6) How would you compare RAW to other building labs and what do you think distinguishes RAW in terms of the type of experience attendees will receive?

I can only compare what I know through observation as I've not attended other design/build programs. I think any design/build program should aspire to have a meaningful connection to the local community from a sociological standpoint. Samuel Mockbee and Auburn University Rural Studio has set the standard for engaging with the local populace and I hope that RAW can achieve half of their success in this regard. My personal hope is that we can also move beyond pretty little pavilions on the horizon that serve no purpose nor function and don't employ local materials nor local sensibilities -this is not an indictment of other programs but a challenge for us to create something beautiful AND necessary for the client and the place.


7) It's mentioned that there is a strong disconnect between the profession and its trades. What are some good ways to bridge that gap?

Again, this is only my personal opinion but my experience is that both sides (trades and architects) view each other with skepticism and mistrust. My personal background is in the trades - my father has worked in the concrete sawing and drilling industry my whole life. As a teenager I could run huge concrete saws and later in life I worked for a cabinet maker. I have in-laws putting footings and foundations in the ground and supplying civil engineers and municipalities. Having spent more time with the trades than architects, my approach is to view the tradesmen with the utmost respect and to work very hard to get them to impart some of their hands-on knowledge to me. I once attended a small lecture with David Salmela FAIA in which he told the following story:

"...talking to the tradesman firsthand and trying to get them to understand why you designed something a certain way is critically important. If you can gain the trust and understanding of the tradesmen, soon they are not working for their bosses or the contractor, they are working for YOU." I have found Salmela's statement to be a great lesson in how to interface with craftsmen.

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8) Moving forward, where would you like the Real Architecture Workshop to be in a year? In five years?

I honestly think that RAW has the potential to go anywhere and do anything. RAW Black Hills could be fertile ground for architecture for several more years with expanding client needs creating opportunities for different architectural programs. But, as I said, I see RAW being very agile and very well-suited to going anywhere from the most remote places to large cities and engaging with elemental landscapes or reclaiming urban detritus and turning it into something beautiful and useful. I also think that there are seasonal opportunities similar to those offered by Taliesin who spends the spring in Wisconsin and the fall in Arizona. RAW could have a winter design/build in Oaxaca and a summer in the Black Hills or Alaska or Lake Superior.


9) Whom or what in the design world are you into right now? (links, firms, projects, people, ideas, etc.)

I'm probably not the best person to ask about the design world because I've considered myself an artist first and foremost for my whole life and I've only just entered the world of architecture. My greatest interest is in residential architecture that strives to use the fewest resources, the most passive strategies and embodies the beauty offered by local materials. The following is from "A Fish Called Wanda" and sums up my feelings on architectural theory:

Wanda: "You think you are an intellectual, don't you ape?!"
Otto: "Apes don't read philosophy."
Wanda: "Yes, they do! They just don't get it!

I don't pretend to understand the Peter Eisenman's and the Rem Koolhaas's of the world. I tend to appreciate much smaller moments in architecture, the beauty of a connection, the tactile quality of a unique material. I confess that I need to become better acquainted with the work of important architects and continue to challenge myself in this regard.


10) What are your thoughts for a young professional or student to up their architecture?

I'd say, "Look beyond the office." In other words, look for opportunities to actually build something with your own two hands whether that is through a summer design/build workshop, Habitat for Humanity, or a doghouse. Design and build something thoughtfully. Embrace the fact that you will make mistakes but know that you will get stronger each time you actually finish something. Don't let "the perfect be the enemy of the good." By nature architecture students and architects are perfectionists but a less than perfect object that actually becomes a reality can still be beautiful.


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I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please check out the website for more details, sign up and check them out on Facebook or their website: http://www.rawdesignbuild.com/RAW/Home.html

Also, we're working on future Q. & A.rch's with Works Progress, Kyle Schroeder of Archtalks.com, co-working guru, planner, designer, and dreamer Rosie Hoyem, and a number of yet to be confirmed conversations. Keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks.

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In this long awaited edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring the first part of an informational session regarding RAW (Real Architecture Workshop) Dakota, an adventuresome design/build class being held this July 26th-August 6th in Custer, South Dakota.

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I'm going to feature a little bit of material from the website to get past all the big logistics and then feature some answers from some of the gents heading up this endeavor, three of which I attended graduate school with at the University of Minnesota (Justin Merkovich, Adam Riddle, and Nate Steuerwald) as well as head honcho Paul Neseth, co-founder and President of Locus Architecture, an award-winning Minneapolis based architecture firm.

"RAW is the realization of a long time dream of Paul's to help young architects and students gain critical real-life design and building skills that help them become better architects. Paul will lead RAW Dakota, assisted by many able pioneers."

Paul led a group which featured a number of his compatriots in this endeavor during May of 2007 to do a shade pavilion here in Biloxi at John Henry Beck Park. Here's a picture with all of the folks from the U of MN that participated:

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Anyhow, please check out the website for more details, sign up and check them out on Facebook or their website: http://www.rawdesignbuild.com/RAW/Home.html

Here we go with the FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. Expect the less frequently asked questions in our next installment...

What is RAW Design Build?
RAW Design Build is a unique firm that brings the creativity, enthusiasm and talent of young architects and students to design and build remarkable client solutions.

What is RAW Dakota?
The project site in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the home of many future RAW projects.

What is the Abode workshop?
The first (of many) project workshops on the RAW Dakota site scheduled for July 26-Aug 6, 2010.

What does RAW stand for?
Real Architecture Workshop.

How are RAW projects selected?
Very carefully. We look for clients who share our vision to give young architects the opportunity to grow and develop new skills and we look for projects that offer a unique setting or challenge, highlight progressive environmental and social principles, and are manageable in scope.

What do I do if I have a project that I want RAW to design and build?
We are thrilled that you are interested in engaging RAW and a group of young architects and students to bring their passion and desire to your problem, need or project. We are happy to talk to you about our design/build services and discuss how we can help. Please fill out the contact form and well get back to you right away.

Who is RAW for?
RAW workshops are designed for young architects and students who are looking to test their limits - creatively and physically - and use their skills to design solutions, build better communities and promote social change.

What are the eligibility requirements to participate in RAW?
RAW Architecture Workshops are intended for young architects and architecture students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program. RAW Design Build does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, or national or ethic origin in admission to the program.

Do I need any previous client or construction experience?
No prior experience working in an architecture firm or on a construction site is needed.

How far in advance should I register for RAW Dakota?
For our inaugural year there is just one two-week workshop with 12 spots. We encourage you to register as early as possible because of the limited enrollment. Once we fill we can place you on a waiting list in case there is a cancellation. If space becomes available, we will accept registrations up until 1 week before the workshop begins. Get on our mailing list so you can get advance notice of the workshop schedule for next year. Enrollment will begin in the spring of 2011 for the summer 2011.

For whom are we building the project?
Every RAW project will be for the benefit of a client, whether it is a community group, non-profit, local public school or private individual or business.Depending on the workshop, most project work will take place on or near the client's site, and we will provide transportation to and from the site. RAW Dakota will design and build projects for Circle Z Ranch.

How much does RAW cost?
The cost of the two-week RAW Dakota Workshop, including meals and accommodations, is regularly $1,500. We are offering the workshop at the introductory rate of $1250. All meals, materials fees, activity and rental fees are included, with the exception of a bike rental fee (approx $50/day) for occasional group mountain biking. There may be sufficient bikes on-site but is recommended that, if possible, you bring your own mountain bike to the workshop.

Does my workshop have a materials fee?
No, the Abode workshop does not have a materials fee. A materials fee may be charged for future workshops.

What is the payment schedule, and what if I need to cancel the workshop?
Once you have received notice of acceptance, we require a non-refundable $500 deposit within 1 week of notice of acceptance in the workshop. The balance of $750 is due no later than June 30th. If you cancel your enrollment at least two weeks prior to the workshop start date, we will refund all payments less the $500 deposit. No refunds will be given for cancellations after the 2-week deadline.

Can I earn college credit?
Although the curriculum is in line with design/build courses taught by Paul at the University of Minnesota, RAW Design Build is currently not affiliated with an accredited architecture school and does not offer college credit at this time. However, you may appeal to your home institution backed by instructor recommendations and workshop description. We are happy to help students with any of the above processes. All credits are transferable only at the discretion of the receiving school.

Do I need health insurance?
Personal safety at RAW is a top priority. Each student is required to carry personal health insurance to cover them in case of accident. This request is usually satisfied by parent's insurance, personal or school-based policy.

Do I need a car?
Not necessarily, though it certainly helps simplify things. Getting to and from the airport, or bus stations, will require taxi service or we may be able to arrange to pick you up. Please contact us for more info. Once you arrive we will make sure to get you to and from all RAW related activities. We have loaner bikes and are willing to give lifts in to Custer, if needed.

How do I get to RAW Dakota without a car?
The nearest airport is Rapid City, SD (RAP), about 50 miles away. Depending on your arrival time, we may be able to arrange pick up. Otherwise we can help you arrange for cab service between the airport and the RAW Dakota site. Taxis and shuttles from the airport to Custer are available for approximately $80 pp. The major car rental companies also service the airport and there is Greyhound bus service to Rapid City as well.

Will I be able to communicate with the outside world?
Cell phone reception is sketchy on the site and good in the town of Custer. There is internet access, including wireless, at the Circle Z offices and you are welcome to bring your own laptop.

When should I arrive? And when do I leave?
Please plan to arrive in Custer City, SD by 3pm on July 25th, 2010. The workshop will officially conclude with a celebration on the evening of Friday, August 6th 2010. You can plan to leave starting on Saturday. See the application form for a tentative schedule. A more detailed schedule will be provided prior to the workshop start.

How do meals work?
Meals are provided and included in the cost of tuition. Meals will be primarily available on-site in a camp-style format with some meals arranged in town. Students will participate in meal preparation and clean-up, as needed. You have the option of eating off-site at your cost.

Can I bring my dog?

No dogs are allowed at RAW sites (or pets of any kind). There are a couple of kennels and a doggie daycare nearby. Please inquire with them directly for more information.

Where do I sleep?

This is where you really get a taste of the RAW experience! There are no permanent structures on the site at this time, aside from an outhouse. Plan on bringing a tent, rain tarp and sleeping bag and mat and camping out during your stay on site. In the case of inclement weather or emergency, alternative accommodations are available.

Can my family/friend stay with me even if they are not taking a workshop?
No, unfortunately not. We have limited facilities and cannot accommodate additional guests.

What should I bring?
Students will participate in a full schedule of design and construction activities and should be prepared to bring appropriate equipment and materials to complete the workshop. Most workshop activities, as well as accommodations, will take place on an undeveloped, primitive site. RAW may also include rigorous, physical and/or outdoor activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding, etc. You will receive a detailed list of required and suggested equipment upon acceptance into the program.

What is the surrounding area like?
RAW Dakota is located 3 miles SW of Custer City, SD on the private land of Circle Z Ranch. The setting of Custer City makes it unique. It is surrounded by thick forests of Ponderosa Pine and contains outcroppings of granite stone. Small and quaint, with a population of roughly 2,000, Custer City offers many motels, campgrounds, restaurants and attractions, making it an ideal base camp for touring in the southern Black Hills. Within a 30-minute drive from Custer you can visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Jewel Cave and Wind Cave National Parks, and many areas within the 73,000-acre Custer State Park. Custer City is located just south of the geological center of the Black Hills. Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet and the nearby Needles rock formations, form the core of an area created by the rise and fall of the earth's crust millions of years ago. Surrounding this core are rings of sedimentary rocks - sandstones, limestones, and shales - which have allowed for the formation of well-known caves such as Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.

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In the first ever edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring a pair of designers Troy Gallas and Colin Kloecker of Solutions Twin Cities (www.solutionstwincities.org). Architects by day and Solutionists by night this duo has been working together since they met while attending the University of Minnesota and has continued their efforts to improve, advocate, and educate for and about design in the Twin Cities. With their events nearing the double digits they work in a variety of ways but predominantly through a series of "Volume" events every 6-8 months and as series of smaller collaborations and interactive events in between. Each of the large presentations is presented in a Pecha Kucha format (they'll touch on that later) and features designers of all disciplines that have a connection to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. I was lucky enough to speak at there Solutions Vol. 2 event and am pleased to have Troy and Colin as my first of hopefully many guests on the Up Your Architecture Q. & A.rch column. Hope you all enjoy.

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Troy Gallas (on the left) has a background in visual arts, performing arts, and architecture. A Twin Cities native, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in architecture. He has learned and practiced traditional methods of building in Mexico, Nova Scotia, and Spain, and has explored other methods throughout Europe and the US. In addition to co-founding Solutions Twin Cities, he is currently working at LHB, a Minneapolis firm focusing on affordable and supportive housing, and is a steering committee member of Architecture for Humanity: Minnesota

Colin Kloecker (on the right) has been living in the Twin Cities for 6 years. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in architecture and has since been working at Cermak Rhoades Architects in St. Paul, a small firm with a focus on affordable and supportive housing. In addition to co-founding Solutions Twin Cities, he is a member of Architecture for Humanity: Minnesota steering committee. You can find his thoughts on architecture and humanitarian issues online at Blog Like You Give A Damn.

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1. In an earlier discussion we talked about how Solutions Twin Cities is almost acting as "city design advocates". With that in mind, give us a short explanation of how you came to be and what you are as an organization.

We founded Solutions Twin Cities about a year and a half ago because we wanted to create spaces for exploring new ideas and drawing awareness to existing solutions here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Design is a really big part of this, but we're really advocating for people and projects that are making a difference in new and exciting ways, what we like to call "future-positive creativity."


2. It's been a busy year for you guys and this may be a bit of cut and paste after an introduction but tell us a bit about what you've been up to [i.e. Solutions Vol. 3, Solutions for the Other 90%, W(e are) Here]...

It's been soooo busy. Yikes! But it's been a lot of fun too. Going back a little further then a year, we kicked off this crazy adventure with Solutions Volume 1 in May of 2007. The "Volume" series is our flagship program and it's a hybrid event showcasing future-positive creativity in action. It highlights an up to the minute cross section of exciting people, projects, and ideas in the Twin Cities using a Pecha Kucha presentation format. Volume 2 was in October of 2007 and Volume 3 was just last August. We'd like to continue doing these at least twice a year. Last July, we had the great opportunity to curate an event for the Walker Art Center called Solutions For the Other 90%. The event was in conjunction with an exhibit the WAC was hosting called Design For the Other 90% and acted as a local counterpart to this international exhibit.

We've also started to branch out beyond one time events. In early 2008, Intermedia Arts asked us to curate an exhibit for one of their galleries. This led to W(e are )here: Mapping the Human Experience, which ran from March to May of this year. The exhibit explored the intersections of communication, technology, and aesthetics through data visualization, artistic expression, and interactive installations. Our interest in mapping emerged from an underlying desire to make intangible connections visible. Whether it's tracking emotions across the totality of the Internet, or one's personal and biological response to the built environment around them, we really think the artists we found for this exhibit challenged our notions of what a map can be and how it can be used.

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3. Volume 3 was an outdoor event and had an interactive component, how did you like this format as opposed to the interior events you've done in the past? Can we expect more in the realm of interactivity and indoor/outdoor? Solutions TC: Volume 4- Wash & Wear?

We've challenged ourselves to create a unique experience for each new event or program. Our events have taken place in an gritty urban theatre, a cavernous sound stage, a formal art museum "cinema" (not so exciting), and a grungy graffiti-walled parking lot, projecting onto a brick wall. Each event has presented it's own learning curve, and we've never done the same thing twice (however stupid or smart this might be, we haven't decided yet). The event outdoors (Solutions Volume 3) was definitely the most challenging, nearly putting us $8,000 into debt, not to mention multiple near casualties (don't ask). At the same time, it allowed for the most creativity. We asked a local new media artist, Christopher Baker, to install his "Urban Echo" project - an interactive projection that allowed the audience to communicate with each other on a large scale via text message.

We're in the process of narrowing down our thoughts for Volume 4: Hot air balloons, Mississippi river barge, roaming bicycles, or possibly the Xcel Energy Center (OK, give us a year or two for that one).


4. You've been involved in other non-events/games/national events such as Park(ing) Day and Urban Capture the Flag. How can people get a hold of you or get your ear about events they would like you to be involved with?

You're right, beyond the events and exhibits we've done so far, we want to create more informal spaces where people can come together to do a wider range of activities. Like the two examples you cited above, we'd like these to be themed around new ways of interacting with the city. Another example of this was a psychogeographic map making party we hosted during the W(e are )here exhibit. These are all things that we plan on doing on a ongoing basis.

The best way stay in the loop about these events, or anything else we're up to, is to sign up for our mailing list - which you can do here. You can also contact us directly at info@solutionstwincities.org.

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5. Park(ing) Day happened to fall on Talk Like a Pirate Day this year, any interesting anecdotes or overlaps?

Nope, sorry! (We actually weren't that involved in the Park(ing) Day Activities this year, but we have big plans for next year). But we are full fledged advocates for Talk Like a Pirate Day... very future-positive.


6. You've been asked to participate in a collaboration with the Humphrey Institute and Science Debate 2008 similar to the event in coordination with the Walker, can you tell us a little bit more about what's going to be poppin'?

Our event is part of a larger conference called Innovation 2008, a two day conference organized by the Humphrey Institute and Science Debate 2008 taking place at the University of Minnesota on October 20th & 21st. We're putting together an hour long Solutions style showcase that will precede a keynote address by Ira Flatow, host of NPR's "Science Friday" and founder/ president of TalkingScience, on the last day of the conference. 7 local scientist/ artist/ educators will deliver short presentations on their work while addressing some of the key issues raised by the 14 Science Debate 2008 Questions for the President. In addition, these presenters have been asked to think about how art might be used to connect science to the public in more meaningful ways. Click here to learn more about the conference.

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7. This year has been pretty packed for you two, besides Innovation 2008, anything more before the new year rings in?

No! We've been working on events almost non-stop since we started and have decided to take a much needed programming hiatus. This will allow us to focus on some long term strategizing, finalizing our non-profit status with the government, and begin the search for major funding (readers, if you're loaded and think what we're doing is cool... let us know!). That doesn't mean that we're totally stagnant - we're working on an exciting project with METRO Magazine to expand the concepts developed in the W(e are )here exhibit to a monthly feature on their back page. Look for that to start in January! (Fingers crossed!)



8. Moving forward, where would you like Solutions to be in a year? In five years?

Our goals for the next year are to continue the programming we've established while working towards dedicating more and more time to Solutions projects. We're both currently working full time at local architecture firms (Colin at Cermak Rhoads Architects, and Troy at LHB), but hopefully we'll find enough funding to allow us to take on Solutions Twin Cities full time.

One long term goal is to find a storefront space for STC. Using the Storefront for Art & Architecture in New York City and SuperDeluxe in Tokyo as precedents, we're envisioning this space as a "Storefront for Ideas." We'd also like to see Solutions style organizations starting up in other cities around the US. While we'd like to maintain our focus on the Twin Cities, it would be awesome to enable people in other cities with what we've learned. How 'bout it James, Solutions Biloxi?

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9. Whom or what in the design world are you into right now?

Hassan Fathy : http://archnet.org/library/parties/one-party.jsp?party_id=1

Edward Burtynsky : http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/
Cenci Goepel and Jens Warnecke : http://www.lightmark.de/

Theo Jansen : http://www.strandbeest.com/

Sterling Prize: http://www.architecture.com/Awards/RIBAStirlingPrize/RIBAStirlingPrize.aspx

Dave Eggers re: 826 Velencia (a precedent for a future Solutions storefront):: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/dave_eggers_makes_his_ted_prize_wish_once_upon_a_school.html

Wholphin DVD Magazine: http://www.wholphindvd.com/
(they will be represented at Sound Unseen this year)

Archi-blogger Jimmy Stamp interview with Charlie Kaufman about his new movie Synecdoche, New York and the role of architecture in it: http://lifewithoutbuildings.net/2008/10/heres-what-happens-when-you-look-for-truth-life-without-buildings-interviews-charlie-kaufman.html

Museo Aero Solar: The Solar Baloon Project: http://museoaerosolar.wordpress.com/


10. What's your solution for a young designer to up their architecture?

As soon as you can, get involved in architecture, design, or community organizing outside of your formal education or career. Join up with your local Architecture for Humanity chapter. If your city doesn't have one, start it. As students, getting involved with AFH - Minnesota really opened our eyes to the possibilities for good that our education could provide. This was the seed that eventually led us to start Solutions Twin Cities.

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I'd like to personally thank Troy and Colin for all their help in getting this together and being patient as I got it up and out on the site. I encourage you to check out what they and the people that have spoken at their events are doing in the Twin Cities and beyond. Cheers.

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