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.
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.
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.
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
5.) Interesting little transcript with Juhani Pallasma
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.
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.
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!
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!