We interviewed Snarkitecture team at this year's Milan Design Week and spoke about translating architecture into emotional experiences through interacting with users which they call ‘simplifying’.
Dilek Öztürk: How did you develop the concept of this installation in which you teamed up with Caesarstone that fits perfectly with the architectural references of this particular building?
Alex Mustonen: We started with the material; water and its frozen state, ice. We thought about how water and ice can sit with the surface. There are three islands presented outside. They show the first experiments with the material. We started to work on how to stuck the material, how we can cut it. We presented three different experiences in Toronto, January this year. In Milan, we wanted to present a collective experience together with Caesarstone. Therefore we created a circle bringing these separate experiences together. This allows people to move around and experience the installation as a whole at once. There is no fixed beginning or end. It was a nice coincidence to come to this place and see how the installation talks to the space. We thought about different parts of the building at the beginning; for example the courtyard is incredible. Then we decided to use the amphitheater. This space has a great potential for interaction.
Dilek Öztürk: The concept of the space shifts to the idea that there is no beginning or end. In my eyes you defined the space with the feeling rather then the beginning or the end. How did you realize this?
Benjamin Porto: In every project, we start with thinking more about the experience than design. What users will not only see but also feel, think and perceive. We try to encourage interactions where we invite people to experience the architecture.
Bilgen Coşkun: We see a big shift in architecture; from the concepts where the users had to fit into to where the user is in the center of the design. Also in this year’s Milan Design Week we see various concepts and installations about the notion of community and sharing. Do you think that design is becoming finally democratic?
Benjamin Porto: I guess it is really changing how we think about using the space. Interactions and experiences are becoming more and more important. Therefore it is more about showing the people how they use the space rather than dictating them how to use it. Here in our installation, how the installation interacts with the existing building, it is a reconceiving idea and the idea is illusive; wherever it goes, it can adapt. We want people to show how they want to use it. We give them the materials and the landscape. Then we observe how they interact with the installation. This is the only way to learn about their interaction.
Bilgen Coşkun: What is your major target by creating interactive spaces?
Alex Mustonen: It depends on the project. We have projects, which can easily be reconfigured and physically moved. There are other projects we draw some boundaries. In general, there is no text defining what the specific project is about. We are trying to create concepts, which invite people to define their own associations. We take some references from real life and reimagine them; such as the kitchen island reinterpreted in this installation.
Dilek Öztürk: This approach also reflects how you use the materials and techniques. We can observe that you combine natural materials such as water with contemporary making techniques. How do you feel about this as architects?
Alex Mustonen: I think, in general we are interested in using simple materials and objects, and finding new ways to create scale, repetition or other ways of transformation. We try to find ideas to use these materials in unexpected ways. It is mostly about reduction. If you can make something with just one material why should you use ten materials? We reduce the number of material, color and texture in order apply techniques creating experiences, which feel different. Outside there is a dense complexity of colors, textures and other parameters. Our architectural projects leave most of them behind. Many people ask future related questions such as ‘how will the kitchen look like in the future?’ Contrary to this, we step back and say what we really need is a space where we can sit, eat and drink while we are interacting with other people. It is about simplifying.
Bilgen Coşkun: The way we use digital media influences how we define the space. In this sense, how do you define space and ‘home’ in an era in which we move from one place to another constantly?
Benjamin Porto: This leads back to community and sharing. When you travel often, the kitchen is not only your kitchen but more the shared experience. Every home has a place to sleep and a place to eat regardless of the size. The rest can vary. You can change the city or the country but the feeling of community maintains.
Bilgen Coşkun: How can you transfer the experience of this installation to other places and cultures?
Alex Mustonen: Certainly digital means help to spread the experience created here in the online world. Most of our projects can be adapted to different contexts. For example the project we started in Washington DC traveled to Sydney and other places. At the core, it is the same project and experience. However we have also projects that offer site-specific experiences.
Bilgen Coşkun: Can we say that ‘being unique’ is in the center of the experiences you create?Benjamin Porto: That’s the reason why we are attracted to the spaces that are telling different stories. If this installation were in a white cube, it would be too abstract. Anyone in the world would understand it but not see that it is connected to the space. This is in Milan, in this unique space. Thus you can imagine it in another city and space, which creates an open connection.