By Rebecca Fulp-Eickstaedt
You are a multidisciplinary artist, both a graphic designer and an architect. Where did you start, and what drew you to explore new realms of art?
As an artist or social artist (considering architecture as one of the social art forms), I have always been and am interested in any art form that helps me to start a conversation/dialogue with my audience through multiple platforms. For me, both graphic design and architecture are amazing mediums through which to explore "art" and "aesthetics" in conjunction with life/experience, through graphic design, spatial and experimental compositions, or any other platform. In another word, to me, all the art forms that I'm involved with are different media—and languages to talk about the same interest in different representations.
You have called architecture a “thinking medium.” What do you mean by that? How have your more experimental architectural projects allowed you to better convey your thoughts and ideas?
That's a great question! Architecture, given its historical background and "function,” from shaping the caves to robotically animating fragments of the space, has always been a hybrid reflection of what we think—from our basic need of shelter to our special preferences and our "intellectual desire.” In my work (as you've perfectly described it in your question, as an experimental architecture), architecture becomes a tangible/hybrid platform to "think" about my/our intellectual desire through form, space, interaction, and experience. In my work, architecture mostly re-orients itself to be more towards interaction design and how users’ experiences can influence/be influenced by the process from early stages of design to the actual space or “object.” This "loose-fit grid" of understanding architecture as a thinking/experimenting/interactive medium adds another layer of questions/characteristics to the architecture (both as an object or space), and that's what interests me the most—to think differently, not to make new questions/problems, but to answer the traditional ones in a new way.
Wow, I love your answer to that last question. I think there's a lot of innovation happening in your work, and your aim of addressing traditional questions in a "new way" makes me want to know more about the thought process behind one of your projects in particular. Could you tell me more about your "Self-Scrutiny Museum"? What compelled you to create spaces stirred by—and reflective of—Persian mysticism and early Persian literature?
Well, maybe "Self-Scrutiny Museum" is one of the earliest or THE earliest serious cross-disciplinary architectural/design research proposals! The main idea of the project was again driven by the notion of architectural dialogue to convey meanings and to reflect/tell the story and thoughts through space/object. Early studies about the mysticism focused on the thoughts, visions, and aesthetics that have been shaped in "Persia/Iran" and greater "Khorasan,” east of Iran. It was a very long and very joyful one and a half-year process learning about mystical thoughts and values through priceless texts and poems. For mystics, language and literature, in general, don't have any priority and value—the real value is the meaning and literature is only the medium to pass this meaning through. The biggest challenge was to somehow learn these meanings which are mostly in the form of text, poetry or "Shath" (very short surreal sentences that were popular among the mystical leaders in those centuries) and translate them to spatial qualities and morphological grammar! That's quite a challenge! For that purpose, I started to study surrealism, since, in a way, it has a lot in common with mysticism in terms of vagueness and polymorphic qualities. On the other hand, surrealism was started as a literary movement and then was translated to visual arts and later on (through some reconfigurations) to sculpting and “architecture.” So I started to learn more about surrealism, specifically reading the amazing analytical texts by Ali Ahmad Said Esper on the conjunction of surrealism and mysticism. I studied Salvador Dalí's artwork specifically because of the spatial qualities of the images and then followed that with the vague poly-sided images of Federico García Lorca, and I tried to find a similar path in my "design,” translating mystical images of Rumi's poems into space and object through layers. In fact, architecture and space became fragments of my story. The project is very much metaphoric in a way, and each level and space represent an image and a "world": material world, imagination world, and the world of self, as it gets more and more abstract. Honestly, to me, the most interesting part of this project/proposal was the studies and trying to find and translate a methodology from one artistic movement into another. I would probably design the space differently if I were to redesign the project, but definitely not the process and the studies. I would say that, for me, this project was the first solid consideration to the space as a multilayered experimental live canvas.
Your work has taken you around the world, from North America to Eastern Europe. What inspiration have you drawn from your travels and your participation in the international design scene?
Well, following our conversation, I would definitely consider myself an experimental designer and artist. Even when it gets to the semi-hidden side of my current "architectural projects" and research—computation and robotics—I always have some level of experimentation and what I call "unexpected creativity.” Taking this as one of the core parameters of my design and "intellectual desire,” I'm super excited and open to learning more about different cultures, lifestyles, artistic movements and schools—basically anything that I may not even be aware of! Being able to travel (either in person or through my art and design work) and meet new cultures and fresh ideas from all around the world is for sure a unique opportunity to reposition myself and my design in a broader image/picture as its "pixels" are coming together! It's like updating my design "coordinate system" by expanding my understanding of different cultures, different interests, and different beliefs as part of the puzzle that I'm already part of! At the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, I consider my art—including architecture—to be different forms of social art, and those forms mean nothing if they get detached from culture, experience, and exploration.