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Friday, March 03, 2006

Andreas Angelidakis Interview in Purple

You are always referred to as “the virtual architect” but you don’t seem very comfortable with this description.
Well I don’t care for virtual architect as much as I don’t care about Hospital Architect or any type of specialisation category. I’m interested in everything, and I actually prefer to work on very diverse projects at the same time. I think the virtual tag also came because a couple of years ago everything that had to do with computers and the internet and any communication technology was considered NEW! and VIRTUAL! and I just happened to be designing online spaces for online clients and most of this work was focused on blurring distinctinons between real, virtual, actual, perceived and imagined, and all of it was just different descriptions for potential buildings. Almost everybody has smiled at a cell phone or an instant messenger window so there is not need to separate the space of a text conversation from the space of a coffee shop chat because my reality is always virtual to you. I am still very inspired by the internet, as I am inspired by forests, and beaches and summer skies and strange buildings in weird edge condition, or websites that are art pieces and all the time I try to mix these things up, the experience of being lost in forest vs getting lost in a chatroom.
A lot of your work seems to refer to nature, like Blue Wave, Tetris Mountain, Cloud House. Is nature an important part of your thinking?I’m really interested in complete environments and in brand identity, and natural places such as forests and beaches have great brand recognition qualities. So when I’m designing a space I tend to see it more a world that could be extended infinitely, so at the same time I’m interested in reinventing the qualities of a beach in a building but also designing a beach or a forest from scratch. So in Neen world, which was a place for neenstars to meet and chat, a lot of the homes became structures based on idealized natural environments. The entrance was a forest of nametrees, trees with a neenstars name carved on them like you find in the woods, and when you clicked them you got teleported to that particular house. So in a way its very natural but very artificial, and somehow about a lifestyle structured by chance. Because Neen world was very much a sketchbook where I tested different ideas in real time with a real public, right now I’m developing these sketches further like in the Cloud House which comes from both nature and the web. It started because I liked the shape of the clouds in Rafael Rozendaal’s and I had already done a house for Rafael based on this shape, a simple container with clouds cut out to make windows. The as it evolved I turned the whole container into a cloud shape and somehow it evolved to this corbusian idea of the house on pilotis because clouds like to be off the ground and also I’ve worked a lot on these half finished abandoned buildings you find in the mediterranean, so the cloud house has evolved in this gypsy un-finished ruin, a concrete structure that may or may not be habitable, or maybe it is a place for camping, and maybe retrocatively inspired by Constants’ “Model for a Gypsy Camp” which I hadnt seen but I’d site it as a major accidental influence. In these speculative projects I like to make different versions of buildings because I like to keep the direction that they could evolve open ended.

How would you describe yourself: architect, artist, designer?
Well I always hesitate just in case I change my mind later on! I think I could fit even more professions into the question and still feel that I’m limiting myself. But seriously, everything I do is in some way a description of a structure, a building or a space, though sometimes that building takes the form of a print or a DVD in a gallery, or it is represented by a piece of furniture. So I’m just an architect.
You seem to be designing new things non-stop but you are not building so much. Is this the classic case of the young architect who waits to build the first building?
Yes and no. A lot of the things that I’ve designed seem like proposals for projects when in fact the project is complete, like Chelsea and Neen World which were online communities, built and inhabited for quite a while. Other projects like the Pause space inside fargfabriken in stockholm was designed to look like it was never built, it was a space where models could walk around as if it were an electronic environment. When I sent the photos to an architect friend he was impressed by the quality of the rendering thinking it was a drawing. And then this space was demolished after the show, so it really was space that may or may not have existed. I’m really into this idea of the building that has dissapeared and the building that is in ruins, and how electronic buildings can become ruins. When you loose a virtual world because the hosting runs out does it become an atlantis, can we speak of electronic ruins? And how do you count time and decay in digital. I just did a music stage in Athens as an animated ruin from one of the buildings in Neen world. The neen world building was based on a graphic patternt from Mai Ueda’s and in the music stage I made this pattern as a fragmented and animated grotto, like a drawing from the romantic Grand Tour of ruins but made with a geometric, illuminated animated matrix. For the outside of the building we covered one corner in the fragmented ruined pattern, just like an electronic ruin in a brand new car-paint steel version and its’ severely out of context with the music that’s played there but the owner of the place is a great collector as is often the case with my projects. So anyway to answer your question: I build some, I design a lot and I want to build much more.

You showed me this building that walks. Is this something for fun or do you believe buildings should be walking?
Oh there is a great tradition of architecture that walks, like Ron Herron’s 1964 “walking city” and many others. It’s all speculative and probably should stay that way because I think one of the great advantages of buildings is that they stay put. After September 11 and being in New York at the time, I was very inspired by animated buildings, I did a series of videos called mirrorsite which were all about office buildings recomposing themselves, pieces of mirrors flying all over the place. This new project is really more about a real city, its inspired by a building in Athens, a beer factory designed by architect Takis Zenetos in the 60s. At the time that building was so alien to the scale of everything around it that it seemed like a spaceship just landed from planet architecture, so I was nostalgic for this kind of heroic gesture from the 60’s together with some ideas about museums of contemporary art, and I came up with this building that starts by walking around the city to find a form, then becomes internally alive to find content.

Blue wave is this strange hotel without any horizontal floors. Is this a virtual or a real project? Will it get built?
Somebody started a rumor that this was going to get built, so maybe I should just stick with that! There is no client, it was yet another speculative project, and it was done for an exhibition on new hotel design called invisible hotel. I think the rumor started because for once I really did develop it the whole way, even designing windows and railings and doors and stairs and in the video it looks very inhabited, for such a crazy building anyway. We even put graffiti in it, kind of inspired by spaces you see in video games but also to play around with the resemblance of a hotel to a beach and a squat, which was really the main theoretical approach here. The whole Bue Wave project started from a spare-time building inside Neen world, a place to go and just walk up and down the curved ramps, to test your walking skills as an avatar. Then with MU in Eindhoven we developed it into a spare-time public sculpture system, again a place to hang out, skate or spend your lunch time waiting to go back to the office, a kind of temporary escape or a place to squat for a while.

Recently your seem to be seem to be interested squats, gypsy living, random organization and illegal construction. How does this related the virtual/ digital landscape and to yout other works?
I’ve always been interested in this kind of alternative organization, in fact 10 years ago when we had a conversasion for this magazine with Miltos (Manetas) and Vanessa (Beecroft), I had just done my thesis in Columbia on the relationship of illegal buildings and computer networks. The internet is the perfect breeding ground for any type of activity that is outside the mainstream, and that can include anything from construction to journalism to bad bad stuff like terrorism. Organization of space is a bit different from organization of data, since you don’t have these ready made tools like Google Desktop to keep your files in check. So I’m into this potential mess of a space, and how to organically develop an unstructured mess of stuff into habitable structures. Recently I made a proposal for a New York Loft where the client wanted to move into a raw space and try to fix it while living there, which as we know is a great recipe for disaster, so I proposed a kind of mountain made up of all the moving boxes, just piled up in the middle of the space. The idea was to start from this big mess, and theoretically start opening the boxes right on the pile and grow the apartment gradually. Somewhere along the line a kitchen would form on one side of the pile, the inside of the mountain could be come a cave or a proper bathroom, then maybe a stair to climb up on the outside or a piece of wall starting to emerge from this mount of boxes, appliances, suitcases, computers and of course plants.


Digiki said...

hey Angelo
just found your blog, very cool
have fun in Milan, let's do something together sometime !

Antonin / Digiki // in Tokyo

Angelo Plessas said...

Hey Digiki, nice to hear from you. We have been talking about you with Mai these days. Let's do something in Japan