gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are clients, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.21 introduces Ryan Tyler Martinez, a Los Angeles-based designer and educator.
▼Ryan Tyler Martinez
“I love knowledge, stories, reading about things and narratives…I love to produce films, graphic design and going to galleries and museums. Those are still in parallel with architecture.”
What is your hometown like and why did you choose to become an architect?
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and lived in Wilmington on the east coast in North Carolina until I moved to Los Angeles in 2011. The main reason why I became an architect is because of my parents. The night my mother’s water broke when she was pregnant with me, my dad had a dream that he saw my name on a building, so from day one they told me I was going to be an architect. My childhood revolved around construction toys, drawing classes and anything relating to buildings. At some point I revolted and didn’t want to be an architect. When I started college, I was taking studio art in the first two years. After a year, I realized I was supposed to go to architecture school. I ended up graduating with both architecture and art degrees.
Did you ever feel the pressure?
No. My parents were very supportive. I could have done whatever I wanted to. Just them feeding the idea that I could be an architect influenced my position on it.
Besides architecture, what are your other interests?
I don’t do a lot of things other than architecture, sadly. I enjoy contemporary art history very much. I think the conceptual art movement that was happening from Duchamp until now is something I find fascinating because I love knowledge, stories, reading about things and narratives. If I’m not doing architecture it’s probably something related to the arts, so for instance, I love to produce films, graphic design and going to galleries and museums. Those are still in parallel with architecture. Sometimes I use those as subjects that influence my work.
LA is a great city for events, art and culture. I didn’t have any formal training in film. I took an animation class when I was getting my studio art degree. Back in 2008, the DSLR camera started to be used to film. I remember the first time I went to Rome, I purchased a DSLR to film with. That was the first time that I made a film. As I moved over to SCI-arc for graduate school, I produced a film for the graduate thesis in 2011. It was just done out of pure love for the intensity of the work. I just wanted to make something. This first film actually opened the door to a lot of other things later on. I’ve never considered myself a filmmaker or wanting to produce film as a career, but there have been a lot of exciting projects and opportunities that came to me because of it. After doing that one film I ended up producing a film with Herwig Baumgartner called Advances in Architectural Geometry, that was shown at the Pompidou Center. The film was about current geometric subjects in architecture. I have worked on the Grounded Visionaries Campaign for Harvard; I did a series of films on the school and I interviewed some of its faculty and students in the process. I was interested in producing a series where, instead of only having someone sit down and talk about their work, the short film would also show their practice and the “behind the scenes” and the third component would be to produce a kind of gallery for the work.
▼Ryan Tyler Martinez为哈佛大学Grounded Visionaries Campaign拍摄的影片，Grounded Visionaries Campaign for Harvard: Films by Ryan Tyler Martinez
User abroad could click to watch the video on Vimeo: video 1, video 2
“I find it important to teach the next generation to cultivate and make decisions for themselves. It brings me a lot of joy to teach because I feel like I am helping students find themselves in a way.”
“With architecture education, you can do just about anything you want. It teaches you ways of working and thinking, from large scale to details.”
Please tell us more about your teaching background.
Student Work at Woodbury University School of Architecture – Drawing by current M.Arch student Parsa Rezaee
Student work produced while teaching at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
I started teaching at SCI-arc right after receiving my Master’s degree. I was an assistant teacher in the beginning and taught with Nanako Umemoto, and later on I was a lecturer at UC Berkeley. The one thing I learned from graduate school is that teaching and working are in parallel. I don’t think it is just about one or the other, so I taught part time at SCI-Arc when I was working at Gehry Partners, LLP. I find it important to teach the next generation to cultivate and make decisions for themselves. It brings me a lot of joy to teach because I feel like I am helping students find themselves in a way. After leaving Gehry Partners I worked at SCI-arc full time. I taught at SCI-arc for about 3 years in total, mostly teaching visual studies classes. This past summer I took on a position as the assistant chair at Woodbury University School of Architecture. I teach thesis prep and studio in addition to my administration role. That’s the full circle of my teaching since 2013.
BSSA India Workshop while teaching at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
User abroad could click HERE to watch the video on Vimeo
What are the traditions in American architecture education that you think are productive?
Digital transformations happened in the last 30-40 years. We are starting to move back towards focusing on buildings as opposed to focusing on the tools. At Woodbury we’re interested in cultivating students to have a clearly defined “Project” for their career, but to also want to build things. I don’t think architecture school is about teaching construction methodology. I think education in the United States is more about getting a foundation for how you want to work and how to think about things. When you do get the opportunity to build, you can work on a very specific context. Buildings in the United States tend to focus more on economy than on design. You have to work extra hard to convince the clients of things that are beyond the typical or the norm. Maybe design education is also about teaching students to find an alternative narrative to communicate with the public.
Final Review at Woodbury University School of Architecture
Besides building, what else do architecture school provides?
With architecture education, you can do just about anything you want. It teaches you ways of working and thinking, from large scale to details. The academia is a safe platform for creative people to push the boundaries and go beyond the norm. The ultimate goal for students I teach is cultivating their ability to become leaders and to take risks. Walter Gropius once said, “The ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building!” I think the ultimate aim of architecture is the complete building, and I still believe that very much. Hopefully the students who come to architecture school would want to build buildings by the time they are done with their education.
▼伍德伯里大学建筑学院Martinez Studio 5A设计工作室中期评图
5A Design Studio Midterm Review: Martinez Studio at Woodbury University School of Architecture
What are the challenges for American architecture education?
In 2018, one of the biggest challenges is the economy. If you look at the statistics that are produced from private companies doing research, academia always does better in recessions. Because the economy is doing so well in the United States right now, people enrolling in school is much lower. You can’t really have architecture school without students.
From a kind of pedagogical position, I think one of the biggest problems is this idea that architecture is no longer a critical discourse in the sense that what people are projecting out into the media such as social media and news is what is cultivating people’s perceptions of what is relevant. One of the challenges we’re facing in studio is, for example, when a student turns to Pinterest for design inspiration after being asked to design something. Another challenge I see as an educator is controlling and shaping a curriculum, a way of looking at things, when there are now so many other outside influences affecting students simultaneously.
I’m really optimistic about the future of our industry just because there are so many new technology advances and so many new workflows. It’s making things easier and faster. I feel lucky to be an educator now and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next 20 years, especially seeing how that trickles down to people working and building in the built environment.
What is Woodbury’s current pedagogical stance on architecture education? How would you characterize the program?
Heather Flood, the Undergraduate and Graduate Chair of Architecture, has done a fantastic job. She’s been here for four years and she has completely transformed the school starting with rewriting the first year, undergraduate program, which won the Architect Magazine’s studio prize last year. She has a very clear direction on where she wants Woodbury to go and I don’t think it’s like any other school in Los Angeles. It’s going to be very different and also very exciting as far as trying to bridge the gap between academia and the profession. She’s been pushing for us to really have a focus on buildings, materiality, the community, public engagement and representation. I feel very lucky to be able to contribute and be a part of this change, along with the Dean Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter and the Assistant Dean and director of the M.S. Arch program Ewan Branda.
As far as the student work, we are very interested in scale, from digital models and drawings to larger built work. We just put together a partnership with a local home improvement company and we are eager to build more. What that means is to go and purchase ready-mades such as 2x4s, plywood sheets and drills, develop an idea using specific and rigorous techniques in the computer and then go out in the yard and build it. Woodbury University is also working on teaming up with local companies who are interested in sponsoring studios to help influence the production of ideas here at the school.
▼伍德伯里大学建筑学院Martinez Studio 5A设计工作室模型
5A Design Studio Model: Martinez Studio at Woodbury University School of Architecture
How do you balance your own pedagogical interest with the school’s?
I don’t know if there is that big of a difference. Woodbury is open to having multiple voices simultaneously. My project deals with the graphic, shape composition, frame, and figurality. I’m really interested in the translation from the representation to the literal, having the building look like a drawing, and specifically not just a drawing but a graphic drawing. In my studio, we are currently doing a contemporary graphic design gallery in Belgium. We’re using work produced from famous graphic designers as a starting point to allow students to translate flat 2d figures into something more three-dimensional and then start to work on that as a building problem. It’s about taking these shapes, colors and drawings and seeing how they relate to materiality, structure, volume, form, shape and their context within the city. That’s very much in line with what’s going on at Woodbury.
“I think curating and filmmaking are part of architecture…It’s about the people who are coming to see those other people and it’s about how that relates to the totality of what’s happening in architecture.”
Please tell us more about your curation background.
Back in 2014, along with William Hu and Anthony Morey, we started an event called “A One-Night Stand for Art & Architecture” in Los Angeles. A group of friends got together and we decided to make a public deadline for us to produce work. It was hard to find a gallery space, so we got creative in how we were displaying work. We ended up using motel rooms for their flexibility and affordability. Over three years we invited around 80 participants to come and exhibit both architectural and art works. That was my first curatorial experience.
One Night Stand LA: Room exhibition by Jeff Halstead
One Night Stand LA: Room exhibition by Sophie Lauriault
One Night Stand LA Event and Publication Project
Afterwards I had the great pleasure of helping assist curate the Frank Gehry show at LACMA which really influenced my understanding of how one curates. Recently, I was named the director of the Wedge Gallery which is the gallery at Woodbury University. We’ve cross pollinated that with the lecture series and so between the lecture series we’ve been putting on shows to showcase individual architects around the country.
I think curating and filmmaking are part of architecture. It’s part of editing, reading, seeing and talking about work. I love giving someone an opportunity to show work. That’s what motivates me because I feel like I’m contributing to the discourse. The experience of curating shows influences your way of understanding your own work. In the end it’s about other people. It’s about the people who are coming to see those other people and it’s about how that relates to the totality of what’s happening in architecture.
How do you see the difference and similarity between architecture curation and art curation?
They’re very different, yet they’re very similar. They’re very similar in that sense that people are coming to experience the translation from the object to the author. The other similarity is that you are still dealing with space. When you are curating a show it’s usually inside of a space, so to curate space inside of space becomes more problematic as far as how you make decisions on what’s appropriate to display the work. Maybe they’re not as different even though the subjects can be very different.
What’s your goal for the Wedge Gallery?
The shows are specifically for the students. I feel the responsibility to expose them to other conversations happening outside of Woodbury. I think that bringing individuals to come and talk about the work and to actually see the work in person is fantastic. They’ll go to class as part of the curriculum, and on Friday night they get this type of experiential education of walking into someone’s work. That’s the general reason why the Wedge gallery and the lecture series are turning into something more like events as opposed to traditional lectures. It really becomes an exciting way to engage with the students. To speak about design education, maybe we need to be more experimental and open to new forms of academic translation. Studying abroad is another great example. Instead of going to a different country, we’re bringing many little architectural interventions to Woodbury.
Andrew Kovacs opening at the Wedge Gallery: Woodbury University School of Architecture
“My position on being a twenty or thirty-year-old architect is not so much about getting clients and buildings, but more about cultivating a clear body of work.”
What is the status of young architects in United States?
As architects we often don’t start building on our own until we’re 50, historically speaking. I think it’s because of the amount of knowledge we have to acquire over a long period of time. It’s hard to find clients who will give money to architects at the beginning of their career. Someone’s career usually starts in school. Once you graduate you’ll move on to do exhibitions, and then maybe a pavilion. Finally you’ll do interiors, houses, buildings, skyscrapers and then maybe cities. There’s a kind of lineage to things and an architect will learn through all of it. If you get out of school and your first commission is a skyscraper you probably won’t do a very good job. My position on being a twenty or thirty-year-old architect is not so much about getting clients and buildings, but more about cultivating a clear body of work that is supported through things like drawings, models, architectural events, texts, films or design education. It doesn’t have to necessarily be practice just yet but it still should be in line with a specific theme. It’s the capital P “Project,” meaning what you are going to work on during your life, so when you look back when you’re in your seventies or eighties there’s a consistent narrative to the work.
Is there a generation difference in American architecture field? If so, how do you compare your generation to the previous ones?
I would argue there are less generational gaps in American architecture. We now live and operate in a discourse where architectural work is now being archived and presented as sets of specific architecture themes or interests. Someone in their fifties could be working on something similar as someone in their twenties. There’s always going to be new subjects happening in your life that will influence how you work on things, but those interests could be influencing someone of a different generation in a very similar way. As far as architecture is concerned it’s about making images, drawings, and taking photographs of buildings and how you talk about all those things simultaneously. That’s why architecture is fantastic; you don’t get judged on your background, ethnicity, age, whether you’re wrong or right. It’s purely based off of the work you produce and how that work relates to other work being produced at that time it was created.
But then to the society there is a difference. Just like would you describe young architects. Different ages get different opportunities. Will that influence the way you see it?
I was in Architect Magazine where they interviewed me as a millennial architect. There’s all these statistics about how Millennials are lazy and selfish. I don’t see that at all. I feel I’m constantly giving myself and my time to the point where I can’t even make work anymore. There’s a lot of cultural tangents that are happening in parallel to architecture that I think are way different than what’s actually happening within architecture. On your question about society and trying to get clients, I don’t think we can control it. It’s your job to do your work and that’s the only thing you can control. Everything else is out of your control. Just be ready when someone does come along to hire you.
Big data, privacy laws, public information, hashtags, and always having the option to connect to things influence me a lot. One thing I’m noticing amongst my peers is that everyone is indexing their own work. You do a drawing and you go to the next assignment. You steal something from the previous drawing and slip it in, and then you make a model out of it. It’s a kind of self-plagiarism and making sure there’s always a network between the work. Maybe that’s been around for some time but specifically now, post digital turn, it seems like a constant theme. Maybe that’s why I’m so open. Different generations are not hierarchical. It is a field condition. It doesn’t really matter what came first. It’s just the information and the information is a network of connectivity.
How do you balance your different roles?
Think less and do more. That’s an interesting question. There have been times where I’ve been very stressed and tired, but I’ve never felt like I couldn’t get something done. I think anxiety can be very productive for people. It’s also about practicing doing things and getting better at them. The more you do them the quicker you are. Maybe this is where I am today with all these different subjects or interests. It’s an aggregation of a bunch of things that I’ve been working on separately over time and have gotten better at them. Maybe it’s leading towards one big thing as opposed to a bunch of little things.
“I hope by indexing the past, I will be able to cultivate something different but will still be able to contribute to the discourse and all the other great projects that are being fostered today.”
How would you describe your interests and design approach? Could you give us a few examples?
I usually try to index or reuse something from a previous project as a point of departure for new design work. In addition to that, I also look at the work by Enric Miralles and Frank Gehry; especially the work they did at the beginning of their careers. I think as a designer or someone who likes to invent or create things specially with different mediums, functions, and scales – the only way to become good at something is to keep working on one problem or technique for a while before moving to a different way of working or design solution.
▼Ryan的设计作品，design works of Ryan
There have been two primary interests of mine in the past five years; typography and posters. I’m interested in the figure or profile of different types of lines, especially with cusps, curves and edges, and how that line anatomy can start to translate into volumetric or 3-dimensional shapes. Typography is interesting because it has an already combined collection of different types of line characteristics. I end up curating what I like and don’t like by editing or reusing already made typography.
▼字型学研究，study of typography
The second subject that I have been focusing on are posters. I am often working with a 27×40 frame, which is the standard size of a movie poster, and drawings that are usually oversized or larger than a 24×36 print. I’m interested in composition and how you can start to design around a frame. I see this as research for when you work on a building site. All sites have property lines. I see these property frames the same way I read and understand my poster research.
▼海报设计，design of poster
What are you currently working on?
I recently just completed an exhibition at WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles. I curated and designed an exhibition for a visionary architect and artist Bryan Cantley. The show was interested in blurring the boundary between orthographic drawings such as plan, sections, elevations and physical architecture models. There was also a large scaled drawing/graphic that was used as part of the exhibition design. That show was completed late October.
▼WUHO Galley展览，exhibition at WUHO Gallery
An ongoing project that I have been working on for the past two years is a documentary for Hong Kong-based artist Simon Birch. Birch is the mastermind and creator of the 14th Factory, which was a pop-up museum in an old abandoned set of buildings in Lincoln Heights, California in 2017. It’s an interesting documentary about an artist using architecture and space to create an immersive experience that can start to relate to art work. It is a 90-minute film which is about half way done. I’m hoping to be done with it in the coming months or year.
What is your work’s stance on current discipline?
As I mentioned before, architects tend to begin their building career at a much later age. I think being in my late twenties and early thirties, I’ve been interested in understanding my work and its relationship to larger conversations about what’s happening in architecture today. (Or at least what is happening in architecture within my sphere.) From my perspective it seems that we now function as a mediated discourse. We live in a world where what is relevant to media is what makes something relevant. The interesting part of today is that we get to see multiple architecture projects being cultivated simultaneously from different authors.
I think one thing I’m interested in is the graphic and how that relates to architecture as some type of problem or perhaps a tool for design. I think a lot of people are working on similar subjects and I admire their work. I think it is our job to make sure we are always trying to push beyond the familiar and move towards the unfamiliar. From a disciplinary stand point, I’ve been indexing or researching work from individuals who are no longer alive or work that is not currently part of the mediated discourse. Some examples would be individuals like Ledoux, Peter Paul Rubens, Enric Miralles, amongst others. I’m hoping that the next five years I get to focus on buildings and building ideas in relationship to the graphic. I hope by indexing the past, I will be able to cultivate something different but will still be able to contribute to the discourse and all the other great projects that are being fostered today.
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