After our conversation with Kep Grundheber we were concerned with the question of the concept of nature itself. Are Wind channels at tube station entries actually part of the natural world? How is the concept of nature defined at all in the age of the Anthropocene? Isn’t architecture nature as well? And the city its biotope?

To find out we spoke to Kipras Kazlauskas. For years, he has been involved in EASA, the annual self-organized festival of the European Architecture Students’ Assembly. As part of the organizing board for the event in his home country of Lithuania in 2017, he conducted experiments with the participants, where they were brought, for example, in small groups to an indeterminate point in the landscape, from where they should find their way back to the camp without any means of navigation.

As an architect, he works at the Berlin based office Raumlabor which is known for its experimental and critical engagement with urban space. We talk to him about collaborative projects, conceptual approaches and their implementation, and the idea of three-dimensional collage.

// For Raumlabor you work on a lot of Projects that are aiming to have social impact, very conceptual in a way. How do you see the interplay beween the actual built project and the conceputal goals that stand behind it? Do you reach them or is it staying “just a concept” as critics often allege?

I think there are two different things, usually when people talk about their project and afterwards you look at what is actually there, you can find a discrepancy, it doesn‘t match. For example there has been a summer school in the rural area somewhere last year. The plan was to include local people to build things to improve their neighbourhood, but what happend in the end is that not so many locals could be involved. I think there was more conceptual material created than actually something nice that happening there on the spot.

But this is just one example of a failure, there are also many successful ones, for example the floating university.

// What did you like about the project?

You just had a nice time there, lots of people were coming and going all the time. It was an open venue but it was also actually an educational platform, so you could study there and get credits for it. There was a collaboration with the different universities and I think a reason why the project worked out so well was that there was no client They started everything by themselves, collecting money for three years, getting involved in the community, which was important because all around there are community gardens. The space is also quite political because it is quite a big empty space which investors have for a lon time been looking at. So the community didn‘t want any press or media about the place so this issue had to be handled quite carefully. Of course in the end there was press involved but they planted som things with the local community, so the process was collaborative with those who are living around. In that way I think all this makes in an successful example.

// So if the main focus of the project was the human collaboration, how did they eventually make a spacial design for the place? What was their role as architects?

I think there was not much of a traditional design process involved. Most importantly they had to use cheap and available material, that was the biggest restriction. But honestly I think everybody could have done it, but no one did. It‘s a temporary structure to serve the purpose, to give space for education.

// But raumlabor is an architecture office with quite a clear misson it
seems, at least from the outside.

I don‘t think so. Raumlabor consists of 8 people with very differen characters. It is not even a unified company it‘s a collective.

// Do they have any shared values that tie them together?

Yes, for sure but at the same time they are very different. I am now working with two partners which are completely different from each other. One doesnt care about details at all, he focuses more on the conceptual level, what it is, what it is about, what‘s the story behind. That is generally what they really like, they like to tell a story. For him the narrative is really important. The other partner cares very much about the design and how it looks, the details, the materials. So they come from very different approaches which then get discussed a lot during meetings. It is not always all too serious.

// What you said about the narrative sounds very interesting. Do they find a narrative and then build after it or do they find a narrative afterwards to fit their design?

Maybe the story sometimes is told a bit differently to how it actually happened afterwards because you wish it would have worked differently but generally I think the project always starts with the narrative.
It all evolves simultaneously, throughout the process you edit the design and the story several times.

// How do they approach those very broad ideas that they are working with, like, let‘s say, collaboration, community, public space; how do they create boundaries so the narrative becomes clear?

For example the project I am working on is the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum, its a very huge and strange building and it has a big parking lot in front of it, actually it isn‘t but it looks like one, very terrible. We were asked to design kind of an festival center for the Ruhr Biennale there. When we were making the model we thought, ‘oh it looks like an airport’. And we were putting a toy airplane that we had lying around in the office in front of it. And when we saw it we thought, yeah why not just make this plane? It was an ongoing joke, still very unclear if we would do it or not and in the end it just happened. It was a bit of a critique to this place, to say ‘hey it looks like an airport, so we put an airplane there’. The plane itself was later bought on ebay. You can buy entire airplanes on ebay. So we thought, ‘oh wow what else can we buy,’ so we also bought a complete bus, and then we sort of recycled it to be something else. The project has been going on for three years now, so it evolves constanly. Next year we will cut the airplane and rearrange it. This recycling is often involved in the process.

// Do you think the recycling happens out of environmental concerns?

Partly, I think for sustainability it would just be the best to not do it. I think it is more about recycling space in a way, putting something in a space that is already there to point out its existence, to highlight it.

// There was also another project where this aspect was quite visible, the Kitchen Monument. Could you tell us more about it?

For this project they had a sort of inflatable structure and they were driving with it through the US, just inflating it in places temporarily and after that taking it someplace else.

// This recycling thing actually reminds me a lot of collaging. When recycling you put something back in a cycle, but for a collage you choose a spot and you place something there that doesn‘t really fit, but somehow works. To randomly put in the airplane then cut it and rearrange it differently on the same site; to me it sound like a 3D collage, which is quite funny if you think about how architects are making collages all the time.

Thank you Kipras for your time!