Alec Soth

«Alec Soth does wander but he does it in a territory that he knows best»

When you think of an exhibition from a world-famous photographer, it would not be unusual to assume it would be located in a big city known for its rich cultural heritage such as London, Tokyo or New York. Certainly, your mind would not immediately go to a tiny green island between England and France. But Guernsey, which is part of the Channel Islands, is where you can find photographer Alec Soth’s exhibition Looking For Love.

Of course, this is not the first time a big name has been associated with the island, it was the home of exiled Victor Hugo and inspiration for his book The Toilers of the Sea. There are several paintings by Renoir of the rocky coves and caves of the southern cliffs. In addition to this, the Channel Islands were the only part of Great Britain that was occupied by German forces during World War II and this history inspired the best selling novel and subsequent film adaptation The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. 

In recent years the island has also become known for its photography festival involving well-known photographers such as Martin Parr CBE and Mark Power. Now the Guernsey Photography Festival welcomes Alec Soth to that list for its ten year (plus one due to delays caused by the pandemic) anniversary.

Alec Soth is an American photographer who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He gained fame for his colour photographs which he takes on a large-format camera. His work has been described as being based in the ‘documentary style’ and much of it consists of the people and landscapes in the rural and suburban American Midwest and South.

This particular exhibition of Soth’s work ‘Looking for Love’ consists of earlier works of his, taken before the projects which propelled him into the spotlight of the art world. NR Magazine was joined by Jean-Christophe Godet who is the Artistic Director of the Guernsey Photography Festival and the curator of ‘Looking for Love’ at Guernsey Museum at Candie.

Upon entering the gallery one is greeted by a sea of black and white photographs of people with a few landscapes dotted in here and there. The introduction on the wall tells us, in Soth’s own words, about the time in his life that the pictures were taken. Jean-Christophe Godet expands on that text. “People think this exhibition is one project but it isn’t, it’s a collection of projects. This was a time when he was quite young and feeling miserable, as we all do when we are young. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his future but was still interested in photography. His job at that time was to work in a photo lab where he processed all the films. In the evening he would go to bars, and meet people and take their photographs. At this stage, he was in a learning process. That’s why we were interested in this exhibition because we wanted people to know where Alec Soth came from.”

The photographs in this exhibition were not taken on a large-format camera like much of Soth’s work, Godet explains, but on medium-format. “The next projects he did, which is what he became famous for, that’s when he started shooting on large-format with the big camera. He likes taking his time when he shoots people, so setting up the camera gives him a chance to meet and talk with the people. It helps him relax as well because he’s an introverted person. He’s the type of guy, if you sit next to him on a plane, he won’t talk to you. He learned how to be more social from doing this exhibition.”

Godet walks over to a pair of photographs, “There’s no story in this exhibition. Soth liked that, it’s up to you to decide the story of the characters you are going to meet. From a curatorial aspect, I wanted people to be able to infer their own meaning onto each picture, but also at the same time some pictures work together to tell a story.”

He points at the duologly, «For example, I decided as a curator to put these two pictures together. The two middle-aged men in one picture appear to be looking at the young girl in the other, who seems to be flirting with a boy. You question who the girl is and if that’s her boyfriend? Then when you put the two pictures together you question if the two old guys are at the same party? Are they perverts or are they nostalgic about the time when they are younger?”

Godet gestures to the rest of the exhibition enthusiastically “There’s no information about these images because Soth is more interested in human nature. He’s not a documentary photographer, he’s not telling the story of the people in a town in Midwest America, it’s more about understanding feelings and emotions. He wants you to decide the story behind them. He wants you to imply your own experiences onto them.”

He leads me to another image, this one of a young man in a suit, easily missed in the sea of photographs. “This is Alex Soth’s self-portrait. He took it the night before he was getting married. He looks quite relaxed, maybe half drunk and he looks like he is feeling quite satisfied with himself. There is something there that he is trying to tell us because his work is always about him as well, it’s about the way he feels and relates to the world. At the beginning of the exhibition, we are told that he is miserable and alone but now we discover that at some point during this project, looking at people looking for love, he found his love, in some way, by getting married. But it’s up to us to decide how we think he is feeling about this.”

Godet beckons me to the centre of the room. “In this central part of the exhibition, we changed the tone so it looks like it could be the inside of a bar or a club. In this section I was able to put three generations of three different women telling their own story. The young teenager clinging to her lover, the middle-aged women on her own in a bar looking strong but also a bit lonely, and finally the glamorous old lady with her cocktail. I love how, with Alec Soth, you can connect these together. This exhibition is about loneliness and searching, about feeling disappointed and neglected but also hope. Overall it’s kind of dark and lonely because that’s how he felt at the time, but there are plenty of layers. For me, I think that’s how he became famous because he reaches us with his human emotions which is universal.”

He continues walking around the exhibition. “He’s not trying to impose anything on us, by saying ‘oh look how beautiful that is’ or ‘I’m going to show you what love is’, it’s up to us to integrate the raw human emotions he has. You need to take your time to absorb the photos, it’s not like the Wildlife Photography of the Year exhibition. It’s not like ‘oh that shot is spectacular’, and then you forget it when you move onto the next one. With Soth’s work, it’s like you suddenly slow down and you really appreciate how much is in each photo. The images are so strong they stay in your mind for a very long time.”

Back near the start of the entrance, he points at one image which has been blown up to cover an entire section of the wall. Against a snowy backdrop is a billboard upon which is a personal ad titled ‘Looking for Love’. It’s one of the few texts to be found in the exhibition, a deliberate choice Godet explains. “Soth is a massive reader of poetry, but he doesn’t like associating the two because he says poetry and photography tend to reject each other and I understand why he says that, because there’s already so much poetry in his photo he doesn’t need more.”

«But what is the difference between Soth’s work and the images of everyday life you can find on social media?” I ponder.

Godet tells me that, “I would say Fine Art photography makes you think. That’s why the Guernsey Photography Festival focuses on contemporary photography and fine art photography because you reach a different level. Everybody says it’s quite easy to take a photo and that’s true. We have the technology to take a good photo readily at hand, but for example, if you take a photo of the sunset on one of Guernsey’s popular beaches like Cobo.” He gestures dismissively, “‘Wow great photo’. The problem is those photos will be distributed on the net and there will be a million photos of Cobo and the sunset and they all look the same. They all look pretty in terms of colour and they have the wow factor but then you forget them. Because we have been oversaturated by them. It’s like reading a good book, when you read a good book it stays with you for a very long time and the reason it stays is because it triggers emotions within you and makes you think about life, your own and others, and that’s where the difference lies.”

Curious, I ask Godet how Soth came to be a part of the Guernsey Photography Festival. He is only happy to tell us the story and talk more about both Soth’s art practice and personality.

“I met him in Paris seven years ago when I introduced him to the idea of coming to Guernsey. At the time I remember he said, “What?” and I said, “Guernsey…”,  “Where is that?” And I said “Oh it’s a small rock in the middle between France and England’ and he started laughing about it. I think he didn’t take me seriously because at the time we were just starting the Guernsey Photography Festival and we were not well established like we are now.

But then word started spreading internationally that there was something quite interesting developing in Guernsey for photography and also we had Martin Parkin and Mark Power come over. Mark Power is a good friend of Alec Soth and all those people were our best ambassadors and they were saying “Oh yeah I’ve been to Guernsey, I’ve met Chris and the team there and it’s been a fantastic experience, it’s a great festival” so slowly we gained a good reputation.

So I met him in Paris again for another big photography festival, and he recognised me and I told him that we were going to celebrate our ten year anniversary. And he said, «Oh yes I’ve heard about your festival now and I’ve been told good things.” He was supposed to come last year but unfortunately, because of the pandemic, he couldn’t make it.

In my opinion, he is one of the biggest names you can get in the world of contemporary fine art photography so the moral of the story is never give up. But he’s a really nice guy, intelligent and modest as well. There’s nothing pretentious about his work. Everything is coherent with Alec Soth. When he takes a landscape, every single detail in that photo has some kind of significance. And it’s all about what he know’s best, which is America. Soth has never been a travel photographer, there is this myth about being a photographer that you travel a lot that you travel the world, the lifestyle of freedom and wandering the world. Alec Soth does wander but he does it in a territory that he knows best. All his personal work has been related to the midwest of America. I love that about him because what’s the point of sending a photographer to say the Middle East when they don’t know anything about the culture. It’s much better to ask someone local to take the photos and give us the reality of things.”

Speaking of keeping things local, “Do you think Guernsey has the potential to become a big cultural hub of photography and Fine Art?” I ask him.

He laughs, “I’ve been working on that for the last ten years. I do believe there is potential there, but I think to reach that there is a necessity for a political drive for cultural development. I think unless we reach an agreement on a political level there will always be a bit of a struggle. Because if you want to be a cultural hub you need to invest in it. You can’t just rely on a small amount of public funding and donation and sponsorship. I’ve worked on lots of different major projects in major cities and you need funding for it. With the Guernsey Photography Festival, we have tried our best and we have proven it is possible, but I think a political position is necessary. I think there is a tendency in Guernsey to be satisfied with what we have, and while I don’t criticise that, there is so much more in the world to discover in terms of the profile you can create. It’s important to help and support local artists, but I think if we want to attract people to come to Guernsey as a hub local artist won’t be sufficient. You need to have big names like Alec Soth. Then people hear about it and think ‘oh wow this is pretty cool place to visit and live, not only can you enjoy the beaches and wildlife and historical culture but you have names like Alec Soth as well.’”

Before he leaves I ask a final question, “What are the plans for the future of the photography festival.”

“This is just the starting exhibition for this years festival,” Godet tells me, “because on the 23rd of September we are having a big open night for the Guernsey Photography Festival with the Guernsey symphony orchestra and we will have a multitude of international artists. I think in total we have 25 exhibitions planned in celebration of our ten year (plus one) anniversary. We have some really exciting artists but I’m not going to mention any names, you will have to wait for the press release, but it’s going to be big!”

Later, as I walk away from the museum I think over Soth’s work exploring the beauty and complexity of the mundane and Godet’s thoughts on the need for local governments involvement in local culture. Lost in thought I stumble on another small outdoor exhibition of different photographers work, about ten minutes walk from the gallery. It’s concise and wonderfully accessible to the public. It reminds me that Soth’s most famous work was created in the region he was born. With the pandemic making us rethink travel, perhaps it’s time to look away from larger cities and instead demand for art and culture to also be brought to, and created in, our own tiny pockets of the world. Something the Guernsey Photography Festival has already been doing for ten (plus one) years.



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Images · ALEC SOTH

Claudia Andujar

Andujar often applied Vaseline to her camera lens, used flash devices, infrared film, and oil lamps to create visual distortions

The Barbican’s latest exhibition explores the work of Claudia Andujar, a Swiss-born Brazilian photographer and activist who has spent her life documenting and defending the Yanomami, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous peoples. Through a collection of over 200 photographs, an audio-visual installation, and a series of drawings by the Yanomami, the exhibition explores Andujar’s relationship with the Yanomami that spanned five decades, and details periods of direct activism amongst the indigenous communities.  

The exhibition is housed in The Curve, featuring powerful photographs from Andujar’s first six years living with the Yanomami and explores how the photographer used her camera as a tool to drive political change. At a time when the Yanomami’s territory and way of life is being threatened from continued illegal mining and the spread of Covid-19, the exhibition holds particular significance: it shows how Andujar dealt with visually interpreting a complex culture, and how her art serves to amplify the voices and struggles of the Yanomami.  

From the start of her career documenting the Yanomami in the 1970s, Andujar’s photographic approach differed greatly from the traditional documentary style of her contemporaries. The photographs she took during this period experiment with a range of techniques to visually translate the shamanic and ritualistic culture of the Yanomami. Andujar often applied Vaseline to her camera lens, used flash devices, infrared film, and oil lamps to create visual distortions of light streaks and saturated colours that imbue her work with an ethereal quality. The exhibition also features a series of more sober black-and-white portraits of the Yanomami that focus closely on their faces and bodies, using an intense chiaroscuro to create a strong sense of intimacy. 

By the late 1970s, Andujar had reached a pivotal point in her career. With the Amazon region opened to deforestation and invasive agricultural programs, entire Yanomami communities were destroyed. Andujar deepened her commitment to the Yanomami struggle, and in 1978 she helped found the ‘Commissão Pro-Yanomani’ and began a campaign to protect their homeland. Andujar’s artistic career at this point was abandoned in favour of using photography solely to raise awareness for the cause.

As a photojournalist and a European, Andujar’s project is still a complex one: it cannot be wholly separated from the history of the colonial gaze on indigenous people. Yet it is clear that she has been welcomed by the Yanomami – films, drawings and texts by the community leader Davi Kopenawa throughout the exhibition demonstrate. It is without a doubt that Andujar’s work powerfully captures the struggles of the indigenous peoples and delivers both a unique peek into the lives and worldview of the Yanomami and a potent condemnation of the violence enacted on them.

‘Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle’ is on at the Barbican Centre until 29th August. Discover more here  

Kliwadenko Novas

«innovation is not coming from technology but by having the chance of approaching the building process with more freedom»

Sweeping shots of golden arid landscapes, wild salty Pacific bays, and the rise of the rocky Andean mountains serve to juxtapose the modern architecture nestled in the wilderness. This is one of the documentaries by Kliwadenko Novas,  an audiovisual production company formed by Katerina Kliwadenko, a Chilean journalist, and Mario Novas, a Spanish architect. Since 2015 the duo has been developing an investigation into architecture and urbanism in Latin America, a region they have a special interest in due to its state of “constant crisis that forces it to reinvent itself.” In addition to this, they also focus their projects on “people capable of redrawing the limits of their disciplines and questioning what they do”. NR Magazine joined them in conversation about their work.

What was it specifically that inspired you to create these documentaries about architecture and urbanism in Latin America?

In 2014 we did a one year trip crossing the region starting from Guatemala to Southern Chile. This is a part of the world we really tried to get to know better. Having a common language that allows us to interact properly with everybody is a huge advantage in order to film and interview. This led us to develop a two-year-long research project on its contemporary architecture scene as an editorial work. This kind of matched with the 2016 Venice Biennial when the director has been Alejandro Aravena. There was this momentum of Latin America that attracted lots of views and we thought that the right format for portraying this project would be a documentary. The documentaries format enables a collective experience for viewers when they are screened and this helps to diversify the type of public it reaches. Otherwise, the traditional forms of publications are just consumed by architects.

You describe Latin America as a region in constant crisis. How do you think that affects architecture in these countries?

This means the future is somehow uncertain. Facing this, architects try to develop their profession in different ways, some of them really disruptive and radical. What we’ve found, when we discover some of the new lines of work like one from Al Borde in Ecuador, Solano Benitez in Paraguay or David Torres in Mexico, is that they enjoy architecture in a wider sense. On one hand, they are involved closely in the management of the construction which is an aspect that makes the profession really exciting, and on the other hand, they have to deal with such hard budget restrictions that the solutions have to be innovative. We see it as a change of the architects’ role which enables them to make architecture not only behind a computer screen, but by being on the construction site and related to their clients more closely.

You come from quite different backgrounds as an architect and a journalist respectively. How does that affect your collaborative process when creating these documentaries?

Us architects are often trained in school to express ourselves in quite a strange way. When you read the explanations of a project in the architectural media it sounds over intellectualised or over sophisticated and without any need. So having a journalistic approach means that the way we portray projects can reach the wider public.

I would say now, reading the question again, we are not as aware that we come from different backgrounds anymore. In our daily routine, we switch continuously from our role as a couple, to our role of teammates, and to the role of parents. And we are always trying to keep every sphere safe from the other-one.

Regarding the films, our creative process is really organic. We both carry out all the different phases, from the script to the editing, together.

Are there any new technologies that you are aware of which you think will change how architecture will be approached in Latin America in the future? 

In terms of new construction technology, you have to realise there are not the same as in Europe or in North America for the high budget buildings. Having such a high percentage of inhabitants who can not afford those kinds of constructions, I would say innovation is not coming from technology but by having the chance of approaching the building process with more freedom. Not having so many rules creates a really good environment to try to solve problems in an original way.

Your documentaries also focus on social issues in Latin America. Do you consider them as a form of activism that will help to shed light on, and bring attention to these issues?

We try to create documentaries with a positive approach that show how people solved certain aspects of their personal and local environments. We like to use those examples to show the public the act of taking care of local problems, no matter where you live. Because surely there are many things to solve and improve in our environment. Portraying architects who do it in their areas within their conditions and expertise is a way of saying that if they can, so can you, regardless of whether you live in Miami, Zürich or Melbourne. Ultimately it is about showing ways of coping with life.

In your documentary Do More with Less you explore housing issues for those living under the poverty line. By 2030 two billion people are expected to be living in slums, so you think that indigenous practices of building homes can be used to tackle issues like these in Latin America?

We think solutions have to come from local knowledge. Every part of the world is so different that in certain aspects indigenous practices could be part of a solution. If they did it over 500 years and it is still working, why not? But as I said, every case is different, so a way of facing these issues could be by creating structures to allow collaborative processes, where everyone can bring in their knowledge.

Which architectural project/work stood out to you the most in your work? 

I would say the SESC Pompéia, a project built in 1977 by Lina Bo Bardi in Sao Paulo. Everything you Google about this project, or from the work of Lina Bo Bardi will blow your mind.

What difficulties have you faced while creating your documentaries and how did you overcome those challenges? 

Acquiring funds is our biggest problem. So one way to solve this is to keep production and post-production budgets really low by doing most of the work ourselves. We are still looking for the right partners who can see the opportunity in joining in with these movies.

In a broad sense, how do you think architecture in Latin America differs from its North American and European counterparts?

As I said before, there are fewer rules especially in rural areas that affect the construction process. And, in general, Latin American governments do not provide an equal distribution of wealth. This creates a large economic gap in society that has to be effectively resolved in another way. In our opinion, these two factors are the origin of the architectural examples that interest us in this region.

What advice would you give to young creatives who are looking to get into the fields of documentaries/filmmaking and architecture?

The advice to learn by doing. Focusing on some local issues means they don’t need big production budgets to travel for the opportunity to start filming and editing. This is a way to find your own point of view and voice as creators, to develop an original and outstanding film. In the end, it is not specific advice for the field of architecture. We believe that it is a subject that can be portrayed from many angles so there is still much to discover.

Do you have any projects you are working on at the moment and what are your plans for the future? 

We released this year a six-episode series called Architecture On The Edge. Commissioned by Shelter, which is the only streaming platform focused just on architecture and design content, it is about six constructions located in remote scenarios of the Chilean landscape.

Now we are completing two interactive documentaries which are to be released by the end of this year. One, called Raw Land, portrays an education model capable of renewing the profession of the architect and the rural context in which it is held. A building process of an architecture student’s degree project settled down in Southern Chile, on a waste territory far away from the world. And Making Meaningful Things Happen on the Fuerte El Tiuna Project in Caracas, Venezuela. Portraying politics of the everyday through this 15 years old project as a form of resistance by proposing in such a polarised country.



Nina Doll

«it offers people the opportunity to sustainably express themselves»

Nina, 24, Berlin-based digital fashion designer and CGI Artist is switching the way we think of fashion.

With a manual approach to design on her back, the German artist has marked her name within the group of creatives which are trying to revolutionise our industry one step at a time. Talking through her development as a designer, Nina spoke with NR about the perks and countless possibilities of expanding fashion production onto the digital world.

Sustainability, visibility, inclusivity, these are just some of the many points that could affirm CGI creative production as the new chapter for contemporary consumerism.

Exploring emotions and how a new era of digitalised humanity would feel and look like, Nina’s work is the ultimate undermining proof that ‘a whole new culture is emerging’. Take a journey into Nina’s boundless digital world: a reality where oneself could be anything.

How has your approach to fashion design developed from manual to digital? 

During my Master Degree in Fashion design I attended a course covering digital Fashion. While at first I was sure I would have stuck with classic Fashion design, I later on got caught with the digital aspects of it and began to teach myself CLO3D.

It really was quite a natural process learning and experimenting with digital Fashion and other 3D Tools like sculpting. Over time, I started to share some of my work on Instagram, and got into it even more. After realising the huge market, and the amazing Feedback over my art and work, I simply stuck to it. For my final MA graduation Project I combined digital Fashion, Abstract sculpting, CGI visualization and real tailoring.

Talk us through your latest projects and collaborations.

One of the latest projects I took part in was an editorial story for Vogue Portugal. Although they were shooting with actual clothes on a model, Baby G – taking care of post production – and I embedded CGI Elements onto the real Image afterwards. Glass flowers, abstract swirls around the model… We also recreated the model’s face in 3D and added more elements onto it: the point was to create a mixture of her real self, with her digital identity. This is the kind of photo compositing I love the most. It demonstrates the incisive ambivalence between real and virtual. Another project I have recently been working on was a collaboration with the fashion brand A BETTER MISTAKE. Being commissioned to make a video, I redesigned their real pieces in 3D, created an Avatar model for them and placed the product in a fully digital landscape.

What are the perks of digital design? And the cons?

The ultimate perks of digital design is the absence of waste. It is also a whole new creative world. There is nothing you can’t actually do: you are completely free when it comes to your choice of material, setting, environment, model, movement… It is also an amazing opportunity for young aspiring – fashion – designers: the digital realm allows you to showcase your work without the economical effort one would face when producing a collection in real life.
On the other hand, new challenges regarding the environment such as electricity consumption, are coming up. Also think about NFTs, and the usage for the end customer: it is still very limited, as ‘body tracking’ is still evolving.

Taking into consideration the advent of NFTs and the marketing aspects related to it, where do you portray fashion within such instances?

I believe NFTs are enabling digital fashion pieces to be an art piece on their own. NFTs in general give artists the opportunity to make money out of their practice without having to depend on clients or commission work. Through such a marketplace, customers are able to own something special, a unique garment, just like it is in real life with couture pieces or limited editions.

How does technology affect the value of design?

Personally, it adds value and sets designers free from real life restrictions. Creating digital art or digital fashion is a real craftsmanship: the hours of work, the challenges and the design that goes into a digital dress should not be underestimated.
Furthermore, through the world of NFTs, technology is now able to really display the monetary value of digital art and, eventually, make it tradeable.

Can CGI technology determine the way people look at tangible products? What do you believe to be its impact in culture?

When it comes to marketing campaigns, CGI technology can transport a lot of emotional storytelling. It gives you the opportunity to showcase anything you feel could fit within a specific story, it allows you to enhance the tangible product at its best.
CGI can also create products that don’t even need, nor can, tangibly exist: when it comes to face filters, or digital makeup, the asset of possibilities is countless. A great example is the work by the amazing 3D makeup creator Ines Alpha.

When it comes to face filters, especially those not intended with artistic value, the idea of ‘optimizing’ the face remains. This has definitely an impact on our culture: it manipulates how we look at ourselves, how we think of beauty.

On another note, it is clear that reality, and the virtual world with its identities, are fusing unstoppably. Our digital identity is part of ourselves, and vice versa. With the rise of our digital being and identity, there is a whole new culture emerging.

Could digital design contribute to sustainability in fashion?

Definitely! There are plenty of aspects that can contribute to sustainability in fashion. Think of production for example:

«sampling & fitting can be done digitally, design choices can be tried and decided digitally, the whole, before producing the final garment.»

Campaigns or editorials can be done digitally. Alternatively, travel could also be avoided by shooting the story in a studio, to later add a CGI background to it.

Thinking of social media presence, it offers people the opportunity to sustainably express themselves: ’the digital’ in fact reduces consumption and the impact of fast fashion.

Finally, where will your practice lead you next?

A new chapter is starting for me at the moment. I just finished my Master thesis and I can now fully focus on working and creating. I am currently working on a project with The Fabricant, which is really exciting to me. I have always dreamt of being able to join their vision and create something together with their team.


Images · Nina Doll

Tatsuo Miyajima

«If you want to use technology to create your work, stop studying technology»

Sometimes it can feel like life is dominated by numbers, sums and allotments of time, all looming over us in with the blinking flashing urgency that comes with our increasingly digital environments. With Tatsuo Miyajima’s work, this feeling has become reality. Whilst his art ranges across a wide variety of mediums there is a single focus; numbers. Specifically the kind you find on old digital clocks or calculators. Miyajima is one of Japan’s leading sculptures and installation artists, and his work is centred around his use of LED counters, which flash sequences of numbers from one to nine. His work is also heavily influenced by Eastern and Buddhist philosophy. NR Magazine joined the artist in conversation. 

One of your three artistic concepts is ‘keep changing’. How do you think your work has changed throughout your career?

For the first 7 years after my debut, I was only making installations that showed LED works in a dark room. However, in 1995, I had an opportunity to do a performance in London, and from that point on, I began to do works that involved people and asked them to participate. Since 2005, I have been working with a wider range of materials, including digital numeric drawings, photographs, and computer programs, in addition to LED works. Since 2010, I have been using AI in my work, and I am still expanding the range of my expression with various materials.

You have said that «art has long been isolated from the real world, and spoiled within a framework of the ‘art world’. Do you think social media apps, such as Instagram and Tiktok, on which creators can show their works is an effective way to break down these barriers?

In terms of the fact that many people can express themselves easily, I say yes. However, the point that the expression is too concerned about the reputation of “likes». It means No.

How has the pandemic affected you and has it had any impact on the way you approach your art practice?

It was sad that I could not go abroad because of the pandemic. However, I was grateful for the fact that I was able to work calmly. I am also glad that the pandemic has made it clear that art is an essential and important part of human life. It is hard to say right now how this pandemic will affect us in the future. However, I am sure that it will naturally appear in my works in the future.

Tell me more about your recent work Counter Object – 000 (2020). What was the process behind it?

In fact, this work was also born out of the pandemic. 20 years ago, I did an installation in Stuttgart where I placed mirrors of digital numbers on the floor. During the pandemic, the Buchmann Galerie organized a group exhibition, but I could not go to Germany. So, Buchmann suggested that I show something similar to the work I did in 2000. I proposed a new idea. I proposed a new idea, which was to display mirror-like digital numbers on the wall and change them with dice. This is Counter Object – 000, which I plan to develop further by using different materials.

Your art is largely based in technology, are there any new technologies that you are interested in incorporating into your artwork?

I always have a concept and use technology as a tool to realise it, but not the other way around. If technology is the first step in creating a work of art, it will not be art, but only product design.

Although a lot of your work revolves around numbers, the number 0 is never shown in your work, why is that? 

This is because 0 means «death».

«Death is invisible to the eye. That’s why I always represent ‘0’ as blank, or dark so that I can’t see it.»

Like your work, much of the world relies heavily on technology. Have you ever considered what would happen if that technology was no longer available to us and if that ever happened what artworks would you create then?

If I had been born in the third century, I would have made “mosaics» out of stone. If I had been born in the 13th century, I would have been painting with “tempera». And if I had been born in the 18th century, I would have definitely painted in “oil”. All these techniques were the latest technology of their time. You can see that artists have always expressed themselves with technology that is adapted to the times.

What was the particular concept behind C.F. Loop: Helix no. 2 and was there any reason why you chose blue for the LEDs? 

C.F. Loop is a Study Model that considers the structure of time. Time is connected to a circle, but it must be an irregularly shaped circle. I expressed this by having the numbers counting 9-1 lined up in a circular pattern. In the series of works, I also used red and green LEDs. Each color expresses the differences of each character.

What exactly is it that you want people to take away from your work? 

I do not impose a concept on the viewer.

«Artworks are not meant to give something to the audience. Rather, I believe it is something that allows the viewer to discover the sensitivity and imagination within themselves.»

What was the most exciting project you worked on and why?

I am currently working on a piece called «Sea of Time – Tohoku», which will be my most exciting project yet.  After experiencing the 2011.3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, I have created a project plan to work with people in Tohoku. LED devices used in the project represent the eternity of life. I am aiming to ask 3,000 people mainly from the affected areas to set the speed of the LED display to create an artwork. I plan to install it at a high-class location in the Tohoku area where we can see the sea.

Your work Hiten (2020) reminds me somewhat of a map of the world. Were you trying to create any particular shapes with the placement of the LED numbers or is it purely abstract? 

This work HITEN refers to an angel painting in a cave in Dunhuang, China. This angel is clothed in a robe of extreme colors and is fluttering freely in the sky without being controlled by anyone. So it is an abstract way of arrangement, placed so that it can fly freely in the sky.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to create art with technology?

If you want to use technology to create your work, stop studying technology. There are many technology specialists who are better than you. Instead, you should study philosophy, anthropology, and art, and focus on creating original ideas. Then you can use technology to express them. 


Images · Tatsuo Miyajima

Luna Ikuta

«We recognise the past, present, and future but it makes me think perhaps there is a beyond»

Ghostly white flowers float gently against a sea of black. Delicate pale fish weave their way through the waving fronds of these transparent florae. Luna Ikuta creates these mystical aquatic landscapes by stripping away the colour and chlorophyll from living plants. This process involves “extracting the living cells from plants while leaving the ECM (extracellular tissue matrix) intact.” The flowers are then submerged underwater which causes them to sway softly mimicking the movement caused by light breezes in the natural world. 

Ikuta’s aim was to de-sensationalise peoples perception of the outside world by showing them the wonders that could be found in their immediate surroundings. The flowers she used were found on walks around her home in Los Angeles. By transforming them into translucent wraithlike forms these artworks evoke the image of ‘reincarnated spirits’ whilst allowing people to marvel at the natural structures found in their local environments. NR Magazine joined the artist in conversation about her work. 

With your botanical artworks, how long does the process of stripping away the living cells of the plants take? And how long does the ECM (extracellular tissue matrix) last once you have completed this process?

Each plant behaves differently but on average it takes about three weeks. Even though completing a tank arrangement from start to finish takes about a month to create, the transparent gardens are all ephemeral works. These installations eventually disintegrate and disappear after about six months. The works are filmed shortly after they are installed and embalmed as digital relics. 

You have stated that you believe black to be the richest of all colours. Is that why you have chosen to use exclusively black backdrops with all your botanical artworks?

I like using monochromatic palettes in a lot of my works across various mediums. In my sculptural works, I am obsessive about texture and am drawn to muted palettes for I feel excessive color distracts from form and adds unnecessary noise. These botanical works are also an extensive study of texture and form. Each plant was made transparent using a process revealing intricate vascular networks and structures otherwise invisible to our eyes. In these artworks I want the focus to be about the subject and to transport the viewer into an otherworldly space illuminated solely by the ghostly flora.

You stated that you are inspired by Japanese culture. Was there any particular aspect of this culture that influenced your botanical works?

I was born in Tokyo, Japan but was raised in the US. I travel back to Japan to visit relatives every year and grew up in a bilingual household. As I’ve grown older I realise this is my particular advantage to always be living between those two worlds. For that reason, it’s not too important for me to identify with one or the other when it comes to my work because I am just me. The Japanese inspiration comes more from a place that’s difficult to express in words.

«I am mainly interested in making work that connects to the human spirit.»

Do you think there is an intrinsic link between art and science that people tend to overlook as there is a tendency to view the two fields as separate?

As a multimedia artist I’m interested in material science, so I have always seen an intrinsic link between the two. I believe art benefits from science when trying to create experiences that are foreign to everyday life. The science behind the process of creating the Afterlife series also plays a role in the narrative of the work. These artworks combine sculpture, digital media, chemistry, and biology to create an experimental installation that transforms our natural world. The plants are no longer alive but are preserved as ghostly skeletons in the liminal space between life and death. This art practice is also an ongoing experiment. I never know the result of the clearing process for each plant and sometimes it doesn’t work out. This creates challenges and discoveries that propel new ideas and I am always learning. 

You have a background in industrial design, how does that inform your art practice? 

Industrial design covers a very wide spectrum of trades. What I value the most from this background is that I know how material things are made. I am very hands-on and have experimented with everything from woodworking, metalsmithing, ceramics, 3D modelling, architecture, etc. By having a foundational understanding of various production processes I can be autonomous and it’s very freeing. As an independent artist, every project has my hands on it from the finished artwork, documentation, to building out entire showrooms. My practice ranges from sculpture, installations, furniture, digital media, and now aquarium art. The biggest challenge is answering «what kind of art do you do?» since my methods of making are always changing per project. 

Would you ever consider taking other biological forms than plants and stripping away their living cells to create artworks?

I have only scratched the surface of the botanical world using this process and there are so many more plants I would like to work with. I started to see that once you remove the plants from their natural context, they can transform into something entirely different from their original character. In one of my tanks, I placed Chrysanthemums, Sunflowers, and Queen Anne’s Lace as the foreground of the landscape and they resembled very close to sea anemones. Grass looks like aquatic snakes, and some plants look like clams when placed in a specific way.

«Nature has a beautiful way of effortlessly mimicking other life forms in ways I never noticed, and this space is more interesting for me to play with.»

Some of your works involve live fish. How do you deal with the practicalities and ethical concerns of using live animals in your artworks?

My pet Bettas! As a practicing aquascaper, I have experience in monitoring water conditions to make it safe for fish. They are beautifully majestic creatures and I am grateful for their involvement in my films.

Do you think people have become more appreciative of nature due to covid and subsequent lockdowns and if so how is that reflected in your botanical works?

During lockdown, all I did was go on walks outside. It seemed like my friends were all doing the same. Social media was depressing, and the news was even more depressing! On these daily walks, I would observe flowers blooming on the hillside of my house and these subtle changes in the landscape became my elusive «pandemic clock» measuring time. I enjoy watching the life cycle of nature because it’s a quiet but hopeful message. Flowers bloom and wilt but come back again next season. We recognise the past, present, and future but it makes me think perhaps there is a beyond. If so, I wonder if death is really something we have to fear? A lot of my work uses plants that are foraged from my immediate surroundings, so despite awful 2020 I am thankful for the time I had to fully immerse myself into California’s nature.

What advice would you give to young creatives who are interested in combining art and science?

You don’t need to be a scientist! 

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future?

Yes!  I am currently exhibiting these works, AFTERLIFE, at The Transparent Garden which is both my studio and showroom. This gallery showcases eight physical aquaria, each paired with a custom-built LCD screen preserving the video form as collectible art objects. This show was the first time I had shown the physical tanks to the public. I am also releasing a series of NFT’s of the filmed aquariums that will be released on Superrare July 5th. AFTERLIFE ends on June 13th but I really enjoyed meeting everyone who came by the space and I am excited to continue using this gallery as my experimental playground. I am also installing my first permanent public arts sculpture in Los Angeles. I have been working on that piece for over a year so I am excited to see it finally rest on site. Oh and Daruma 2022! 



Mohamed Bourouissa

Documenting the experiences of disenfranchised groups and different pockets of inequality in contemporary society

Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art presents Mohamed Bourouissa’s first public UK solo show ‘HARa!!!!!!hAaaRAAAAA!!!!!hHAaA!!!’, comprised of a selection of photography, videos, sounds and installations from 2003 onwards, with a particular focus on the legacy of colonialism.  

Through a combination of mixed media, the Algerian-born artist explores a vast range of complex socioeconomic issues and teases out tensions between different social contexts. In travelling to different places and engaging with groups of locals, Bourouissa’s in-depth locational research addresses notions of collective histories, identity and social space, and allows him to share the stories of marginalised communities from imbedding himself within them. 

Bourouissa documents the experiences of disenfranchised groups and different pockets of inequality in contemporary society, with a particular emphasis on the destructive remains of colonialism and the current realities of racial and socioeconomic inequality – something that is interesting to observe through the lens of a gallery context. 

‘HARa!!!!!!hAaaRAAAAA!!!!!hHAaA!!!’ delves into Bourouissa’s different photographic and filmic techniques. With irreverence and intensity, Bourouissa depicts how the individuals in his work use the tools at their disposal to navigate their situation. From grainy smartphone images and street photography to canonical art historical framings of Parisian street life, the exhibition showcases Bourouissa’s ability to articulate insightful statements on contemporary image culture and circumstantial truths. 

Mohamed Bourouissa currently lives and works in Paris, France and has exhibited at institutions and biennials including the Paris Museum of Modern Art, The Centre Pompidou, the Barnes Foundation, the Stedelijk Museum, Haus der Kunst, the Berlin Biennale, the Milan Triennial and more.

The exhibition runs until 1st August at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art. 

Discover more on GCCA

Nanometer Architecture

«It is important to have a feeling of love»

Architectural duo Yuki Mitani and Atsumi Nonaka are known for their minimalist architectural work under the moniker Nanometer Architecture. Taking inspiration from traditional Japanese design the pair focus on the smaller details when working on a project. “We believe that building an architecture is like a supplement for the ultimate goal, providing a place, proposing an event, and then inducing it to create an atmosphere.” NR Magazine joined them in conversation about their practice.

Nanometer is an interesting name, is there some kind of story or meaning behind it and how does it relate to your work?

The first letters of «n» (Nonaka) and «m» (Mitani) are connected to form «nm,» which is the symbol for nanometer. In the nano-world, the world is very different from the micro-world. Because it is so small and the specific surface area (volume/surface area) is so large, it becomes highly reactive, and the properties of the same substance can be changed if it is reduced to the nano level. The same material can change its properties if it is reduced to nano size. In other words, it is possible to manipulate a single electron.

Focusing on nanomaterials, we can move from top-down construction, where materials are scraped out of matter, to bottom-up construction, where atoms and molecules are assembled. They will be able to self-assemble like living organisms, without the waste materials that are scraped out. It will be a complete opposite approach to the way we have been producing things.

As I was researching this, I began to think that nanometers are close to our philosophy.

«We believe that the creation of buildings is like a supplement to the final goal and that the essence of providing a place, proposing an event, and inviting people to come afterwards is to create an atmosphere.»

With Nagoya flat, I imagine all the exposed concrete makes it quite a cool space to be in summer, but how did you tackle issues of insulation and heating for when it gets cold? 

I try to prevent cold air from entering through the gaps in the windows, I have gas heaters, and I put down carpets. We don’t have many cold days where it snows, so the heater is all we need.

The room was bare from the time we rented it in the first place. I didn’t want to spend that much money on a rental apartment, so I didn’t go as far as insulating the apartment for long-term living.

With Seaside Villa you had to take into account the effect of sea breezes on the property did you also have to consider issues of rising sea levels and how they might affect the property in years to come? 

We did not take into account the sea level rise. When the tide goes out, the beach will appear and the scenery will change, and people can play there. This site will not be rebuilt in the future because the ordinance has been changed to a place where new buildings cannot be built, so this architecture cannot be rebuilt either.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when working on a project? 

A lot of it comes from everyday experiences. It can be something you notice while casually walking around the city, an exhibition, a movie, a book, or a conversation with someone.

With PALETTE you particularly had to consider accessibility for those with disabilities is this something you also consider when working on other projects and has PALETTE changed how you approach issues like these in your work? 

In Japan, depending on the scale and use of the building, there are some things that are essential to consider. The degree of this depends on the project, but I think it is important to make it easy to use for all kinds of people.

House in Shima has a very open and welcoming design, considering how closely it’s located to a national park is this an intentional way to integrate its man-made structure with the surrounding nature.

It does not face a national park but is located in a national park. It is under the control of the Ministry of the Environment and had to be built with consideration for the landscape. For example, the colour of the exterior walls and roof, and the slope of the roof. In this way, the materials and colours naturally became closer to nature. The open design is more in accordance with the client’s request rather than in the park. The desire to live in nature with the windows open at all times and to have a barbecue all year round led to this open appearance.

What was the most challenging project you worked on and why? How did you overcome those challenges?

There are always difficulties in every project, so it is impossible to rank them.

Are there any new technologies within this industry that you are particularly excited about and how do you think they will change how to approach future projects?

3D scanning. If we can easily read the land and the inside of the building, the design will be more accurate.

What advice would you give young creatives looking to get started in this field?

Our efforts will always come back to us in some way. In any project, we face society and aim to improve the atmosphere of the world, even if only little by little. Many young people become frustrated because they think that they are not suited for this kind of work, but you cannot decide what you are not suited for.

«It is important to have a feeling of love and wanting to do something.»

Are you working on any projects currently and what plans do you have for the future? 

We are working on exchanges, housing complexes, detached houses, clinics, relaxation salons, etc. Since we moved our office to Sakae in the centre of Nagoya in February 2021, we would like to work on cafes, salons, apparel, bars, offices, etc. around the town where we work.


Images · Nanometer Architecture

Judy Watson

«In making the work I make I am lifting up my ancestors and their stories and learning more from them every day»

Judy Watson is an Australian artist whose practice is based on her exploration of her matrilineal Waanyi Aboriginal heritage and the experiences of Aboriginal people since British colonisation. Exploring Waanyi culture through the lens of collective memory, she then incorporates these histories into her artworks, often drawing on archival research and documents.

Watson’s work a preponderance of aboriginal blood uses copies of documents from the Queensland State Archives which are then layered with ‘blood-like pools of red paint, symbolising the pain and deaths of Aboriginal people.’ The documents in question are evidence of the discrimination Aboriginal Australians faced, including voting rights.’Full blooded’ Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote but ‘half caste’ Aboriginal people were. The artwork highlights the awful treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Queensland as a reflection of the ongoing effects of British colonisation.

This artwork will be part of A Year in Art: Australia 1992, a free exhibition at Tate Modern. The exhibition brings together a selection of over 25 works, many on show for the first time in the UK. The exhibition explores how artists have acknowledged the continuing relationship Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with their lands, as well as the ongoing impact of colonisation and the complexities of representation in Australian society today. The exhibition is available to view from June 8th 2021 until Spring 2022.

When it comes to ideas of social change you have described your work as subtlety discreet with a strong message that insinuates itself into the viewer’s consciousness, do you think that aesthetically pleasing and subtle artworks can be used as an effective form of activism?

Yes, I think the power of aesthetics and subtlety can embed themselves into people’s memory and slowly leak their contents into their consciousness before they can put up resistance. Sound and smell can be a strong activation as well.

Do you think this exhibition, and your artwork specifically, will make British people more aware of the issues of British colonialism and how that affected/affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders? 

Yes, if people look into the work, they will get a sense of the oppression of Aboriginal people under the ‘Act’.

You talk about collaborating with family members on your artworks. Did they have any specific input/influence on a preponderance of aboriginal blood, and if so in what way?

I spoke to my mother, Joyce Watson about this work. She is also trained in printmaking, in fact, I was one of her first art teachers at Art School in Townsville. After making this work I took Mum and Dad into the Queensland State Archives with me. I showed them the files held on my grandmother, Grace Isaacson (Camp) and her mother Mabel Daly, among other members of my matrilineal Aboriginal family. I made a second artist book: ‘under the act’ based on these files. My mother is very supportive of me using this material in order to show the public what it was like for our people to live their lives under this institutionalised brutality and bureaucracy. My grandmother, Grace Isaacson gave permission for us to access her files.

You speak about collective memories as an inspiration for your work, have you found that a lot of personal histories and information have been lost due to a fear of discrimination from British colonialism? And if so did you find that loss of personal histories frustrating when researching during your process?

Many people have helped me to uncover documents and history about my Aboriginal family. I did interviews with my grandmother Grace, my mother Joyce and other family members from Mt Isa over the years. I’ve also undertaken a lot of research as have others about these untold stories of colonisation in Australia. It was hard at first to find these stories but we achieved it with persistence and hard work. There is more to be unearthed in the future.

Can you tell me about your creative process for a preponderance of aboriginal blood? How did you come up with the idea and how did you go about the physical process of making the artwork? 

I went to a talk by Loris Williams (an Aboriginal archivist) and Margaret Reid at the University of Queensland about Indigenous people and the right to vote in Queensland. They showed amazing documents on their PowerPoint and this is where I first heard the terms: half-blood and a preponderance of Aboriginal blood. Immediately I knew that this is what I wanted to make work about. I had been asked to make an artist book for the commemoration of Queensland women and the right to vote. I knew I wanted to focus on Aboriginal women in particular. I asked permission to use the images from Loris Williams’s talk and it went from there.

I’ve discussed the making of the work in previous texts that you can access from the description in ‘a preponderance of aboriginal blood’.

In previous works you have united your Aboriginal heritage with your English, Scottish and Irish ancestry such as standing stone, kangaroo grass, red and yellow ochre, is this also the case with a preponderance of aboriginal blood? How else do you navigate the contrast of these ancestries within your work?

My work ‘burnt shield’ which is in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery could be the shape of a European family shield. It could also be the female shape of the pubic area, or the waterhole at Duwadari waterhole, Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park in NW Queensland. Sometimes I have referenced my skin colour, derogatory names and imagery associated with flayed skins. These are earlier works, both in prints and works on canvas.

You stated that shared experiences are an important part of your work. How do you feel to be a part of this group exhibition and is there any other artists artwork that particularly resonates with or stands out to you?

There are many amazing artists whose works resonate with me.

Sometimes I know them and sometimes I don’t but their work goes beyond the knowing.

You describe discovering how your Aboriginal ancestors were treated as a ‘heavy burden’, do you consider your artistic work/process as a way to work through, express and deal with that ancestral trauma?

In making the work I make I am lifting up my ancestors and their stories and learning more from them every day. I want to pass that knowledge onto my children and to others in the wider community.

What other media (i.e. books, films, documentaries)  would you personally recommend to people who are looking to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures and the effects of British colonialism? 

Tony Roberts ‘Frontier Justice’, Timothy Bottoms ‘Conspiracy of Silence’, Bruce Elder ‘Blood on the wattle’, Rachel Perkins ‘First Australians’. So many books, videos, resources…

What artworks are you currently working on and which topics do you plan on exploring in the future?

I am currently making two bodies of work for different projects and venues that I can’t reveal yet.

One project is looking at climate change. The other is looking at a big issue affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. I am also working with more research around the Aboriginal women in my family, the stations they worked on, the maps of the country. Other imagery will appear as I go through the process of making the work.

My public artwork ‘bara’ will be installed soon at the Botanical Gardens in Sydney, looking down at the Opera House. It is a large work in marble that represents the bara / fish hooks made from shell. These were predominantly used by Aboriginal women in Warrane / Sydney when they were fishing in their Nawi / bark canoes in the waters around Sydney, catching fish for their families in Gadigal Country.


DGN Studio

«Light is always the starting point for all our projects»

Founded in 2016 by Daniel Goodacre and Geraldine Ng, DGN Studio crafts customized objects and spaces informed by utility and the context of their surroundings – an approach to design that is instilled with a deep sense of care and attention to detail. The architecture studio aims to enhance the everyday living experience of their clients, and advocates for a carefully considered use of materials. 

The studio’s 2020 Concrete Plinth House project is located in the London borough of Hackney, where a dark Victorian semi-detached house has been transfigured into a sleek and leisurely brutalist-inspired home. The terrace is grounded on a dense concrete base, yet feels light and serene, featuring clean, minimalist surfaces. Commissioned by a young couple to transform the house into a modern family home, the project extended and opened the property to include lighter-touch renovations that show off the beauty of the materials used, such as concrete benches and wooden beams, all working in a simple aesthetic and functional harmony.

NR Magazine speaks with DGN Studio to get a deeper insight into their design values and to discuss the details of the project.

For this project you were tasked to create a versatile and leisurely space – what initially sprung to mind when you began to conceptualise the house? 

Making a space that could accommodate gatherings of different sizes seemed to require a degree of flexibility. We had conflicting thoughts at the outset. We wanted to make a space that could be used in different configurations, but also a desire to create something with weight and mass that felt very firmly grounded in the site. 

In the end the flexibility was achieved not by moving things around, but from being able to occupy the edges of the space – the steps, perimeter walls and benches which provide lots of options for how they might be used. This allowed us to really explore the feeling of permanence created by these various concrete surfaces and plinths. 

We also had an early idea about the timber frame as a kind of screen or filter between the interior and exterior spaces which in this instance seemed a more helpful concept than that of placing windows in a wall. 

What was your approach to working with the original features of the house? 

We wanted the new addition to resonate with the existing house in a subtle way, such that it could have a definite character of its own. 

The best rooms in the existing house had a tall proportion and we liked these spaces as distinct rooms that suggested specific purposes or activities. We wanted the new spaces and layout to maintain this feeling of a series of rooms while also opening up long views throughout the house, pulling light further in and creating a better flow through the spaces. The level changes in the floor and ceiling help distinguish the different ‘rooms’ of the new space. 

We paid attention to the details of the house such as door handles, window furniture, and curtain rails and commissioned Dean Edmonds to design bespoke pieces that sat comfortably in both the new and existing parts of the house. 

The sash windows running along the side elevation are a nod to the original glazing and add to the resonance between new and old. 

Were there any influences for the project? 

There is no overarching reference point – there are loads of influences that come in at different points of the project for specific reasons. Mostly it is about identifying a particular atmosphere that is right for the space. 

Developing the project is about navigating a course through the different parameters that emerge at each stage – starting from conversations with the client about their lives and desires, to their budget, planning restrictions, and then developing the details of how the building is put together with the skilled craftspeople who actually make it. All this time we are trying to hold onto that desired atmosphere and make sure that this still emerges at the end of a very long process.

You can really sense a harmony and a celebration of materials with the project- was this something that was particularly important for you? 

Absolutely – the material palette is really the stuff that the building is made from (predominantly oak and concrete). We were keen to keep the number of finishes relatively limited, and for the different materials to contribute to the serene atmosphere of the new space. 

We generally favour a relatively subtle material palette not because we don’t love colour, but because we tend to find that colour comes best from all the life that takes place inside the space rather than from what we have designed. The building is not the main event! 

How did you go about prioritising light and space with the project, especially in an older building and a tight urban site? 

Light is always the starting point for all our projects. How the sun moves around the site and how to choreograph spaces in relation to this. 

Extending a house can create problems with light due to the resulting depth of the plan so it’s really important to consider how the existing spaces will be affected. As a result, we have opened up views through the house so that you can see the garden from a number of locations and pull in as much light in as possible. There is also a considered contrast between light and dark spaces passing through the dark snug that sits between the living room at the front and the kitchen/dining room at the rear enhances.

We were also very conscious of not overexposing the interior, and the positioning of the glazed panels in the extension was carefully considered to get the balance of lighting right and to prevent the feeling of being in a goldfish bowl.

Were there any existing structures or materials that influenced the design? 

There’s a whole library of projects floating around in our heads – the ones that rise to the surface will depend on the client, the brief and the site. We also try to resist becoming diverted by all the things we’re looking at and trust our intuitions which are of course built on all the things we’ve seen and appreciated. 

How do you get inspired when starting a new project? 

There’s so much to draw from in any new project, no matter how small it may be – every site has its own history, and every client has their own unique story – trying to get under the surface of how the clients live (or would like to live) is really important and provides lots of starting points. 

We’re also really inspired by the city we live in and how it has developed over the centuries – just a bus ride through it is enough to generate a whole raft of ideas. Of course, inspiration often comes in more oblique ways through art objects, music, books, landscapes…

What’s your usual process in developing a design concept? 

It always starts with a plan and lots of sketching to try and explore the intuitions that we have about the project. From there we like to try and get as quickly into making models as we can – often digitally first, but we always like to make physical models as well. So much is discovered and can be tested in the making of them, and they always resonate well in describing ideas to clients. 

Throughout the process we also like to have workshops with clients – sitting together around a table and discussing the ideas – the project is always a collaboration, and this is fundamental to the way projects develop.

DGN Studio is currently working on a number of residential projects across London, as well as designing and making furniture and interiors.


Images · DGN STUDIO 

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