Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Kirk Train (KT) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Kirk Train by clicking here.
Interview with Kirk Train at Wednesday 20th of April 2016
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
KT: Architect; You have to be wired that way to be one, and yes always wanted to. I like to create, draw and build things. Education: Bachelor of Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1975; Master of Architecture, Yale University, 1978. Training: I.M. Pei & Partners, Eisenman Robertson Architects, Cooper Robertson + Partners, Train Architects – 1978-present.
FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
KT: Train Architects is a 6-person architectural design firm located in Charlottesville, Virginia. We practice on a regional scale, focused on general architectural design in Institutional, Commercial and Residential work.
FS: What is "design" for you?
KT: Problem solving with beautiful, elegant solutions.
FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
KT: Anything, I like the process of creating.
FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
KT: The Rice Rivers Center, Charles City County, Virginia for Virginia Commonwealth University. Part of it is built, the second part is in funding and hopefully we will be able to complete it all in the next few years.
FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
KT: A House for the first architecture firm I worked for, while an undergrad.
FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
KT: Cherry Wood, beautiful grain, warm tones; contrasts but enhances steel, brick or concrete – honest simple materials.
FS: When do you feel the most creative?
KT: The very first thoughts generally hold the boldest, biggest and best ideas. The remainder of the process is to refine the design and reinforce and support those ideas to meet the exigencies of site, program and budget.
FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
KT: Plan generation with implied section relating to thoughts about mass.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
KT: Content, intellectually stimulated, energized.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
KT: I am ambiguous about this. My image of the project is embodied in my design drawings, that vision is not always carried through on site and built well. Rarely does the finished project fully embodied the quality of the thought. This is the product of a small practice in a small town.
FS: What makes a design successful?
KT: Balance, proportion, rhythm and scale – timeless qualities we have all used to judge buildings by.
FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
KT: Is the image interesting and supported by a clear and rigorous and evident thought process.
FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
KT: More Environmental than social. As the built environment consumes almost half of America’s energy usage, we can through better design work to reduce that consumption of energy; through the use of better materials and processes associated with those materials, we can reduce waste and byproducts harmful to the environment. We can have an impact.
FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
KT: Computers and material research and therefore material options are pushing design and design possibilities in an almost revolutionary way, one that reminds me of Mies van der Rohe’s Glass Tower project. The new work is interesting and in itself beautiful. It remains to be seen how it always reacts to context and makes cities better.
FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
KT: Retrospective: Student Work from the Studios of James Stirling School of Architecture, Yale University, 2010.
FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
KT: We live life as visual sponges. There are so many images, so many things and places that we encounter, you would have to be ignorant or just dumb to miss them all. Big things and little things can feed into your design thoughts, but in architecture, they all run through the sieve of context, client, site and budget.
FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
KT: Contextual. Designs are a response to program site and client. We do not think of a style but you can see constant themes run through any of our projects. They can all look different, but how they go together, and the rigor of thought ties them together. Each project is designed in an organic manner, with all parts relating and supportive to the design concept or thought. This tight relationship is always part of the beauty of a work.
FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
KT: Charlottesville, Virginia USA; Design is not culturally supported in America as much as other countries. We are somewhat of a disposable country when it comes to the general practice of architecture and construction. Yes we have beautiful buildings and beautiful urban places but the overwhelming amount of construction in this country does not use an architect or does not approach its construction from a design point of view; it is approached only for what is cheap and minimal.
FS: How do you work with companies?
KT: Most of our work is with Universities or individuals, when a company entity is involved, it is still with an individual.
FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
KT: They should understand if they like you or the work you do and if so, give you their thoughts and let you design to meet their stated criteria or need.
FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
KT: Mine is an iterative process that starts with notions or thoughts reacting to the site and program. A clearly delineated concept and diagrams support the follow-on decisions of image.
FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
KT: Le Corbusier LC-2 Chairs; Mont Blanc Meisterstruck Fountain pen (Not really modern); Many, Many books; PH 4 ½-3 ½ Glass Table Lamps by Paul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen; iPad/iPhone.
FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
KT: No one is the same.
FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
KT: Be a better marketer, entrepreneur. All the talent in the world does not get work without it.
FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
KT: Beautiful to be able to create something that did not exist; Having to convince others that is what it should be.
FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
KT: Able to see your work three-dimensionally in your head.
FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
KT: Red pencil for sketching, red pencil for correcting.
FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
KT: Complete focus when designing, everything else gets set aside.
FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
KT: Buildings can take months even when small just to create the designer, the contract documents and construction can be years. It is a profession of slow realization.
FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
KT: "What do you think?"
FS: What was your most important job experience?
KT: How to work with my office team and read an accounting spreadsheet.
FS: Who are some of your clients?
KT: they are all types of people and institutions.
FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
KT: Houses as they are personal.
FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
KT: Continue to work, that is a good future.
FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
KT: I work in a team, but I am the designer.
FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
KT: Nothing in particular, we are busy on a lot of small University projects, waiting on other larger ones to fund and start.
FS: How can people contact you?
FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
KT: This alone has worn me out, probably did the same to whomever read it.
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