Between the Subliminal and the Conscious
Master Thesis: Gravity-Flow-Winery in combination with a small hotel on a biodynamic vineyard in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
In restrospective, the topic of my master thesis developed both with my work in hospitality and my first trip to New Zealand in 2015. By chance, an NZ winemaker crossed my path, sharing his ambitions to build a new type of winery with included hotel features on a pacific-facing vineyard in Hawke`s Bay (NZ) with me. Back home I started preparing the topic by researching for an essay concerning wine architecture in the course of the centuries and its renaissance in postmodernism. Subsequent to this theoretical research I travelled to New Zealand once again to gain hands-on experience. For the conception of my design which builds upon this theoretical and practical foundation, the principle of transformation becomes a crucial theme as well as the question what mankind is actually doing by shaping nature and its components into landscape, architecture and other cultural products (like wine). The building is meant to create an interface in the cycle of a biodynamic vineyard marking the spot of human intervention and, at the same time, representing the transformation from rock or tree to architecture and from vine to wine.
Design for a gypsum workshop at TUM Campus in 2016
Together with my team partner Rebecca Pröbster we developed the design for a workshop enabling students to make gypsum models at TUM Campus with the prospect of being built in the future. Balancing our visions of the space with the various needs of a gypsum-based workflow (e.g. organisation of gypsum-containing waste water, robustness), the small amount of space in the existing context of a former bathroom and a limited budget posed the main challenge. For instance, we decided to use low hanging lights beneath a night blue ceiling to conceal a variety of old pipes in a cost-effective way so we could use more budget on the quality of the white tiles.
Urban Project: Mall for cultural goods and small cinema (teamwork with Elisabeth Liebl)
This project is about rearranging the urban structure on the interface of an abandoned military area with two very divergent adjoining neighbourhoods by providing a mall for cultural goods like books and music and a small cinema.
In this short design the task was to developcreate and visualise a community space in the existing urban structure of the town centre of a fictive village described in a story.
Field trip to Ravenna, Italy (2017)
Since 2016, each summer term I accompany the first year architecture students on a field trip to an annually changing destination in Italy in order to assist teaching hand drawing skills. In 2016, we’ve visited Lucca, in 2017 Ravenna and this year we took an approach to draw Bologna.
How important is drawing as tool through which to develop and think about architecture?
I think drawing is one of my most important tools as it is happening on the transition of the subliminal to the conscious. When developing architecture, the pen becomes my first medium to find an equilibrium between these two states of mind. Usually a couple of drawings emerge before I am able to put my thoughts into precise words. So in a way drawing feels like thinking on paper.
How does sketching affect the way you perceive the environment that surrounds you?
It helps me to see the environment and its elements in abstraction. That means so it becomes easier to extract the crucial parameters of a situation or thought as well as the “grammar” they follow.
When sketching, what do you focus on?
This probably depends on the purpose of the sketch. When I’m sketching to capture my thoughts about an architectural issue, I focus on the above mentioned transition of the two states of mind with my workflow following a progression from impetuous/subliminal to organized/conscious. When I’m sketching to analyse or depict a perceived impression I try to concentrate on the same transition, but vice versa. I , then, start with the conscious parts of the perception (e.g. catching proportions) and continue letting more and more subliminal elements finish the sketch.
From your Master Thesis until now, how has your approach to representation changed?
Of course, sometimes economic circumstances do not allow pure idealism in terms of representation, but creating architectural images as a form of communication, no matter if done by hand or emerging as a concept model, remain basic elements of my working process. Especially teaching these basic architectural communication skills to the first year architecture students of TUM, very much keeps this classic portfolio of representation present. At the same time, new techniques, ways of representation or working methods both digital and analogue cross my path. So I think my approach remains the same, but the tools and their possibilities of combination are constantly evolving.
When talking about drawing, what is your take on the threshold between digital and analogue? How does your work sit in between the two?
Analogue sketching, or bringing up the metaphor of “thinking on paper” once more, is an integral part of my developmental process where I put my thoughts into relation. When using digital techniques, like Photoshop, usually I already know more about an idea or atmosphere which I can transform into an image. So analogue and digital representation both build inherent components of my working process, the former more introverted, the ladder rather extroverted.
Where do you envision the future of hand drawing? To what extent should this be stressed upon in environments as that of academia?
I think this depends on the further development of digital drawing hardware as it still isn’t the same to sketch on a tablet than it is like on good paper. So analogue drawing is still the most direct and intuitive way to get hold of my thoughts but this is just my subjective perception. For me, hand drawing will always be a part of my approach, but this doesn’t mean it won’t be influenced by new techniques. Who knows, maybe someday the surface of a tablet will be better than every paper.
In terms of academia, I think it is important to teach a variety of methods and tools which allow students to find their own way of what I call “thinking on paper”, no matter if digital or analogue.
What is your most important tool?
Depends on the definition of a tool. If senses count as tools, probably my mind and my sensory abilities would be crucial since all of the other tools would be obsolete without it. To put it pragmatically, a pen and my laptop would be my most essential tools. But in the end, one thing above all other classic tools determines about the ultimate outcome: patience
What are you currently working on?
I am working 60 % in an architectural office, being responsible for the development of a BIM model. One day per week, I am working as an assistant teacher at the Chair of Design and Conception (Prof. Graff) at Technical University of Munich, teaching architectural representation (like drawing and model making) as well as conception methods. Fridays I am working on a variety of my own small projects, allowing myself some time and space to evolve my knowledge and skills or to think about interesting questions like the ones in this interview.
Julian Kerkhoff began his drawing practice during a field trip to Italy as a part of his architectural studies at Technical University of Munich (TUM).
After graduating having developed a design for a gravity-flow winery in New Zealand as his master thesis he is currently working for a architectural office based in Munich as well as teaching at TUM.
When not at work, he spends his time travelling, honing his handstand skills or taking his hummus recipe to the next level.