NEW NEW YORK ARCHITECTS: Minjae Kim, Architect And Furniture Designer
Working as an architect between the U.S. and Seoul, Minjae Kim found himself frustrated with the slowness of the field. In his spare time, he began crafting projects he could complete quickly, without having to deal with clients, developers, and the necessary details of, say, a home interior. Today, out of his Ridgewood studio, Kim creates furnishings and objects that reject perfect surfaces and typologies and that can live alongside people, and even in tension with the rigidity of architectural forms, thanks to their emotiveness and, sometimes, “impracticality.” Of course, the logic underneath these precisely imprecise works is still architectural: the creation of a total experience that might soon scale back up into built space.
PIN–UP: Why architecture?
Minjae Kim: Architecture is a spectacular way to stay grounded. Understanding the basics of phenomenology, structure, material assembly, and most importantly the emotional distress or joy that goes into a production of any scale allows me to feel a substantial tie to the places or things that would otherwise be very foreign to me. I think architecture gives empathy.
When did you decide to start your solo practice and why?
I was always impatient with projects in school — chasing after that gratification of seeing a project come to life. But those academic projects always seemed too ephemeral or ideological. So whenever I could, I’d go to the shop and make a stool or a lamp, something where I had full control of the idea, the process, and the material and that could exist in its intended scale to live and age with me. I found immense satisfaction in that process. This practice continued after school when I started working at a design studio. Whenever there was an unexpected shift in the project, I’d come home and make a lamp or something silly.
Are you building on or rebelling against something with your practice?
I think there’s a parallel between modern and contemporary design and consumer culture in that you are very much encouraged to buy or use but never to produce or make yourself. Often what can be solved with a simple solution is wrapped up in an excessive design solution or technology only to be marketed as a new product. The same goes for buildings. You look at any new construction or store-bought good and it’s impossible to even begin to imagine how this thing was put together. This makes it very intimidating to build something or make something, which is really the only way to truly own and understand anything. I’m in no way advocating for self-sufficient living or anything like that, but when I’m in the basement working on a chair, it’s an agenda that I can’t help but think about.
What’s your dream new New York project?
What I felt as I witnessed the city transform this past year was comparable to the unsettling sensation of watching a bian-lian performer flipping through different masks in fractions of seconds. When you read about all the new vacancies in Manhattan, as you witness sheet after sheet of materials unloaded onto makeshift sites for their knowingly temporary installation, it’s not difficult to picture a scenery akin to a James Wines drawing where all the barricades, window protections, medical tents, and street-side dining nooks have afterlives in an empty skyscraper as a posthumous depot of the masks of New York we’ve experienced together. Of course, this is for day-dreamers who often lack a practical imagination. On a separate note, I did build a small shed in my backyard this year, which felt like a dream project for me.
Interview by Drew Zeiba
Portrait by Tanya and Zhenya Posternak for PIN–UP
Creative Direction and Design by OBG
Styling by Akari Endo Gaut
Set Design by Julia Wagner
Makeup by Meredith Menchel
Production and post-production by VS+Company
Styling Assistance by Pascal Mihranian
All clothing Bottega Veneta
Minjae Kim's solo exhibition I Was Evening All Afternoon opens on July 10th at Marta in Los Angeles.