Theoklitos Triantafyllidis was born in Athens in 1988. He got his diploma of architecture from NTUA in 2012. After graduating he moved to Beijing, China to work as an architect and artist. Since 2014 he moved to Los Angeles, CA and is doing his MFA in UCLA department of Design | Media Arts with two scholarships from UCLA and Onassis Fοundation.
#1. Describe your architectural background with a few words.
During my studies at NTUA, I always found the teaching rigid and was looking for alternative ways to educate myself. A first step in this direction was my participation in Easa 2009 in Italy, where I was exposed to some new forms of architectural practice. I worked with a group of architecture students from all over Europe, with whom I exchanged ideas and bodily fluids. Soon after that, together with some fellow students, we created LeCorbusier and Archipunks as platforms of creative sabotage. Being in TU Berlin as an exchange student, gave me the opportunity to meet German people before they started hating the Greeks. Working with Point Supreme, I saw how a small architectural firm in Greece, which focuses on creativity, can become internet famous worldwide.
#2. After your graduation, how did you make up your mind on your next step it? What was it about?
Soon after my graduation from NTUA, I decided to look for work outside Europe, mainly for two reasons. Because I felt that I already had the opportunity to see many European cities and that the financial situation in Europe would limit my options. I sent over 100 applications around the world, but mainly in South America and Asia, receiving only but a few answers. Eventually I decided to move to Beijing to start working. I worked in various offices, Spatial Practice, BAM, TAO, with whom I had the opportunity to work on large-scale projects, with interesting architecture teams and in different sites in the world. At the same time I worked on some personal projects and traveled in developing cities of Asia.
#3. What were the difficulties you encountered and the opportunities that came along with your choices?
While working, I started feeling the oppressive working environment that seems to have become the norm for many architectural offices. Extended working hours, enforced hierarchy, little (if any) payment, fragmentation of labor, a lot of repetition and recycling of ideas and a lack of criticism. At this stage I realized that the architect`s profession is much more boooooring than I expected and that projects of this scale cannot hold my interest for long. I also realized that architecture has a very specific set of rules, which is often restrictive for the way I like to create. At the same time I felt that architecture had reached a dead end for our generation, as there is an overkill of young architects compared to the lack of actual necessity for architecture.
That was when I discovered a very vibrant online community of artists who created art for/in the internet (post-internet art??) which I could identify with. While still in China, together with my brother Nickolas Triandafyllidis, we launched an avatar for our artistic activities, doubleluckiness. Sharing this identity, we surfed the Chinese Internet, looking for memes and scraps of local Internet culture. We made a lot of internet friends during that time, with whom we shared projects, techniques, ideas etc. And becoming more actively involved in the community. Together we participated in various online exhibitions, eg. cloaque.org, Net-Recycling and local cultural events like ΒΥΟΒ Beijing and Softcore exhibition.
#4. What is your current occupation and in what way is it an asset to your professional life? Is it close to what you imagined architectural practice to be?
After my experience in China, I decided that I needed to focus on my artistic practice and to take a break from architecture as a profession. I also decided it was a good time to return to my studies. After research, I decided that the Design | Media Arts MFA at UCLA was the most suitable for me, as it was exactly within my interests. Additionally, being a fine arts program, it would give me the freedom to develop my artistic practice both academically and outside school. Indeed, I am very satisfied with the program, which respects and supports my progress, and has only a few required courses, giving me a lot of time for personal work. Additionally, I feel honored to be in an educational environment with internationally recognized artists and a small but very special group of classmates with very diverse backgrounds. Los Angeles, apart from awesome weather, has a very lively new media art scene. Besides school, I try to remain an active member of the online community I mentioned above, while I participate in exhibitions and events whenever I get the chance.
My background in architecture has been very helpful in some cases and burden in others. The concepts of space and place are still fundamental to my creative process. Our familiarity with a wide range of software and tools has also proven very useful. Moreover, I noticed that I have a bit more confidence to undertake and organize large and complex projects, compared to some of my fellow artists. In a recent project, the New New Wight, a virtual gallery, we tried together with my colleague to organize a series of digital works in an existing space, experimenting with the exhibition design and curation and making the works interact with each other. On the other hand, the way of thinking and self-restriction of architecture is something I have to constantly challenge. The state of mind and self expression that is needed for artistic creation is often very different from the organized design process we use as architects.
#5. What piece of advice would you give to someone that would like to follow your steps?
Hmmm. Do not try to follow recipes. Do not go to London for your graduate studies. Do not work as an unpaid intern for anyone. Do not fall into the trap of professional advancement within an office. Do not masturbate over a single project for a long time. Find some free time. Understand that excessive work does not necessarily make you or your work better. Do not set limits on what is architecture and what it can do.
I respect the decision of some to remain in Greece, despite the difficult situation here. But I think its a waste of time for young architects to look for a normal job in an architecture office, or be disillusioned that in the coming years they will build their architectural masterpiece. As in Greece (and in many parts of the world) construction has reached a dead end, I would suggest they focus on radical ideas and architectural practices. A recent gossip among young North European artists is that Athens is `the place to be right now`. Many of them move to Athens seeking to be inspired by the crisis. We could stop whining and take advantage of this situation to make our voice heard worldwide.
Why is avant-garde architecture limited to seeking the most fancy grasshopper facade? People no longer need architecture as we currently know it. They sit on a chair all day in front of a screen or walking around looking at their smartphones. I wonder why architects are so slow to understand this. Few people see the Internet as a space or as a new area to practice architecture. What is internets public space? How can we create interesting spaces for dialogue and communication outside corporate sites like google and facebook? How can interaction and communication be designed or re-imagined? Maybe we should stop planning the physical space and begin to architect the synthetic and the immaterial.