At Lucid we are lucky enough to work with some pretty gifted individuals. Beyond our in-house staff, our network of colleagues and friends never cease to impress with their stories and talents. We think it is important to illustrate the influence they’ve had, and continue to have on Lucid, and from time to time, will do this here on the Lucid. Blog.
This week we sit down with architect turned photographer Christoph Rokitta, to talk about his not so straightforward journey into the world of art and design, and the significant impression he made on the Lucid cowshed.
You are originally from East Berlin. Can you explain the influence this had on you and your course of direction?
I was born in 1975, and was 14 when the Wall fell. I went to public school until 8th grade, but then of course the GDR crumbled. At this time, and for a few years after, no one knew anything about the future – or even the present for that matter. I was part of the first generation of Easterners introduced to the concept of the Western school system. We learned in a free, but somewhat uncertain atmosphere. I saw this, and still see this as a positive. In school, I learned to use my head and question everything, particularly in the subjects important to me. My time from the 10th to the 13th grade was closer to being a university environment than a traditional high school. It definitely shaped the way I see things today – for the good and the bad.
Why did you decide to study Architecture?
I wish I knew. My father was an architect, but seldom worked as one. Somehow I assumed I could do it too. Right after my graduation I became an optician and worked as such for a few years. These skills came in handy when I started to build my own cameras.
I was 27 when I finally decided to study architecture.
You’ve now shifted your primary focus from architecture to photography. Is this a direction you always intended to take?
Definitely not. Becoming a photographer was not a conscious decision. Since my childhood, I have always been a reader and a draughtsman. My interest in photography, together with drawing, became my way of remembering things. I do still practice architecture, even teach architecture at Technische Universität Berlin, but I don’t publish any of my own projects.
Your work both in architecture and photography, focuses on what you refer to as “spatial structures”. Is there a particular reason why spatial elements became your key subject?
Tough question, but I’ll give it my best shot. I think it started with my professor and assistant professors at university – each one had a unique approach to designing. Throughout my studies, I managed to merge all their influences in my projects successfully, but for some reason remained dissatisfied with my own work.
After three years of studying as a modernist architect, I stumbled upon a small article in a Swiss architectural magazine called Werk, Bauen und Wohnen. In the article the author demonstrates two separate academic approaches from two different schools of architecture at ETH Zürich using the same design task. One approach was closer to the modernist approach I’d practiced for years, and the other was closer to what I remembered from childhood. A type of architecture that doesn’t need intellectual declaration or explanation, it’s just there, not modern at all. This was the approach of Professor Miroslav Sik. After reading this article, I began to rethink everything I’d previously learned, and I decided to restart my architectural studies from scratch. I read everything Sik ever wrote, and researched everything he and his students ever designed. His process of fusing images with structures, allowed him and his students to develop something new, but which in theory, could have been there for years. His work merged with its surroundings – no matter what the surroundings. It is because of his “Kultur des Alltäglichen” (culture of everyday things) that I am interested in a particular kind of spatial structure. I aim to find and elaborate my own point of interest in an ordinary situation.
You took the original photos of the Lucid cowshed, both before and after the renovations. What was the importance of this project to you?
Felix (Matschinske) and I studied architecture together at the Technische Universität Berlin, and became close friends. When Felix discovered the space and decided to renovate, he asked if I’d document the process of the renovation. I have always admired his fearlessness (he was a student at this time, and the place was a disaster), and so of course, I agreed. The 90s in Berlin were incredible, but unfortunately, I didn’t take a single picture to help me remember such time. Most of Berlin has changed so much since then. It was a great opportunity to photograph the cowshed as one of the last places untouched by the era.
What did you find interesting about the cowshed that perhaps differed from other spaces you’ve photographed?
Naturally, I found the spatial sequence interesting. Despite few resources, the cowshed still had a real spatial richness. At the time I was just beginning to have a greater interest in photography, and to develop a deeper understanding of construction and spatial structures. Because of this, I took a lot of photos of the cowshed. Looking back now, I could have probably explained the whole space in about seven photographs. But it was an opportunity for me to learn with a unique subject, and it was nice to be a part of the memories. It would be interesting to go back and take the photos again though. This time I’d definitely be more focused.
Do you ever exhibit your photographs? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions we can look forward to?
I often work in photographic series’, but I try to focus as much as possible on one aspect within a subject – I can’t stand the idea of having a “bloated” series. Often, I only take 5 to 10 frames, because that’s all I need. Few series’ have more than 20 frames, and this only happens when I study changes to a structure over time. I have the content to hold a solo exhibition, but the problem is, I don’t have thematic connections between the individual series’, and if I would have to create such a theme I fear it would be forced.
I think it would be interesting to showcase a few of my photos with the work of other artists who have photographed or worked with the same subject. For example, I’d like to ask other artists who have worked with Bauhaus structures to collaborate on an exhibition. The photos and artworks all together could give a more complete picture of a particular subject, and might be able to fill in the gaps of a theme I couldn’t piece together on my own. In saying that, at the end of the month some of my photographs will be part of an exhibition at architectural office “Veauthier Architekten”. I have taken pictures of their buildings for a few years now, and they will showcase many of the photos.
Is there a particular direction you want your photography to take in the future?
When I compare how I photographed a few years ago, and how I take photos now, I just hope I will continue to get better. I don’t know the direction my photography will take me, or the direction I will take it. But I think that’s the good and the bad thing about creative professions – you have no idea which direction you are going. Right now I am working in many different areas and on many topics: 3D Printing for object design and concrete construction murals, photography, teaching, architecture. I know I’ll eventually have to focus on one or two things, but for the time being I will keep working on everything, because at the moment, I have the opportunity to do so. There’s a bit from Alice in Wonderland where the Cat and Alice talk about where she’s going:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ – so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Right now, this seems to be a pretty accurate description of my life – I don’t know where I am going, but I know to get somewhere, I have to keep moving.
_ _ _
Christoph’s work is being displayed at the architectural offices of Veauthier Architekten on the 26.02.2015. To learn more about Christoph and his projects visit: http://christophrokitta.com