AROUND THE BLOK. VOL. 9 - Christoph Kaiser
Christoph is the founder of Kaiserworks, a Phoenix-based architecture and design studio. As the city continues its rapid paced growth, it's exciting to see his studio help shape the look of our town and surrounding area with projects such as Undefeated, Tempe Public Market Cafe, Welcome Diner, and Changing Hands Bookstore. It's even more inspiring to see the work he's doing revitalizing historic homes in our Garfield neighborhood, one of the oldest districts in Phoenix. We had a wonderful time with Christoph for this segment of Around the Blok and thrilled to have him as our next artist!
Tell us about yourself?
I am a Phoenix native with a passion for design, architecture, and place-making. I grew up spending my summers in southern Germany. The experience of growing up in two very different worlds made me recognize at an early age how radically our built and unbuilt environment can impact us. I’m an introvert and optimist by nature, and a believer in the redemption story. Whether in people, communities or buildings, I see potential in even the worst of conditions, which has historically drawn me to tackle some pretty fearsome remodels.
Why do you do what you do?
Creating evocative spaces that feed the soul, inspire wonder and foster community is something that I strive for in the work I do. I think being exposed to some fairly bleak and repetitive stretches of suburbia in my early years grew in me a desire to create memorable, powerful counterpoints to that. I’m also a bit of futurist. I am excited by contemplating what is to come, or what could be. What will society look like in a generation or two, or three? What will architecture look like? What will art look like? Envisioning a response to our ever-changing environmental, cultural and technological landscape, and casting a line in that direction is what drives me to create.
What benefit does art provide to society?
A society of robots would yield things like unrivaled efficiency, perfect timing, pure utility - and it would have no soul. Art is a expression of our humanity that evokes emotion at a fundamental level, and carries with it the potential to lift our human experience out of its pragmatic pursuits and into a place that requires courage, and challenges the status quo. A society without art would be a dreary and frightful place - the perfect place to put a piece of art.
What’s your advice to others chasing their dreams?
Chasing your dream, if you have one, requires focus and determination. These are not the sexiest aspects to talk about, but a dream will remain a dream unless you pursue it vigorously, and make the time to make it happen. The obligations of normal life present themselves automatically, and without apology. The quality of your dream will not get you there, neither will your genius. Focus and determination in pursuing the thing are key.
What is your biggest inspiration and why?
I know this sounds cliche, but the beauty and order that we see in nature is my biggest inspiration. If all of human existence occured within a cardboard box, I would have very little material to draw from as a creative. In my cardboard-box world, if that was all I knew, I think it would be hard to argue that I would ever design anything that wasn’t… cardboard. But instead, we live on a flourishing watery garden-globe floating inside of an oxygen rich bubble filled with quartz and gold, jellyfish and changing seasons, dogs chasing cats, shooting stars, moon phases, rainbows, freckles, icebergs, possums, lightening and peacocks. Even if that was a finite list - that’s a lot of material to draw from. I also don’t believe that any of this is an accident. This existence feels designed, and for me, unpacking and learning from moments within the design we see all around us is incredibly rich and inspiring.
When you think of home, what comes to mind?
Home is where the heart is. How’s that for another cliche response? But I mean it. Philosophers and thinkers have tackled this question throughout time. Karl Marx connected the idea of home to plants if you can believe it. To have personal history with a piece of earth recorded in the growth of a tree was important for his conception of home. I can relate to this actually, but would add that home is where you feel most secure. It has nothing to do with the shape or size of the structure. For me, the things that fill my house, the artifacts, the memories, the wool blanket that my Omi gave me when I was eight years old while standing on a bridge in Bavaria - those things are as important as the house itself. My home today is a wonderful red brick grand pyramid cottage built in 1907, and I love it.