Interview: Michael Kohn Dip Arch, MSc (Computing and Design) RIBA is founding director of Slider Studio, originally starting the company in 2005 to offer generative design and computational design methods to larger practices. Before Michael was architecture professional studies lecturer at University of East London from 2005-2011. He is now a member of the advisory board of the UK’s Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network.
Which urban space - anywhere in the world - has made the greatest impression on you?
I’ve lived and worked in East London for 14 years, in the area, newly branded by the government as “Tech City” which is the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley. Stretching from Old Street roundabout (now dubbed “Silicone Roundabout”) to the New Olympic Park in Stratford, this urban corridor is clearly nothing like California, neither in scale, nor space nor sun. Its urban design qualities are attractively ‘bohemian’, ‘gritty’ or ‘noticeable absent’, depending on your perspective. But it is full of architects, artists, creative and digital start-ups, presenting a rich talent pool and opportunities for new ways of working, for new business models and for creative and commercial collaborations. Whether working at home, in coffee shops, in bars, or in the new typology of co-working “desk space” serviced office - it’s not what urban space looks like that inspires me, but the intellectual and regenerative potential of its creative citizens.
Which of the projects that you have been involved in are you most proud of?
Leading a practice that believes in establishing enduring feedback loops from building occupants back to design teams, pride in early architectural outcomes seems a little premature and misplaced. But if pushed, Slider was certainly proud to have co-authored a commended submission for the recent Nordhavnen master plan competition, and we are also proud to represent UK on this cultural exchange with Denmark. I know my mother is pretty proud of the self-build we built together 18 years ago and of which Slider Studio is now acting as design-build contractor of its new extension – to be our first in physical constructed project.
What do you look forward to the most being a part of the exchange?
I’m generally looking forward to the networking and knowledge exchange with architects, academics and students, exploring the theme of the exchange together. I’ve never been to Denmark previously - my impression is of a creative and forward thinking society with a good quality of life. Many of the students to whom I taught professional studies at University of East London often selected Christiania as their architectural site of choice, so I’m also keen to visit this notorious autonomous neighbourhood and to better understand its recent political developments on the ground.
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