KOSMOS Architects is an office collaborating virtually, bringing together partners based in Basel, Moscow and New York. In recent years, KOSMOS has received accolades and prizes in various international competitions, including the Hans Christian Andersen Museum Competition in Denmark; the Queensway Competition in New York, and just recently for a landmark Nike Sportpark in Moscow. Its past built projects range from a renovation of former industrial territory in Moscow, to a street installation for the New Museum in New York, to the first Exhibition Pavilion for the Garage Center of Contemporary Culture in Gorky Park. KOSMOS’ work expands to non-architectural projects as well, often collaborating with artists, photographers, designers and researchers.
The office takes the word kosmos in its original definition from Ancient Greek, meaning “order” and “ordered universe”. Its opposite, “chaos” is identified as generic buildings, quotidian objects and anonymous infrastructure: railway ridges, light fixtures, insulation material, etc. KOSMOS takes inspiration from these utilitarian and mute elements of architecture – they learn from the chaos, finding ways of organizing it into their projects.
They currently co-curated the exhibition Forum Basel, which will open at S AM on May 20. An interview on the need for contributing architecture, architectural agendas and the unbuilt.
What should architecture contribute to?
We believe that architecture should contribute to people. We see it as an environment and facility, rather than an object. Besides just protecting or compartmentalizing people, architecture should foster people’s interaction and activities. Architecture is a background and an interface: for people to meet, work, love, perform, rest. One of our projects called EMA was designed in such a way: instead of a self-centered building, we managed to create a total environment that was a perfect backdrop for art installations, dancing, lectures, theatre performances and other activities (for example, the wedding of one of our partners).
To whom is the architect subordinate: client or society?
We believe that, besides regular commissions and following particular clients’ requirements, architects should find time to come up with their own agenda. Architects should critically look at the needs of society, predict the future, and propose new, self-driven initiatives. For instance, in our new exhibition at the Swiss Architectural Museum together with other emerging offices, we will present new initiatives, ideas and projects for Basel’s public space. One of the projects, Art Drop, is a proposal that combines a traditional Basel ferry with an art gallery open to the public. We developed Art Drop as a self-initiated project for the city, and for the improvement of its public space, and are really hoping to promote it. Eventually, we would love to find support from the local community to be able to build it.
Can architecture be art?
Sometimes architecture is labeled as technology, sometimes it is labeled as art. But for us, the most thrilling thing about architecture is that it is both technology and art, both metaphysical and physical, deals both with aesthetic and structural notions. In our work we try to combine art and architecture, and often we collaborate with graphic designers, illustrators, artists, photographers. One of our projects on the border between art and architecture is dedicated to the grave of famous avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich.
Must architecture be built?
We believe that not all architecture must be built, and on the contrary, not all that is built in the shape of a building is architecture. Some of the most breakthrough, radical and conceptually strong architecture has never been built: from the Cenotaph of Étienne-Louis Boullée to Cedric Price’s fun palace; from Ivan Leonidov’s City of the Sun to Superstudio’s continuous monument. Last year we created a poster dedicated to this topic: it was a collection of utopian, unbuilt and radical architectural projects. Some examples of our own work are also not built, but we still consider their potential and hope to realise them one day – for example, our proposal for the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, a project that won the first prize of the competition but was not built. Maybe it will be, in some other time or context.