The second podcast from the studio: interview with Matthias Hollwich

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The second podcast from the studio: interview with Matthias Hollwich

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture and the everyday. Hosted by architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful shots and personal discussions.

A variety of topics are covered with honesty and humour: some episodes are interviews, while others are advice for other designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or informal explorations of daily life and design. The second workshop is also available on itunes, Spotifyand Youtube.

This week David and Marina are joined by architect and entrepreneur Matthias Hollwich, founding director of HWKN and co-founder of Architizer, to discuss his upbringing in Germany; work for prestigious offices such as DS+R, OMA and Eisenman Architects; take a break from architecture; co-founder of Architizer during the 2008 recession; HWKN’s beginnings, ups and downs, and milestones; and more.

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Highlights and timestamps


Study architecture in Germany. (00:00)

Work for high-level offices. (11:40)

[Working at OMA] was like the amazing talent brewing factory. Bjarke (Ingels) sat next to me and Julien De Smedt, who later founded PLOT, then Bjarke did BIG. Joshua Ramus from Rex was actually my roommate for many years… It was a bit competitive, but we also liked to inspire each other. There was a lot of dialogue and we showed presentations of what we were doing… It was really amazing. For me, it was like the school I really went through at the end. (23:03)

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TRAIN tomorrow. Image courtesy of HWKN

Take a break from architecture before starting an office. (25:34)

For me, it was important that I not just follow in his footsteps (Rem Koolhaas), but that I find other elements of inspiration to bring to my thinking. This is actually the result for me now. It really feels like there’s an OMA way of thinking and a bit of formalism that came from Peter Eisenman… So a lot of the things the company is doing now here at HWKN, is derived from the blending of an architectural experience plus a bit more strategic thinking and business thinking… I think that’s also kind of a unique selling proposition that we have at this point. (27:08)

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JAX. Image courtesy of HWKN

How Matthias’ enthusiasm, dedication and work ethic influenced his career. (36:21)

Architecture is a strategy and it’s not just design. Design is part of a strategy that you create… and that’s why I come back to my talent in math and physics. It’s certainly not just about being creative. It is also exploring… What is good for the place? What is good for the customer? How far can you push it? What can you do? And then you can build the arguments around that. And you’re not investing too much just in design exercises that a lot of people are doing… It’s all that, but what you really want to do is something that moves cities and people forward. It becomes, for me, more predictable how you think and how you work to some degree. And then you have to let go again, of course, to create the magic, but there is a strategy behind it. (43:47)

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25 Kent Building / Gensler + HWKN. Image © Ty Cole

How HWKN was founded. (48:15)

Architizer startup following the 2008 recession. (01:07:55)

Key moments for HWKN. (01:21:43)

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25 Kent Building / Gensler + HWKN. Image © Ty Cole

Matthias’ progression from shyness to presenting TED Talks. (01:47:03)

It was really an intention to learn it and train it because it’s actually amazing how different it gets when it’s free and you can respond to people and it can capture their imagination. (01:49:26)

Check out previous editions of The Second Studio Podcast.

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