Tomas Klassnik studied architecture at Cambridge University before moving to The Royal College of Art. Having worked for a number of leading practices including the AOC and FAT he founded The Klassnik Corporation and has recently overseen the development of the new home of YCN, 72 Rivington Street in East London. We caught up with him to find out more.
So how did the Klassnik Corporation come about?
I studied architecture but have always tried to work in different ways. My work is often about communicating an idea or collaborating with other specialists so I didn’t want to restrict what we do to just buildings or one thing in particular so I thought let’s become a Corporation. Nobody really knows what’s supposed to come out of a Corporation. It could be anything…although the odd building is always nice.
A lot of your work is hypothetical, do these projects ever worry clients?
Those projects might initially seem fantastic or extreme, just suited to a gallery or magazine, but they’re actually based on extrapolating real behaviours or issues. Quite often their absurdity comes from real facts or statistics. Hopefully they exist just on the edge of a critique of a current situation and a realistic proposal, making people question what they might normally take for granted. Luckily the clients I’ve worked with to date have all been keen to push and explore their particular briefs to an equal extent, accepting things that are initially unexpected.
What was the initial brief from YCN on the 72 Rivington Street project?
Nick Defty from YCN had a clear idea of how he wanted the space to operate. To have a publicly accessible ground floor and the practical need for office and studio space on the other floors. I started by going to see how they worked in their old studio. They had an awful lot of stuff, and a lot of things, Polaroids and Post-it notes were all over the walls, so storage and display were always going to be key. Seeing the range of different things that YCN do meant that it had to be a flexible space.
How collaborative was the process, I know you worked with Okay Studio on the project.
One of the things that attracted me to doing the job, is I knew that YCN as an organisation had a lot of contacts with young interesting people who I was keen to meet and work with and a lot of people have contributed along the way. At quite an early stage we were looking around thinking how can we get this built without necessarily going down the route of a traditional builder or contractor. Once we had Peter Marigold and Oscar Narud of Okay studio involved that created opportunities, in that I knew we could be a bit adventurous and do a few things that wouldn’t have been possible normally.
Are you pleased with the way it’s all worked out?
Yes. We were quite lucky to have a client in YCN who were willing to try new things, it’ll be interesting to see how the space evolves, at the moment they’ve got a lending library down there on the ground floor but the space is designed to adapt to various different uses and there’s definitely the ambition for lots of different things to happen down there. Activity is at the heart of 72. Lots of pieces move and people will bring it to life.
And finally, what’s the dream project?
How about a new Houses of Parliament, one with some accommodation this time! But no, actually that’s a difficult one. I enjoy the variety of stuff we do so whether it’s an exhibition, a workshop, a poster or a building exploring something new is always exciting. I think the dream project probably always has to be the next one.