Devin Gharakhanian Creates ‘New Architecture’ Movement
From Antoni Gaudi to Frank Gehry, architectural celebrities use to be at the center of mainstream conversation. Now it seems, architecture is a topic that has drifted into the background noise of life. However, according to Devin Gharakhanian, architecture is taking on a new identity, one that lives outside of the building and weaves itself into every aspect of our societal construct.
As a millennial architect, Devin understands the barriers the traditional world of architecture has placed on those who study the practice today. The cost to construct a building is prohibitive in executing most architectural visions, stifling any creativity from those who devoted their blood sweat and tears to graduate in this field.
But hope is not lost. Instead, the framework is evolving and expanding into realms of uncharted possibility. The founder of Quarc and cofounder of SuperArchitects, Devin is on a mission to keep architectural design thinking alive and prosperous in an era of unparalleled transformation.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Devin at The Rue, his collaborative design lab in Downtown LA, where large-scale canvases lined the walls, showcasing the breath of talent from transitional architects. It was clear from the onset this was a place for emerging artists of all kinds.
Becoming a SuperArchitect
Unlike most kids who declare a profession early in life only to change it by puberty, Devin knew what he wanted at a young age. “I always knew I was going to be an architect,” he tells us. A native Angeleno born to Persian-Armenian parents, his mother encouraged him to develop his skills by playing with Legos and drawing.
Growing up, Devin was also a natural athlete and gravitated toward cross-country running. That is, until a broken ankle forced him to refocus his energy on other passions. Devin moved into Woodbury University’s architecture program where he says the practice changed his way of thinking. “Architecture is a lifestyle,” he declares.
By the time he was a sophomore, he felt the hindrance of the siloed nature of architect schools. After a conversation with then Master student, Julia Amouyal, the two decided to create a media platform where students could learn from each other around the world.
Up to that point, every other architectural media platform catered to those who were already established in the field. “I wanted a platform where I could get my work seen and meet other architects or like minds.” SuperArchitects initially launched as a place where he could publish his thesis work, but it soon took on a life of its own.
Typically in a traditional architecture firm, creativity is substituted for practicality. Devin says this is when “you start to lose your skill set and become complacent.” In order to avoid such stagnation, SuperArchitects’ main objective is to encourage students to continue thinking creatively.
Each week, Devin and Julie would receive 30 submissions, pick their favorites, and publish someone who hadn’t been seen before. “We started publishing once a week and it became this underground digital publication for the academic architectural world,” he reminisces. Super Architects turned into one big free architectural school where everyone was indirectly connecting and learning from each other. But Devin wanted more.
In his opinion, architecture had lost its edge. “When I talk to my family or friends, no one cared about architecture.” He wanted to bring the platform to the public’s attention. “I believe architecture is so potent and exciting…to me, it is such an important discipline that it was just weird that no one knew or cared about it.”
He decided to use social media to spearhead a revolution, taking advantage of Instagram back in 2011. Six years and 550,000 followers later, SuperArchitects is now one of the most successful architectural accounts on Instagram.
The Disconnect Between Academic and Professional Architecture
While SuperArchitects provides a means of inspiration for architecture students and has resulted in many professional job offerings, there sill exists a disconnect between the academic and professional world. “Architecture is a split between authorship and service,” Devin explains. “In the academic world, there are no real clients, there are no real budgets and it’s a little more experimental.”
Comparatively, he states that the professional world is based on service. “You have a budget, a client who is influencing the project, and city officials who are controlling what you can and can’t do.” He points to the wall behind him, “just that wall is more than a person’s whole [haute couture] fashion line.”
With so many restrictions, Devin says, “I was always jealous of artists because they could ideate and build exactly what they wanted, but for architects, we can ideate as much as we want but it’s almost impossible to get it built and if it is, it is going to be compromised by over 70 percent.”
Forced to recognize the limitations within his industry, Devin was determined to use his knowledge and skillset in other creative disciplines. He coined the term “new architecture” to represent anything that uses design thinking outside of buildings. “New architecture is using architectural training to produce or ideate anything from products to furniture to even rethinking how a city should accommodate autonomous cars.”
Some of the industries he suggests are perfect for the skills of an architect include: film, product design, UI/UX design, politics, urban design, and fashion design.
Building Virtual Environments
With a desire to make architecture more entertaining and social, Devin plans to do this by “breaking down the lexicon” so people can understand it a bit more. A futurist at heart, he tells us “I’ve always been interested in the experience of the space, not necessarily the construction of the space.”
And no place is more fun for an architect than the virtual world. Combine architectural design with storytelling and you get a recipe for interactive filmmaking. Spatial relation is the cornerstone of architecture, so its only fitting that virtual reality and augmented reality would offer the perfect output for an architect.
Equipped with the tools and mindset to construct a whole city from scratch, Devin is now free to get as creative as possible in the virtual world and is currently immersed in its endless spectrum of possibilities.
“Being architecturally trained and having a passion for film and storytelling, VR/AR is a good medium for me,” he says. Pushing the boundaries of his own creativity, Devin is designing a VR film, which he refers to as “story-worlding,” whereby the user is given full control over the narrative. Virtual reality provides a middle ground for architects who want to explore their experimental designs in a safe and cost-effective environment.
To show the architecture world just how powerful virtual reality can be for those in the industry, Devin has been selected to curate the architecture zone for VR LA, the biggest VR conference in the world, taking place April 14-15.
While VR offers one outlet for architecture students, many other creative routes exhibit similar creative paths. For this reason, Devin has launched The Rue, an architectural creative coworking lab to encourage independent designers to operate collectively. In doing so, he is creating a space for these artists to transition into any creative medium, while maintaining the freedom to explore within the world of architecture.