Radim is Back: A Recap of Six-Months Abroad
I’ve returned from my six-month sabbatical and I’m energized and inspired to continue leading the Caron team as we embark on another successful year together. The main purpose of my trip was to focus on my family, but throughout my journey I had the opportunity to observe urban conditions, buildings and monuments around the world.
When I was younger, I used to practice architectural paparazzi, going out of my way to see buildings by famous and recognized architects. As I’ve grown older, I have become more interested in regular building patterns and small local gems which are well-detailed and catch my eye. I’m a firm believer in traveling beyond your hometown as there are lessons to be learned and comparisons to be made. It can lead to “Aha” moments of innovation. My travels were a kaleidoscope of views and impressions blurred together. I’ve done my best to combine six months of travel in my recap below and welcome the opportunity to share more about my experiences over coffee at our office.
1. Seattle 2. London 3. Morocco 4. Prague 5. Barcelona 6. Santiago 7. Easter Island 8. Patagonia 9. Peru 10. Bolivia
11. Chile 12. Ecuador 13. New Zealand 14. Singapore 15. Yogyakarta 16. Thailand 17. Cambodia 18. Laos 19. Dubai
Barcelona, Bangkok, Cuzco are all cities developed prior to the invention of the automobile with some portions of the cities featuring narrow street profiles. It was interesting to observe the livability of the streets and public spaces, despite (or because) of their narrow profiles and adaptability and co-existence of different modes of transportation. Cuzco and Barcelona are particularly interesting examples of resilience and flexibility of those urban spaces designed hundreds of years ago.
I define spiritual architecture as architecture that not only serves a religious purpose but a structure which represents or serves a more abstract idea than its primary functional purpose. I had an opportunity to visit several century-old sites, which required incredible effort to construct and detail at that time. I was humbled by primitive cultural sites like Pre-Inca desert drawings in Nazca, Inca temples in Cusco, Tiwanaku cities in Bolivia, Borobudur and Angkor Wat temples in South East Asia.
Modern examples of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona and the ultra-modern Marina Bay complex in Singapore demonstrate that modern buildings can stand out from utilitarian construction because they have a vision or transcending idea. For me, this is what separates architecture from construction- there is an idea, vision and soul of a building.
Given my experience of residential architecture, it was interesting to observe global solutions to housing. In developing countries, the economy and need to house large populations leads to repetitive development models with a reuse of mass-constructed, utilitarian, low-rise structures. The task to house populations two to three times the size of Washington’s in one city is so enormous and complex – it’s mind-boggling. It allowed me to reflect on the current housing situation in Seattle- do we want to have the best housing for few or affordable housing for many?
Retail and Hospitality
Retail and hospitality projects in South East Asia offer a tremendous amount of quality design. It is not necessarily the high-end or international brands that inspire, but instead the small local coffee shops, boutique hotels and restaurants. I love the Asian retail scene and there is nothing compared to the vibrancy and authenticity of their shops. There is a sheer competitiveness to creating tailored retail spaces that demand high-levels of creativity. This strips back the market control of the big players with pre-defined design and corporate brand standards, showcasing the best of design. It was a pleasure to go shopping overseas.
Lessons from abroad
The quality of construction in Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East is on par or supersedes construction quality here in the United States. I would argue that some of the technical aspects of the buildings are more sophisticated than in Seattle. A lot of these components are imported from Europe or Japan, but the quality is not consistent across the board.
There are many examples of buildings and details that can be observed, but ultimately the ability to learn, morph and transfer the lessons learned into our own work will shape each of us as designers. These are the reasons I encourage people to travel and walk around with their eyes open. Lessons are free, just observe and be present!
and finally, of course I played golf abroad!