An in-depth interview with RYSQ — artist, architect, and trüFORMAT ambassador
1. Talk to us about what it means to you to be a synthesizer.
It’s derived from a neurological sensory condition, Synesthesia, in which one sensory or cognitive pathway, i.e. hearing, simultaneously is experienced through a secondary sense, i.e. vision. In the abstract, my creative artistic mind blurs the sensory cues and often feels intoxicated by the phenomenology of light and sound. I see sound and I hear textures. The creative problem-solving iteration allows me to process and overlay vast amounts of information to synthesize the content and solutionize. As a noun, I tend to operate in a synthetic mode in the context of my workflow. As a verb, it produces the content for my creative endeavors under RYSQ-IT or my new venture SQRYPT.
Example of Phenomenology of Light and Sound
2. Talk to us about how your brain approaches the world: say when you walk into a room, what do you notice first? what captivates your attention?
When entering a space whether indoor or outdoor, it’s important to be aware of your surrounding context.
Indoor wise: Looking up at the reflected ceiling plan is key to understanding safety and where the lifelines are. Once oriented, I usually spot the exit strategy next.
Outdoor wise: Looking up to get a sense of the weather. It may be raining outside but inside the spirit is sunny. I often gauge the content of most conversations by the way in which people respond to ‘how’s the weather?’.
The content is in the details, which results in endless conversation. In the context of the space, of course.
3. When and how did you come to find a love and appreciation for Architecture as the art of process?
Growing up outside D.C. we had a small woodshop and photography darkroom in the basement. I would ebb and flow between these two spaces in my spare time, equipped with the fundamental toolbox my father set up. Hechingers was our local hardware shop, and I would frequently go with my father for various household projects. He insisted I ask the clerks to help us so I would learn the names of tools and hardware and be confident to ask questions. At home, I was often found organizing the tools and counting the bits of bolts and nails in modular containers. So when a project arose, I could swiftly hand my father the tools and hardware needed.
The process of communication started through the lens of an SLR Canon A-1. I would get totally lost chasing textures and shadows from unexpected angles. In high school I reached a limit in the 2-D method of recording and wanted to add to my toolbox. Not just record moments, but design the context that others would want to build memories in. I always viewed architecture as a permanent form of graffiti with a more sophisticated process. The layers of information needed to make a project happen on any scale is mystifying. It takes Time & Patience & Influence to make it happen. That process goes far beyond two dimensions.
3a. What was/is in the toolbox?
Toolbox circa 1985-1990: Meticulously organized strings and beads were primary. I definitely had a lot of arts and crafts hobbies. In between swim practice, I would get lost with time knotting and weaving. Embroidery thread, hemp, gimp, electrical wires. My father is an expert in sailor knots and taught me with left over scraps in our basement workshop.
Toolbox circa 1990-1998: a portable table saw, drill press, chop saw, hand tools, and endless hardware. In high school, we made a darkroom in the mechanical room. A Beseler enlarger, filters, basic chemicals to process negatives, and paper to print and process.
The present toolbox simply involves any communication tool to express and build ideas. Being a good listener is just as much a tool as a 3-D printer or a hammer.
4. We love your approach to RYSQ (not selfish with an 'I', but inquisitive with a 'Y'). Tell us about some of the risks you have taken and how they have impacted your growth and perspective.
RYSQ was actually my tag in high school. Not many people know that. RY from RobYn & SQ from SQuires. Pronounced ‘risk’. It was never a selfish tag about me, it was (is) a design culture and a movement I believed in building that would simply respond to the why. The concept hibernated for several years while I was in University so I could focus on my studies and travel. It wasn’t until moving to New York City to pursue a career in architecture that the notion resurfaced. My loyal friend, Osa, inspired me to cultivate RYSQ in the shadows of my full-time job as a creative outlet. In 2007, RYSQ Design Collective came to fruition.
5. What do you mean Collective?
Recognizing my weaknesses in the framework of budget or time, I often reach out to a loosely woven collective of designers, fabricators, or licensed professionals in order to take on any calculated RYSQ. In the first decade of RYSQ, I never let go of my full-time position in architecture and construction. That was THE calculated RYSQ that I could not sacrifice. I also never looked for a single project that RYSQ took on; all projects were referrals from friends, family, and word of mouth. If it weren’t for the outlet and balance of small RYSQ projects, I would not have gotten through the long-term projects I was working on in the day job grind.
DJ Booth for a Flagship Streetwear brand: design and fabricate – 3 weeks
Diamond Shaped LED light for indie music video: design and fabricate – 2 weeks
Yoga line of Jewelry: from design, wax models, casting, wax models – 1.5 years
3-D Printed Keychains for new building tenants: design, experiment, production – 4 months
5’ x 8’ Photographs for new building corridors: frame, montage, print, install – 4 weeks
The smallest yet most valuable lesson learned.
Cue Robyn with bangs, age 25.
The one mistake I made that required the longest recovery time was a seemingly simple $300 photoshoot in 2005. I agreed to take it on through a referral of a friend on myspace. Two musicians wanted a set of honest and raw street photos to use for marketing material. One brief intro call later, and I decided to meet them in my favorite hood, Dumbo, where I had access to plenty of roofs, and hidden spots with good textures.
1st mistake. Photography is my personal creative outlet. I do abstract, I don’t do real. I rarely frame people.
2nd mistake. No proposal, no confirmation of scope, of work, nor creative rights.
3rd mistake. I gave them their money back.
After snapping the afternoon, they paid cash in full. Score. Initial feedback was positive. The following week, I organized the files and put them on a CD, picking some favorites; they were into them. The day I gave them the files, they completely changed their minds, claiming they wanted indoor photos with a plain backdrop — the antithesis of what we did. I gave them their money back, saying I didn’t want an unhappy client, and let them take the content. The following week, the photos were on their various social media accounts and used in a couple articles. Lessons learned on all fronts.
7. Lets' push a bit further on how you "see" the world. RYSQ-IT has some really forward approaches to inter-connectedness. What are your thoughts on the layers of sensory perception? how do you experiment with light, sound, etc? (Resin-ate; Con-cret-ion)
The vision for RYSQ-IT is actually the concept I have been developing since my Master’s thesis “Phenomenology of Light & Sound: Revival of a Gothic Species - 'Hangar One” in order to push the limits of various materials and infuse them with technology. Each letter, R – Y – S – Q represents a phase in the process of developing the ideas further. IT has its own hieroglyphics. Each material is paired with a key element and philosophy to provide the parameters to build on. Each year I try to push the idea of one material to the next level. This year I hope to finally build on some Stone ideas that were inspired by a 2001 trip to Zumthors’ Thermal baths in Vals. With leftover white fantasy quartz stone from a renovation project and access to a shop, the toolbox is available to take a Stoic idea to Phase 1. Last year experiments involved Steel and learning how to print my photographs for an art exhibition on various construction materials – mango wood, 3-Form resin, concrete, and steel. 15 years and the technology is just now able to start syncing up. To scale my artistic sensory perception to the built environment would be the ultimate goal. Equipped with the proper toolbox it can happen and the vision becomes clearer each year.
RYSQ-IT stack of sketchbooks
8. What books and buildings inspire you? Artists or architects? Have any man-made structures sparked awe in you?
Ned Kahn is an environmental artist and sculptor that truly inspired the “ah-ha” moment for RYSQ-IT. While studying contemporary architecture abroad in 2001, I became enamored by the work of Peter Zumthor and Herzog & De Meuron. They embrace the notion of ‘context brings content,’ a core mantra for RYSQ. Their response to WHY is often through weaving textures of materials and senses in the context of the projects environment. It provides the most meaningful content. Utilizing local vernacular and materiality of the physical and ephemeral forms to respond to the program builds such character.
9. What is one piece of advice you wish people would pay closer attention to?