Kory Bieg is an assistant professor of architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2005, Bieg founded OTA+, an architecture, design, and research office that specializes in advanced digital design and construction technologies. He is the chair of TxA Emerging Design + Technology and a co-director of TEX-FAB. He is a registered architect in the state of California, Colorado, and Texas.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico – home of green chile! I used to spend afternoons and weekends driving around the state, exploring the land. The adobe architecture is incredible and real, unlike the bland cookie cutters being stamped through the suburbs of most states. It was this landscape that influenced my design sensibilities. Take a trip to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness or Tent Rocks, and you’ll know what I mean. The land is full of otherworldly forms that will blow your mind.
If you were not an architect, what other profession would you have pursued?
Film, definitely. I’ve always been fascinated by movies, especially the making of them. I spent the early part of my career doing renderings to make money on the side, but I think it was really an excuse to learn more about the tools used to make movies. I have more subscriptions to rendering and animation magazines than I do architecture, but I think the two disciplines have a lot in common. The film industry is good at adapting to change and advancing technology. It is a very optimistic field, and I try to take from it as much as I can.
Pen, pencil, or computer?
Sorry to all the luddites out there, but I am a computer user through and through. I went to Columbia in the early 2000s when Bernard Tschumi was the dean pushing for paperless studios. I learned from some of the best. After seeing what was possible with new digital tools, I was an easy convert. I feel like the pencil or pen is just another tool that adds to the thousands afforded by the bevy of software available today. I still sketch, but my sketches are on a Wacom screen or in a 3D modeling program.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in whatever I don’t understand, whether it be a special effect in a film, a breakthrough in science, or a person who acts unconventionally. Maybe I confuse inspiration with curiosity, but I think they go hand in hand, so long as the result is positive and toward an end that is good. Ideas are great, but I’ve always found acts to be more inspiring.
What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself?
That’s a tough one, there are so many — the Phaeno Science Center, La Sagrada Familia, Robert Bruno’s Steel House, Ufa Cinema Center, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch (yes, it’s a building) — but I guess I would have to say the Mercedes-Benz Museum by UN Studio in Stuttgart. Not only is the building beautiful and technically innovative, the experience inside is totally unique and unforgettable. It’s really two buildings in one. As you move through the museum, you are constantly shifting back and forth between these two different worlds. It has cured the problem of museum fatigue.
What type of advice would you offer to young professionals?
If you want to engage and make the world a better place, you have to work hard and learn as much as you can. You’ll never know when or how you will be able to apply the skills you learn, so absorb it all. I come across way too many young people (and old people, too), who think there is only one way to design and dismiss everything else. We all have our biases, but narrow-mindedness is a quick path to insignificance.