An interview with Yasmine Benhadj-Djilali and Adrian Luz about their new collaboration NUMAH for projects in the fields of architecture, design and art.
Yasmine Benhadj-Djilali and Adrian Luz, with backgrounds in architecture and design, on the one hand, as well as architecture and art, on the other, how did your collaboration begin?
Adrian: During an artist residency in Berlin a couple of years ago, I visited Yasmine’s gallery on Torstraße. I was impressed by the current exhibition which was really on-point, addressing social issues that I also explore. I felt a pretty fast connection because we both combine art and architecture in our work and also, share certain values.
Yasmine: As a gallerist and curator, I am interested in artists who communicate socially relevant topics through a high quality artistic expression. Human division – border walls, separation and segregation have been the focus of my research ever since I taught at Darmstadt University, many years ago. Naturally, Adrian’s project to illuminate the border ‘wall’ between Mexico and the United States in his hometown of Tijuana immediately caught my attention and led to a spontaneous artistic collaboration. Working together has been quite an inspiring experience and, since we are both architects, we decided to expand our creative horizons.
You come from different backgrounds, how does that give an edge to your work?
Adrian: Growing up in Tijuana and Los Angeles, and spending numerous years in Paris has given me a deep understanding of the need, and a unique perspective on how to connect cultures to each other and the people to their community and environment. With my works, I wish to inspire human connections and put into question the role of public space and the responsibility of art in the urban landscape as a vector for positive social change. Yasmine’s German-Algerian background characterizes her strict, clear vision and work ethic in her approach, while embodying and projecting a natural human sensibility that is beyond academics and theory.
Yasmine: We are convinced that architecture opens a unique opportunity to transform the way we live and interact with each other by stimulating our emotions and imagination.
You reference the concept of poetic, “sexy-functional”. Can you expand on that?
Adrian: We are not afraid to feel and be guided by our emotions, to dive into wild and passionate projects that make us feel good. Our research is more within than without, resulting in honest designs that personify a sensitive artistic expression for a deep, human experience.
Yasmine: The Schrank embodies a dualistic nature inherent in all of us. Hard, elegant lines made of white lacquered MDF define a mysterious geometric volume. In the inside, soft leather surfaces characterize a more fragile, intimate universe. The monolithic wardrobe stands on wheels that are concealed and allow it to gracefully open up giving the impression it weighs as little as a feather.
At another occasion you said that you are eager “to explore the new potentials mixing light, art and new technologies to create surfaces that are truly alive.” Can you give an example?
Adrian: An example would be my design proposal for the UNESCO Pavilion during the World Expo Dubai 2020. I did some research into what I call ‘super-hybrids’ aiming to bring together an array of technological developments into a single architectural entity that offers unique structural, visual and sustainable properties. More specifically, the UNESCO Pavilion proposes an architecture that is solar-powered, easy to move and assemble, flexible and adaptive, and using exciting new display technologies to convey simple, iconic, large-scale messaging all with one surface or material, capable of tracking and absorbing the sun’s energy by day and generating light or intelligent visuals that instantiate the sun’s glow by night.
Where do you currently see exciting trends in the field of materials and surfaces?
Yasmine: There are of course a lot of developments that we consider very interesting, for example the integration of new technologies in surfaces, or new perspectives on the production, use and sustainability of materials. Personally, I am especially intrigued by the use or re-use of natural materials. If you think of fungus-based materials: it feels almost like creating resources out of nothing; they can be used in very different ways and forms, including monolithic shapes which I am interested in. The need for ecological solutions can be a driver for very positive innovations.
NUMAH is a new collaboration between Yasmine Benhadj-Djilali and Adrian Luz (Sierra Garcia). Yasmine Benhadj-Djilali is an architect and designer based in Berlin. With her studio YBDD she focuses on furniture and interior design; in addition, she is founder of Benhadj & Djilali gallery for design and art. Adrian Luz is an architect and artist based in Tijuana (Mexico) and Berlin. He has realized international architecture projects and art installations in public space as well as at renowned art fairs.
Cover portrait, Copyright: NUMAH