Noro Khachatryan: A Materialist Minimalist
Known for his sleek sculptural objects and architectural elements made of natural and industrial materials, designer Noro Khachatryan, founder of studiokhachatryan, talks to TLmag about what constitutes an “object”, the need to be selective and making a habit of giving space to new ideas.
With an innately curious and open mind, designer Noro Khachatryan, founder of studiokhachatryan, considers nearly everything to be an object. With an architectural reference point, the designer has been creating sculptural objects, architectural elements and anything that may find itself in-between those definitions for the last decade. Consistent in style and his use of natural and industrial materials (mostly stone, concrete, semi-precious metals and wood), his selective visual language is a testament to how he can distil a multitude of prototypes and sketches into a single work. Here, TLmag speaks to the designer on his connection to Brussels, his belief in the timelessness of his materials and how, recently, he’s opened up to new habits within his process – actively giving space in his mind to work out new ideas.
TLmag: I understand that your work is very much influenced by everyday life. For the past couple of years, your studio has been based in Mechelen, a city which sits comfortably between Brussels and Antwerp. How do you think the city influences your practice?
Noro Khachatryan (NK): Sometimes, I feel as though I’m more on holiday at home than when I’m actually on holiday. There’s this disconnect from big or hectic cities, without it being too far away from them. When I’m in a big city abroad, or in Antwerp or Brussels, to visit our clients or partners, there’s so much going on that there’s almost no time to process it. When I’m in Mechelen, it’s really easy to process your inspiration and your impulses that you have from that context. Having said that, my studio will be moving to Brussels by September this year.
TLmag: What motivated the move?
NK: It just feels like the most natural step for me right now. I’ve always felt very connected to Brussels, more than anything else in Belgium really. I feel like it’s the city where I belong.We’ll be sharing a building with a very cool art gallery, with our studio being on the first floor and the gallery being on the ground floor. I’m excited to see what kind of exchanges we can have together. At the opening of my new studio, I might do an overview of the work that I’ve done over the last 10 years.
TLmag: Within the last decade, you’ve described a lot of your concepts as “architectural”. I was wondering what you understand within that definition in relation to object-making. Is the “architectural” element in the inspiration, the methodology, in the aesthetic of the object, the total package?
NK: I started to feel the need to more specifically explain, to myself and others, what modus operandi I’m about as a designer. Saying I’m a “designer”, for me, is almost like saying that I’m a “musician”; they’re both quite vague terminologies. I could say that I’m a furniture designer —because that’s a large portion of what I do — but that’s not the only interest of mine. The architectural and object designer felt like the most natural explanation; I design object and architectural elements.
TLmag: When do objects start and architectural elements begin?
NK: I consider pretty much everything to be an object, almost everything tangible around us, can be used by us, “man-made” is an object. Something becomes architecture / architectural design when they get bigger, in their scale and frequency hits a certain height. It surrounds us, instead of being used by us… Of course the word architectural is also just an adjective to describe the character and the approach of a project.
TLmag: Back to your work, I was particularly fascinated by the materials that you use: Bronze, aluminium, black marble, blackened and waxed concrete. These are all, next to being multi-functional for in- and outdoor use, all quite industrial and somewhat “cold”. What draws you to these types of materials?
NK: I am a materialist in the sense that I love materials, especially natural and certain industrial materials like metal and concrete which are, in my opinion, timeless. I don’t really use materials for their “innovative” qualities. I have a kind of long term view, which is maybe the reason why I always come back to these materials. I believe that these materials, even with their unpolished character, can last for a long time.
TLmag: Your work is also consistently minimalist. What motivates you to keep achieving these stark profiles?
NK: I see it more as an attitude which might be closer related to “selectivity” rather than “purely” minimalist. Even though I like to be imposed by very layered, even kitschy projects from other designers — but I know that to be content with myself and my work — I need to be selective. I like the effect that it can have, it’s “what you see, is what you get”. At times, it’s more difficult to achieve this than a more complex project — and it can be a bit daunting, especially when I catch myself having a lot of ideas for and about the same project. But there is no alternative for me, and this selective thought helps distil multiple ideas into the design.
TLmag: Whilst your final works are quite minimal, the period that you take to research and sketch out your objects is somewhat in excess…
NK: One of my projects, if [side tables made out of solid brass and marble], was an amalgamation of two years worth of drawings stacked on top of each other on the same scale. To “warm up”, I caught myself drawing slightly different versions of the same object over and over again. I wanted to take distance from them drawings and asked an intern at the time to scan all these drawings, put them on the same scale see there is an evolution or not – as some kind of exercise. From there, I started to see it as a serious project. I guess, sometimes these works come from a somewhat naive or simple act.
TLmag: Did you stop drawing it once you made it?
NK: Yeah, exactly. I now also realize that I never choose to “start” designing something, I’ve always subconsciously been working at it. Two years of not thinking towards a specific goal, but just continually processing something, has led me to adopt new habits. I try to give space to an idea when I get it. I try to avoid working on a project day and night to make sure that it got done “in time” — not really letting the initial idea evolve from when it first appeared, even if it’s technically possible — I enjoy the gap of thinking, processing and creating something in a new way, and working through it.
In April, the soon to be Brussels-based designer will be presenting an exciting panorama of unique and limited-editions works at interdisciplinary spaceSt. Vincents, Antwerp.