By Anja Laubscher
Koray Duman is a Turkish architect based in New York City. Duman is the founder of Buro Koray Duman, an idea and research-based architectural practice design studio in the Lower East Side.
In addition to his practice, Duman teaches as an adjunct professor at Pratt Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design and is the co-chair of AIA New York’s New Practice Committee.
We spoke with Duman about the his career trajectory and how Rem Koolhaas inspired his own independent research projects.
Anja Laubscher: When did you realize you were interested in design?
Koray Duman: When I was in high school, in the late Eighties and early Nineties, it was the early booming years of MTV. During that time I was exposed to the deconstruction of fashion—the ripping apart, rearranging, and reconstructing of material to create strange proportions. I found that to be very intriguing and really wanted to be a fashion designer.
AL: What was your first design job?
KD: My first design job was working for an architect in Los Angeles called Frederick Fisher. The office took on a lot of art-related projects, such as artists’ studios and museums. My first project there was to design a studio for the artist Roger Herman. The majority of my projects come from the art and design world, so my first job experience is still relevant today.
AL: How did you get to where you are now?
KD: After moving to the United States in 1998 to undertake my master’s degree at UCLA, I entered design competitions with friends. I continued entering these competitions and then decided I wanted to open my own studio. So I moved to New York in 2004 and took on odd projects to renovate apartments, kitchens, you name it. And then eight years ago, I was invited to enter a competition to create a new design for Design Within Reach stores, and I won! That was a major project that allowed me to grow my office.
AL: What role model influenced you most and how?
Rem Koolhaas. He has this ability to look at the social, cultural, and political issues behind how cities form. He researches and develops ideas and theses about what’s happening in the culture and then he implements his independent research into other projects his office is working on. It’s something that’s really admirable and influential.
Cities are very important right now in our world, but the research developed around cities involve architects less and less.
AL: How have you implemented this Koolhaas methodology?
I realized that as architects our position in our society was shrinking. Cities are very important right now in our world, but the research developed around cities involves architects less and less. So five years ago, I started doing independently initiated research projects in my studio that study overlooked or underestimated infrastructures or communities in New York City, and how architectural thinking can help to develop a new way of looking at them. So each year, we do a project that looks at a different type of infrastructure or community.
AL: What type of projects has this self-initiated research yielded?
Last year, for example, we looked at scaffolding. Because of a certain law that was established in the 1980s, at any given time in New York City, more than 20% of the sidewalks are covered with scaffolding. We thought if it’s such a big part of our everyday life, it needs to be more than just a safety instrument. So as a studio, we studied how to create a more efficient scaffolding system, that also has public furniture, food vendors, newspaper stands, and bike racks plugged into the scaffolding, to make it more part of our public life.