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Working out of the Box

First published on archinect.com — Feb. 16, 2012

Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.

Archinect: Where did you study architecture?

Patrick Decaix: I started my studies at the University of Applied Sciences Wismar in the mid 90's. During this time, I had the opportunity to study and travel around Europe, USA and Japan. After graduation, I received a scholarship from the German government to continue a postgraduate Program of Berlage Institute in The Netherlands, having Bart Lootsma as my Mentor. After one year, I decided to quit and start working as an architect.

At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?

When I was a child, drawing futuristic cities was one of my passions. I started on paper and, little by little, began using my father’s PC. Upon realizing I could never be a professional skateboarder or snowboarder because of a lack of talent, I ended up studying architecture and urban design, which was in fact my second choice.

House CS, France

Construction details,
Massive Wood Construction

When did you decide to stop pursuing architecture? Why?

While studying, I was always researching the internet about architecture inspiration. I discovered Archinect and its fantastic splash screens realized by outstanding web designers. From then on, I was surfing for days through design websites. At that time, my study projects had already a focus on computer controlled interactivity and while far from daily architecture business, I was unable to find a way to combine my personal architecture interests with what I was doing as an architect. The transition from one to the other however was a natural process. While working as an architect, I found myself working more and more on some web design projects on the side. I found that I could be personally much more creative in the design process and in the coding. I'm a big fan of the coding process after design, it can be thrilling to see the fruits of my labor. Most of the problems are self-initiated and can be solved readily.

Describe your current profession.

Through Twoto, I work as art director, designer and flash developer on large-scale online campaigns and web specials. After a few years in a big agency working with clients like MINI, Schweppes, BMW etc., I decided to open up my own business. This has proven very rewarding having presented me with the opportunity to work on challenging projects such as interactive cinema publicity, experimental interfaces and augmented reality. I'm conscious of the unusual situation I find myself in and know I am exceedingly lucky.

House CS, France

Section view,
Massive Wood Construction

What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?

Good management of complex projects is my major advantage. As an architect, I have learned to design and to think about the smallest construction detail in a building and the connectivity between both. Jeffrey Zeldman once said, "Real web designers write code. Always have, always will...“. I'm always surprised how many online designers have neither clue nor interest in the production process of their designs. I always make sure to keep a picture of the final interaction in my mind when I am designing. I see this behavior as a necessity when I have to deal with complex projects.

Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?

I still have some projects I would like to work on, a computer-driven design process software for instance or a self-sufficient housing machine for example. I love to experiment, which is easier in my current field, but I wouldn't disregard any opportunities related to architecture. Until now, I have always seemed to be in the right place at the right time which has brought about many great opportunities so who knows what the future will bring.

House CS, France

aluminium Construction