Two weeks before he was supposed to leave Solitude, Farzin decide to write down »to-do list« of things he would like to do in the house with his partner Caitlin and the fellows who were there at the time.
One of their initiatives was to make barbecue down the hill in front of the castle – where it’s allowed to do so. The other items on the list were to find a football field to play their last games before leaving, playing many of chess, and dancing in the cafeteria until dawn. For me it was important to have this interview with him, because it was maybe the first time that Farzin and I had had a serious conversation. Ok, almost serious, because of his lovely and interesting personality; he can’t stop making great jokes and you can’t stop laughing while listening to him.
Farzin Lotfi-Jam (NYC, born in Teheran/Iran in 1984) is the principal of FarzinFarzin, a studio operating between New York, NY/USA, Detroit, MI/USA and Melbourne/Australia that designs spaces, software, and media. He received a bachelor’s degree in design and a master’s degree in architecture from RMIT University, Melbourne. Additionally, he holds a master’s degree in advanced architectural design from Columbia University, New York.
Trained as an architect, he has broad experience as a designer in professional offices and with individually directed design and research projects. He has held teaching appointments at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI/USA; Columbia University; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY/USA; Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles, CA/USA, and RMIT University. He is interested in the cultural logic of form and meaning as produced through complex systems, institutional processes, and contested sites.
Rasha: Why do you think that this place is magical?
Farzin: »That’s a very leading question; you asked me why it’s magical? What if you had the question like this: what do you think about this place?«
We both laugh, and he continues: »I think it’s magical!. I was talking to a friend of mine this morning, and I think last night when we were all dancing, ten people in a tiny small space, everybody was playing some music from their own places, and – I am sure you saw the same thing – that each song led to a different way of dancing. When everyone started to follow how that other person was dancing, it was kind of cool to read everyone’s culture through social expression in this really beautiful and amazing way. I think there is some freedom there; there’s some freedom in the space that is produced collectively to allow for individual freedom, and that’s really nice and it’s good that everyone is open and cheeky. It allows you to find those spaces. What do I like here? I think it’s almost like a summer camp for adults: the institution treats you like an adult, but you can act like a child. I like that it kind of oscillates between a kind of total independence and solitude to a social scene. I like that it’s quite diverse and multi-cultural.«
Rasha: Is there a story that touched you a lot or some event that stuck in your mind? And will accompany you for long?
Farzin: »I think there have been so many episodes, but I think this is the same for everyone…Well, the easiest to say is playing football. I think that’s what everybody will tell you.(laughs) Even through this kind of social game we’ve had, it’s gone through multiple invitations and transformations: in the start it was kind of a rolling mob and was on a lumpy field that wasn’t meant for football; each game was ten versus ten, and nine of the players on each team had never played football before; and I think somehow maybe all of the fellows that played that time had been in the castle at the same time – we were all going through similar stages and experiences – so there was a lot of energy that people had to kick out, and there was some kind of violence, which wasn’t unpleasant. It was quite necessary at some point and was a really intensely weird kind of moving mob, and then slowly it stabilized and then we started playing on a proper field. (laughs) And people seemed to be able to run more than 5 minutes without dying!
But I think for a long time I only met other fellows either through football or through table tennis. They were really easy ways to access people, but I also regret that I didn’t make as much of an effort to see other fellows outside of those things, because while it’s nice to have conversation about things in front of you, but definitely you can’t talk about people’s work while you’re kicking football. Maybe you can! (laughs)«
Rasha: What you will take from here back home?
Farzin: »I think it’s good to realize how important nature is in your kind of rotten lifestyle. It’s really hard to have access to this kind of nature and the curious, smart, and social network of people that are here in New York. You can’t just walk down the flat steps and have those things. I think I’ll make an effort to have a little bit more of that, and maybe to enforce a bit of Solitude in NYC.«
*We sat for this interview one day before Farzin left at the beginning of September 2016.