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In Conversation with Oğul Öztunç: Multidisciplinary Designer

Piknik Salon, Jerusalem Design Week 2022

Using drawing as an alternative language, we talked with Piknik Works co-founder and multidisciplinary designer Oğul Öztunç about his work and production practice.

Who is Oğul Öztunç? Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

I am a multifaceted designer with interests in different fields of creative production. I received my primary education in the Department of Architecture. When I was studying, the ITU Faculty of Architecture provided an excellent education that could be pulled in all directions, was very comprehensive, and opened new channels and horizons for its students. In this environment, my creative practice sprouted more than once. In the eight years since I graduated, I have produced in different fields, such as architecture, art, installation, graphics, illustration, animation, and experimental design research. Apart from that, I worked as a research assistant at Bilgi University for a while; I worked at Teğet Architecture for a time. While doing all this, I founded Piknik Works with my school friend Atıl Aggündüz. Piknik continues to produce in these fields actively. There is also Dedectives of Everydaylife, which is an ongoing and unorganized research practice that has been going on for quite some time, where I conduct research on the city and architecture through the workshops I teach and publish them in various formats such as books, maps, fake newspaper magazines or exhibitions.

In addition to these productions, I tend to draw that dates back to childhood, long before my architectural education. I like to use drawing as an alternative language to understand, think about, and explain things through drawing. As an essential characteristic, I am a person who draws.

After graduating from Istanbul Technical University Department of Architecture, you worked at Istanbul Bilgi University Department of Architecture for three years, gaining valuable experience in drawing, architectural design, and urban design studios in the esteemed academic environment of the institute. How do these experiences provide you with a foundation for your contemporary designs?

The environment of both schools nourished me in more than one way and inspired me in all my adventures. I want to thank my professors, friends, and students at both ITU and Bilgi. Being together and thinking about design, city, and art with an open mind and appetite is the best part of being in the environment of good schools. Even though I don't have a full-time academic activity at the moment, I take care to benefit from academic environments at every opportunity and keep in touch. Workshops, juries, and talks occupy much of my agenda.

Piknik Salon Performative Drawing No.4, Jerusalem Design Week 2022

In Piknik, you blur the boundaries between art, architecture, and design. How do your experiences in these fields influence each other and help you develop a creative approach?

According to my reading of our times, the boundaries of these fields are already blurred. We are in a time where communication technologies and the speed at which they are being used are transforming our daily lives and our relationship with concepts such as skills, qualities, and learning. This is having a profound impact on creative fields and those who work in them. We have developed a kind of acrobatics in response to this. We need to be able to produce in different mediums without falling in between and maintain a balance so that they feed each other but do not interfere with each other. Different mediums have different ways of doing things and different qualities they expect. Naturally, the skills and ways of thinking acquired in these influence each other and lead to a hybridization of approaches. 


"When you're doing architecture and thinking about spatial qualities, a skill you acquire in understanding movement to make animation can affect your approach and bring a completely different perspective. Or the drawing and visualization techniques, spatial thinking, and storytelling skills you develop for architecture can help you explore the story in a completely different dimension in an illustration project."


WALKINN Complex by Piknik

You have developed collaborations with many global brands, such as Apple, Nike, and Google. Which of your works has excited you the most regarding the design process and the final product?

Our work has been appreciated both in our country and abroad, which has allowed us to work with many different organizations. Something is charming about collaborating with brands; there's something we're excited about in each job, and we get the chance to try them out. On the other hand, the work that excites me the most so far is the independent research-based work that takes place over a long period, like endless experiments. Performative Drawing, which we have been developing with the Piknik team (Melodi Gülbaba and Burçe Gökhun also play various roles in this project) for many years, is one of them. We had the opportunity to open many exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad. We continue with excitement. Another one is Daily Life Detectives, which makes urban-spatial readings with new research every year and has had an exhibition, a book, and publications in many different media. It continues with excitement. To summarize, I am more excited by never-ending projects that continue to develop.

What advice would you give to young designers and architects? What tips would you give those wanting to start a creative career?

I am hesitant about such topics because I know from experience that everyone's journey, excitement, and challenges are different. While I'm generous with advice to those I know, I can't speak for the general readership. I'll say the usual things: read a lot, travel, engage sincerely, train the heart, the eye, and the hand, and have fun.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your work?

21st-century daily life, culture, and society are the primary sources of nourishment, inspiration, criticism, and challenge. The idea is grasping what kind of time we are in and making works that respond to it but, in a way, are timeless.

Are you excited for the future? What are your plans?

I almost always find myself both anxious and excited about the future. I guess, like two sides of the same coin, anxiety and excitement go well together. The near future for me will be a period of research and nourishment on the one hand and a period of focusing on a couple of inspiring and longer-term projects on the other.


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