Kati Rubinyi is a former architect who, upon completing graduate studies in studio art, shifted to policy planning. “I see great potential for art and design to play a role in other endeavors, like planning,” she explains. Kati now focuses on R&D and strategic planning, and is the editor of the new book The Car in 2035: Mobility Planning for the Near Future. She lives with her three kids, husband, and dog near Pasadena, California. Here’s a look at what inspires her work.
Tell us about your home workspace. I’ve worked from home for many years — sometimes in a corner of my living room, now in my converted garage or in a donated space in an architect’s office. As long as I’m somewhere I can focus, I can get used to it and work there happily. I have very few things that I need to create my setup besides my computer on a desk and a great chair. I am delighted to say that I have an Eames Aluminum Group Executive Chair that is fantastic — comfortable and durable. A good chair for the kind of work I do is key, and I have a chair that I love.
You established your business in 2011. What led to that point? I had been an architect who later went to art school, taught for a while, and then became a consultant in policy planning. I see great potential for art and design to play a role in other endeavors, like planning. Then, as an experiment in blending things together, I brought a group of car designers together with planners to have discussions, and learn from each other. It was a mixing of values and cultures, as much as an exchange of information. This resulted in a book about cars and planning called The Car in 2035: Mobility Planning for the Near Future. The book has an artistic undercurrent that, for both car designers and planners, is a strange, foreign element. I hope they will think it’s interesting and eye opening, and will broaden the audience for their ideas.
I started the non-profit Civic Projects in 2011 because I realized the book could be only the first of many initiatives that were cross disciplinary and had public benefit, but were not for a client. I wanted to come up with the projects myself, or with collaborators, instead of fulfilling someone else’s scope of work, and I knew these projects would have to rely on donations from other organizations who believed in the ideas and wanted to see the projects happen. I started a for-profit side of Civic Projects as a consulting practice in 2013. Civic Projects Inc. does strategic planning, research, and development. Our focus is automotive, for now. We are working on paths to commercialization for advanced vehicle technology. We will continue to bring as much art and design to the consulting and R&D projects as we can. It will be a wild ride.
What about your work has changed since becoming a parent? Since having kids, I am under considerably more pressure to make money, so that has led me to completely reinvent my practice to fulfill my creative compulsions and try to find a way to be more comfortable. I have not figured it out perfectly yet, but I have to keep trying.
How does working from home impact your work? As little work overlap as possible is crucial for maintaining our family’s mental health. The model that works the best for me is to produce work in my own space, wherever it is, and then have face-to-face meetings, and these are generally one on one or with a small group. The collaborations I do are with many, many people, and some are far-flung, so there is no one place to go where all the collaborators are — that would be fantastic, but doesn’t seem to be the way my practice, or maybe even the world, is going.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now? Yes, I would really love to have the Ardea Personal Light. Having a task light, especially one that nice, would be truly wonderful. And it would go so nicely with my Eames Aluminum Group Executive Chair.
What inspires you? It’s very important to my practice to be completely open to inspiration coming from multiple kinds of sources and media. It goes without saying that it’s a habit of mind, and a discipline. I was in New York recently for the first time in a long time, and I saw a play by Brecht called “The Good Person of Szechuan” performed by the Foundry Theatre Company at LaMama. That was intense and inspiring: A total artwork. I was also inspired by the treatment of the flagship Juicy Couture storefront, and by the High Line.
I am consistently interested and inspired by graphic design and photography. Here in Los Angeles, my favorite paintings are in the Norton Simon Museum: Marine by Coubet, and The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over Ignorance by Tiepolo. I have pictures of both of these pinned up in my office. But, of course, being in a forest, driving on the freeway, or being in an airport is also inspiring.
Photos: Kati Rubinyi
Photos of tires and car trunk: Monica Nouwens
Top image: Gabriel Wartofsky