GIY Maker Spotlight: Kamilla Csegzi

GIY Maker Spotlight: Kamilla Csegzi

What is your background? 

I am an architect and designer based in NYC. After studying architecture in Bucharest, I’ve moved around working as an architect in Paris and Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and NYC. In 2015, I completed my Masters in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University GSAPP where I was awarded the William Ware and Saul Kaplan Fellowship. While teaching for a couple semesters, I was invited to contribute to the Oslo Architecture Triennale ‘After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay in Transit’. As a practicing architect at various studios in NYC, over the past few years, I’ve collaborated with cultural and academic institutions like The Met, The American Museum of Natural History, the New Museum, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and Columbia University. I’ve started developing my research-oriented design work, as part of the GSAPP Incubator at the New Museum’s New Inc, in 2018.  Since then, some of my proposals for installations received various prizes, and ‘The Elements’ shortlisted for the Land Art Generator Initiative, was published in the book called ‘Landart of the 21st Century’. My most recent collection of objects, ‘Cultivation’, grown with mycelium and in combination with glass, was part of the ICFF Wanted Design Manhattan Launch Pad, 2023.

Give a brief explanation your project(s): 

My work is experimental, and in essence, it’s an exploration of the boundaries between what we call natural and artificial, reflecting on how both the production and the ways we interact with material culture defines humans in making themselves feel at home in the world through relationships, habits and rituals. I consider my pieces as living and non-living entities defined by change, created through a process that reinforces a sense of cultivation and collaboration with nature. Working across the scales of architecture, installations and objects, I engage natural processes, like movement of air, growth, sedimentation, evaporation, vitrification, movement of light, or the decay and transformations of living material. With mycelium, I aim to create pieces that undergo transformation, demonstrating the positive change from decay to growth. I try to give up part of the creative control to co-create with nature. The juxtaposition of crafting with glass and cultivating with mycelium, invites contemplation on the dichotomy and the delicate boundaries between living and nonliving matter. The pieces create a visual and cultural dialogue between order and spontaneity, questioning the perceived value attached to the material culture that is ephemeral, but that is in a permanent change, and in that way, in a timeless process of transformation.

Were there any prior skills that you brought into this project with you? What techniques did you use for this project? 

Design skills and the ability to work with glass, since my pieces are often a combination of the two

How did you hear about GIY mycelium materials? 

Through online research, installations published on design platforms

How was it working with mycelium? What do you like most about the material?

I like the ability to keep control of a certain overall shape, but I love the fact that the actual ‘final’ look, textures are somewhat unpredictable, especially when the substrate is a mix of different kinds of elements.

What was your biggest takeaway? If you ran into any problems, what advice would you give someone if they ran into this issue?

Designing complicated/complex molds that are easily removable and at the same time are reusable multiple times, it’s not that straightforward. I recommend planning it ahead and thinking about the making of the mold as part of the design.

Who would you recommend this GIY material to and why? 

Everyone. For my pieces, I often collect waste from the neighborhood coffee and flower shop, or material from the forests and parks, in order to mix up the substrate, not only to create different textures, but mostly for the pieces to ‘grow’ out and really be the ‘product’ of nature, a certain place and the community. Through this process, I’ve developed a relationship with objects that is defined by a sense of cultivation. I would love for this approach to propagate, for material culture to be ‘consumed’ less and ‘cultivated’ more.

What do you have in the pipeline that you’re excited about?

ICFF - Crossroads of American design this May. Last year I displayed my ‘Cultivation’ collection as part of the Wanted Design Manhattan Launch Pad and now I’m very excited to have been invited back. It’s a diverse community of designers from all over the world and I’m looking forward to the conversations as part of the event. 

‘The Ephemeral Table’ - in collaboration with a ceramic artist and chef, Fernando Aciar (@fefostudiony), we’re planning a design and culinary experience happening also during Design Week this May. We will organize a dinner around a mycelium table and with a menu based on corn and mushroom.

I will be participating also in an exhibition at the VIEW gallery upstate New York. The exhibition is focused on glass and it’s called ´Rethinking Traditions: Glass for the 21st Century’. The objects will showcase different ways of incorporating glass with mycelium.