Keith Hartwig is an architect who is proficient in research, pre-design conceptualization, digital and hand drafting, digital and manual fabrication, animation, rendering, photography, and post-processing. His work has been shown in venues such as the Rochester Contemporary Art Center and the Museum of Modern Art. He earned his BArch degree from Temple University, where his work earned the ARCC/King Medal, the DaVinci Thesis Prize, and the Diener Brick Award. Hartwig lives and works in Philadelphia.
Interviewed by Saumon Oboudiyat, BS Arch'15
What program and what year did you graduate from?
5 Year Bachelor of Architecture program
What was the first position you took after graduation?
Straight out of college I worked as an assistant artist for Bradley Pitts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For 2 years, 3 days a week, I commuted back and forth between Greenpoint and Philadelphia on MegaBus. I showered in a sink and spent half my nights sleeping on an air mattress in an unheated / un-air-conditioned loft.
Pitts describes his work as “a form of ontological research in which the 'empty', and therefore the 'real', are at stake.” Pitts goal is to “restore science and technology to a place where they can be used to investigate philosophical questions and subjective realities.” I assisted Pitts in the prototyping and scripting phase of the Yearlight Calendar (now for sale at the Guggenheim and Cooper Hewitt) and the creation of Singular Oscillations variable-gravity flight simulator exhibited at UC Riverside. Pitts taught me what it means to be an artist, how to market yourself, how to find projects, and most importantly, how to approach every project with unrelenting criticality and craftsmanship. He challenged me to go beyond surface, form and the purely visual in order to embrace the totality of subjective experience.
Tell me about what you are doing today?
Last semester I began teaching as an assistant adjunct professor in the Architecture Department. In November 2014 I was selected by the Temple Gallery (through the Tyler School of Art) to work with Paula Scher (principal designer from Pentagram in NYC) for the Temple Contemporary Distinguished Alumni program. The 6 month long program will culminate in a dual exhibit of Paula’s work and my work on May 8th in the Temple Gallery. (Stay tuned for the press release!) I also work mostly full time as a designer and project manager for Veyko Metal Fabrication & Design in Philadelphia, PA.
How did Tyler Architecture prepare you for this?
The 5 year B.Arch program gave me a unique perspective on design, pushing me to think about architecture in unconventional ways. My thesis project, titled Machine Touristique, was a critical moment of discovery in my design education. The project investigated the effect of spatial design on our perception of experience. I began by analyzing the effects of extreme environments, such as low Earth orbit and the lunar surface, on the human body and mind. Working through maps, vignettes and narrative I explored the consequences of design on the body and its environment, and how design can become a mediation and extension of human experience into its surroundings. In this way architecture and design became dynamic and integral to the larger narrative of subjective experience. Exploring the envelope of experience through narrative devices and vignettes is implicit in my current work.
Special thanks goes out to Jeremy Voorhees and the rest of the professors that taught my thesis class.
How did you get where you are today?
Some people refer to it as 'Hustling'. I like to think its perseverance and having passion for what you do. Also, surrounding yourself with talented and supportive people, who believe in what you’re doing, and aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re off track.
What one piece of advice would you give a current undergraduate student?
Always pursue your interests, and don’t be afraid to buck convention. Also, when thinking about working on a project, reach out to others who are like minded, but can approach the project from a unique angle. Part of what contributes to the diversity of my portfolio comes from my willingness and eagerness to work with people from other professional backgrounds. I’ve collaborated with musicians, scientists, engineers, graphic designers and curators. In this way every project is unique, challenging, and opens your eyes to new ways of dealing with issues of space, design and planning.
What do you wish you had taken advantage of while at Temple?
I wish I had taken more art intensive courses at Tyler. While I was enrolled at Temple the Tyler School of Art was run out of the Ambler Campus. The physical distance between Tyler and Main Campus unfortunately created a psychological / communal barrier between the Architecture program and the rest of Tyler. Today students in all Tyler programs have the added benefit of being in the same physical space, sharing resources, and hopefully as a result, can create a tight knit interdisciplinary community.