Alejandro Campos: Modern Architecture, Generative Art & Managing Expectations
"I think artists should strive for meaningful works, not only beautiful, but artworks that say something about themselves and about their lifeworlds..."
Hey guys! Welcome to a new edition of BTK.
I’m spending the week at the beach with my family, and can say I’ve been having a wonderful time. Pacific sunsets are just the best, and if you enjoy them with your loved ones, even more.
This week it’s the turn of Alejandro Campos, or @ratchitect on Twitter. He is a generative artist and doctor of architecture, so you bet he knows his craft.
I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. Happy Thursday!
WhoTF is Alejandro Campos?
Alejandro is a Spanish Creative Coder based in Rotterdam, where he currently holds an academic position as a Researcher and Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Delft University of Technology. As a scholar, Dr. Alejandro specializes in the history of Modern Architecture and the colonial dynamics behind its universalizing claims.
Since 2020, Alejandro has also been experimenting with Generative Art and AI technology. His work connects interests in art history, critical theory, classical music, architecture, and technology in experimental and unexpected ways, often driven by playful and bright aesthetics. He has released collections in Tezos (such as Enfantines) and in Ethereum (such as Fuga a Tientas).
Moreover, Alejandro is also an Architect, and co-founder of arqtistic.com, an architecture office based in Spain.
Behind the Keys: Alejandro Campos
What is something you wish someone had told you before becoming an artist?
That, even if you succeed and your work is appreciated, the anxiousness of drop day cannot be avoided. Any and every time you’ll doubt your work. Don’t worry, if you put your heart and mind into it, it will be fine.
What does your creating process look like?
I approach my work very architecturally and structurally.
Generative Artists often say how, by experimenting, something that made sense came up. This has never happened to me. Architects are taught to solve problems by coming up with ideas that are explored to their latest consequences.
When I design a generative algorithm, I start with a clear objective in mind, I advance little by little until I get to create what I was aiming for. It’s the same with my work as an architect or researcher.
What is one strong opinion you have?
People should stop thinking so much about their own happiness.
Who are 2-3 artists you admire or respect that you think deserve (even) more recognition?
There are two types of artists that I admire.
On the one hand, artists with whom I feel a certain closeness, in terms of how they approach their projects (structurally, as I mentioned above). I can mention three of these. Firstly, I deeply admire Lars Wander for his ingenuity and impressive technical abilities, his work with colour and plotting has deeply inspired me and continues to do so. Then there’s Jacek Markusiewicz: his work as a Generative Architect leaves me agape, so well-thought and conceptually interesting. Finally, Marcelo Soria, who has also explored childhood as a source of inspiration, and whose work is so evocative and metaphysical.
On the other hand, there are artists whose approach is completely different from mine, but cannot cease to amaze me. Sarah Ridgley, Qubibi, Erik Swahn, Anna Maria Caballero... Interestingly, these are the artists from whom I’ve collected the most.
What does success look like to you?
Something small. Sleeping well and waking up with something interesting to do.
What activity do you fall into when you are trying to enhance your creativity?
This is either A) Reading crappy web novels or B) Going for a run.
But mostly, when I’m on a creative block, I just stop and let the time go by. From my work as an architect, I’ve learned that sometimes you cannot push creative processes or find shortcuts. Just do something else meanwhile.
What is one thing you think artists should focus more on, and why?
Meaning. I think artists should strive for meaningful works, not only beautiful, but artworks that say something about themselves and about their lifeworlds, and that try to build a cohesive discourse over their careers.
This is the very reason why past artists are still remembered today.
Which of your past experiences/learnings have set you up for success in the present?
Who says I am set up for success?
What skill should anyone harvest early in their career that will pay off massively for years?
Patience and meaningful communication.
I would advise every artist to nurture their relationships. Sometimes, the best way of improving your work is to collaborate with artists that are better than you, more creative, smarter, and/or technically better. Acknowledgment by your peers is possibly the most satisfying thing an artist can get, so communicate with them, learn from them, and share what you’ve discovered.
What’s the hardest part of being an artist?
Managing expectations and managing your time.
Why do you create art?
I don’t know. Do I have to know? I don’t know why I do most of the things I do.
It’s just something that is both challenging, refreshing, and comforting. I’ve always been a creative person, expressed through various fields and mediums.
What’s a book or an article that has greatly influenced your life?
Leer con niños by Santiago Alba Rico, or Les Heures Claires by Josep Quetglas, both in Spanish. The Child, the City and the Artist by Aldo van Eyck. These are of course related to my work as a scholar. If one has to go deeper into my childhood, it’s probably something more mainstream like The Lord of the Rings or The Name of the Wind. Or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
But I think Leer con niños is my pick —sorry for the non-Spanish readers— a book that tries to answer two things: What are children useful for? Why are books useful? It is a beautiful exploration of imagination and why it is so important to understand and behave in our world.
What are you willing to struggle for?
Architecture? This would be the professional response.
But really, for the happiness of my loved ones.
If you could ask yourself one question every day to set yourself up for success, which one would it be?
“Who says what success is?”
What habit or practice has changed your life the most?
I’m not a person of habits!
What would you say to your 25-year-old self?
Being right is not so important.
Learn more from XYZ
Something to read: Alejandro’s articles about generative art