Friday Five With Michael Kovac

In 1988, Michael Kovac founded Kovac Architects – now Kovac Design Studio – and started working on commissions for high end health clubs, commercial spaces, and detailed residences. Aside from architecture he’s also passionate about industrial design and lighting, and is currently directing the studio’s work on a line of lighting for production and a series of furniture pieces that will be available in limited releases. Growing up in an Air Force family in Maine, early travels to Okinawa as a child, and various kinds of aviation have made there marks on Kovac’s work. Eventually his family settled down in Las Vegas and he attended the USC School of Architecture on a Trustee Scholarship. Early on in his architectural career Kovac had the chance to work in the office of modernist Jerrold Lomax, lending another type of influence to his style. These days Michael spends a lot of time outdoors with his wife Karina, as well as mountain biking, standup paddle-boarding, and downhill skiing. They reside in Sycamore House, the firm’s first LEED Platinum project, where their love of nature and sustainable living can flourish. Today Kovac is sharing five of his favorite things with us for Friday Five!

1. Bicycles
Bicycles have always represented independence and exploration to me. They allow me to indulge my curiosity, following faint trails and little-used roads, traveling at a pace that is a sweet spot between walking and zipping along in a car. I hear the sound of babbling brooks and bird song, smell a farmer’s fresh-cut hay, and can stop at a local cafe when the mood strikes. The exertion of climbing and pedaling mile after mile clears and recharges my mind, which is fundamental to my sense of wellness. Bicycles also appeal to my passion for great industrial design, as they combine one of the most efficient modes of transportation with exquisitely shaped carbon frames and gearing mechanisms that would make a watchmaker proud.

2. Water
Water is endlessly fascinating to me with its ever-changing moods, as it morphs from tranquil to tumultuous, luminous and transparent to dark and reflective. Being from coastal Maine, some of my early formative experiences were watching waves crash on the shore, then rushing in and out of fissures between the rocks, recharging small pools that I would crouch next to, observing myriad small creatures going about their lives, unaware of the vastness and power just outside their tiny universe. The smell of the ocean water back home instantly brings back these memories.

A favorite quote of mine on the subject, by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, is: “No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.”

Photo ©Laurian Ghinitoiu

3. Gottfried Böhm’s Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, Germany
One of my earliest profound architectural experiences was a visit to Gottfried Böhm’s Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, Germany. This design reflects many of the themes that still resonate with my firm’s work today: sequence, anticipation, compression/expansion, manipulation of scale, organic forms, and most of all, masterful control of both natural and artificial light.

4. Biomimicry
Nature has been refining and perfecting plants and animals for millions of years, and in this process waste and inefficiency are not tolerated. Out of necessity form follows function, often with more beautiful results than anything humans can create. What better place to look for solutions for today’s challenges?

5. Science Fiction
As a teenager, I spent innumerable hours reading the masters of science fiction – liberating my mind from the restrictions of our known reality, open to all possibilities, and speculating on what the future of technology would have to offer. The cover art of these books was often as inspiring as the tales within, and the movie poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey left more of an indelible impression on me than virtually any painting hanging in a museum possibly could have at the time.

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.