The first time I visited Opening Ceremony New York, I found a magazine that really captured my interest: PIN–UP, a "magazine for architectural entertainment." Besides its sharp aesthetic, the magazine seemed to present nascent dreams and surreal projects that really stimulated the imagination. It not only featured the personal objects and home interiors of the curious and creative minds it featured, but also used them to read their personalities. Felix Burrichter, the founder of PIN–UP, invited OC into his workspace to answer a few questions.
Alexandre Stipanovich: Where did you study architecture?
Felix Burrichter: I went to architecture school in Paris for five years, at l'École d'Architecture de Paris Belleville, and the École Spéciale. But when I graduated I didn't really want to work as an architect anymore, so I came to New York to intern for Fabien Baron. I had always obsessed over his Harper’s Bazaar in the 90s. In fact, I’ve always loved magazines. In Germany, I would always go to the main train stations, where international magazines are mostly sold, and I'd spend afternoons just browsing racks. Then it would take me about an hour and a half to pick three that I could afford.
AS: What made you choose one magazine over another?
FB: I'd pick the magazines that created a universe of their own, the ones where you could immerse yourself and feel like you were part of something else––whether it was a certain group of people, intellectual discourse, or something graphic or visual, like the understanding of a certain kind of aesthetic. And that's still the same today. I was obsessed with designing and doing architecture and architecture drawings, but strangely enough, I never bought architecture magazines, and I still don't really. I did, however, read older architecture magazines that my parents had at their house. They must've had a subscription in the 70s or 80s to this one called Häuser (meaning houses in German), and it was really beautifully designed.
AS: What was your internship for Baron & Baron like?
FB: Even though I was a big fan, I realized that at the end of the day, Baron & Baron was an advertising agency, and you're making packaging for Calvin Klein perfume. The problem with architects is that they think they can do anything, like graphic design, packaging design, etcetera. But it's a completely different animal, and I realized that fairly quickly. So I rediscovered my love for architecture by doing something else.
And that’s when I decided to enroll in a one-year Masters of Science in Architecture program at Columbia. After that, I actually accepted a job at a large architecture firm––a very corporate office with, like, 400 people working there. But I found that studying architecture was so much more fascinating than actually working as an architect, because it's more about the history, the creative process, and the entire genesis of a project––not the tedious details of building. [Laughs].
AS: Does architecture always have to remain theoretical for you?
FB: I am mostly interested in the ideas, yeah. Basically at this firm, I ended up doing the Photoshop illustrations and mood boards. So I got bored and I think they also got bored with me [laughs]. To distract myself, I started thinking, well, I’m really into magazines. What would my ideal magazine look like? And that’s how I came up with the idea for PIN–UP. So it started off as a hobby to distract myself from my day job.
AS: Doesn’t it cost a lot of money and take a huge amount of time?
FB: I knew a little about making magazines. I had interned at Numéro in Paris in the early 2000s as a student, when Stephen Todd was the editor. Then I worked at Fantastic Man for an entire summer, with Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom. After working for both publications, I realized that they had so little means and such a small group of people making them, but they were such fantastic magazines. So I thought, if you can do it with that little money and just sheer willpower, then I can make an architecture magazine. So that's how it started. Everything I know about making magazines, I learned from them.
Then two weeks away from going to print, I was like, shit, we don't have any advertising! So I called the one fashion brand and the one furniture brand I wanted to have in the magazine: Comme des Garçons and Vitra. They said yes, so I was really lucky. Do you know why it's called PIN–UP, by the way?
AS: No, I don’t.
FB: “Pin-up” is a term from architecture school. It's when you pin material onto the wall before the final presentation, examine it, and say, does this work? It's part of the editing process. So again, the magazine is more about ideas than the finished projects. We’re actually working on a book right now. It's a collection of the interviews that we’ve done in PIN–UP, with everyone including Richard Meier, Rick Owens, Ettore Sottsass, Zaha Hadid, Julius Shulman––all of these amazing people.
AS: Do you ever give special directions to your interviewers? Is there something specific you seek in the interviews?
FB: PIN–UP, to me, is still an outlet for my personal fetishes of architecture, objects, and people. And I always try to make sure that the people who write the stories also have a fascination with the subject. This way, the conversation develops really naturally. For example, when we featured Peter Marino, I asked Horacio Silva, who was the Features Editor of T at the time, to interview him. Horacio had always wanted to meet Peter, and the two turned out to be a match made in heaven.
AS: Can you explain how PIN–UP is a "magazine for architectural entertainment"?
FB: Unlike many other architecture magazines, PIN–UP is also interested in the things that are considered bad taste. Take the Palace of the People in Bucharest, for example. It's the biggest administrative building in the world, larger than the Pentagon, and it's still unfinished. We interviewed the architect, Anca Petrescu, who is a little crazy, and not someone you would necessarily see in a regular architecture magazine. Another example is in the current issue, where we go inside the house of David Copperfield. It's an incredible, three-story penthouse with an amazing collection of mannequins and vintage arcade paraphernalia; but it’s not conventionally “good taste.”
Also, the design in every issue changes according to the theme. The current issue was based on an instrumental song called "The Dull Flame of Desire". It's super long, stretches out forever, and it's slightly monotonous but towards the end, it turns into these crazy drums, and then it's over. So the issue is very stretched out, almost like trekking though the snow in the Arctic Circle...a little bit like those images of the Northern Lights by Reuben Wu that we used for the cover.
Jeremy Liebman: Was this a conscious decision you made?
FB: No, but it’s more of a gut feeling. The minute I saw the images of the Northern Lights, and I knew they had to be the cover. The same thing happened with the summer issue, which was called The Seduction Issue. The way everything came together––the cover image, the stories––was very much about seduction. We even commissioned different artists and designers––Rafael de Cárdenas and Evan Gruzis, Aranda/Lasch, Michael Stipe, Shawn Maximo, RO/LU––to design a nightstand, which I find a very seductive piece of furniture.
AS: What's next for PIN–UP?
FB: In terms of upcoming projects, there’s the Berlin Issue. I’m actually moving to Berlin for three months with half the office to work on it. That’s going to come out in May, and I'm sure we'll do an event to launch it. And then the PIN–UP interview book will come out sometime in the late summer. And just in time for the resort collections, maybe we’ll do towels [laughs].
AS: Or a hotel somewhere, re-designed and re-thought by PIN–UP! With towels in each bathroom––
FB: Yes, exactly! And then we’ll do soaps! But actually I would love to do a PIN–UP Hotel. That’s the bigger picture. We’ve managed to do five years of the magazine now, so in the next five, there will hopefully be a hotel somewhere—there you go!
AS: What kind of hotel would it be?
FB: I don’t know if it would even have to be in a city.
AS: How about the Brazilian jungle?
FB: Maybe Guantánamo? When they finally close Guantánamo, I’d love for PIN–UP to take it over.