Interview with Ovidiu Hrin


What possibilities are there for design in Timișoara?

Ovidiu Hrin: Similar to a distant and yet unheard-of small village in the vast planes of Azerbaijan or even to a grand metropolis like Tokyo, Timisoara has basically the same potentiality, possibilities, or prerequisites for design - as all these settlements are bound by a very important common denominator, which is of course ourselves as a species. Design cannot exist without the implicit presence of the human being and human beings cannot (co)exist without the inherited boundaries of the place they chose to inhabit. Design is strongly bound by the human factor and the limits that we as a species impose on (a) space and of course on the (limited) time that is given to each and every one of us.

The possibilities Timisoara has for design are directly linked to the limits that the people of Timisoara see fit to bound themselves by (or even adapt to) while choosing to live ‚here’. The reason for design is therefore linked to the place’s specific and historical limits (e.g., it’s location-specific needs). There cannot be ANY design - good nor bad - without the precisely extracted specificities of the place which organically should lead to a set of coherently communicated needs from the people living there. It is good to keep in mind that design is a teleological process and is therefore directly linked to purpose, therefore design can never surpass the intellectual integrity nor the implicit morality that generated the question which drove us towards designing in the first place. We could of course open another valid topic about the equivalent nature between the limits - the design specificities of a place - and the people’s values inhabiting it. Design comes from practice and observation and is always strictly and unequivocally linked to human presence so the possibility for design is therefore linked directly to our intentions.

Finally, I want to leave with you a highly effective mental crutch that anyone can use before starting any (design) action... Always ask why! – that’s it…ask it again, and again… and then again – the place that you will arrive in is your own legacy, take good care of that. So, here goes nothing: Why should there be a need for design (possibilities) in Timisoara?

How do you perceive the role of your practice in shaping a better future for design in Timișoara?

OH: The role of my (design) practice shaping a better future for design in Timisoara… of course this is (in and of itself) a question filled with the pressures and anxieties linked to the Big Unknown - respectively to what our ‘future’ holds (whatever that means). This question generates a pseudo-moral but highly stressful position for the receiver (in this case, myself) and insinuating that I or anything that I do could have any impact whatsoever over the ‘future’ of a whole city. I try to discipline myself into not thinking like that (anymore) - for my own sanity (but more importantly for the sanity of the people around me) - because I feel that neither my design (practice) nor myself as a person can change the future (of a place).

Habits on the other hand can change a place (for good or for worse) but that, although an interesting topic in itself, would be a spin-off from our main subject. So, why can’t we take risks anymore? Why try and control abstract (and ulteriorly irrelevant) things like ‘the future’? Why should that be so important for us when the present has already so many possibilities, challenges and failures prepared for each and every one of us? I always have and always will strive to do my job as best as I can, and that is all that I can promise… for myself, for the people around me and for everybody that is still alive today.

I can only hope that 'tomorrow’ there will be other people doing their jobs and contributing to the benefit of their tribe, but I cannot control that and especially cannot control their values (which are now dramatically changing from day to day) so therefore I won’t even go there. Thinking like that is such a ‘cloudy’ state of mind and such a rapidly dissipating thing that it would burnout my (limited) daily dose of energy and to even walk that path is in my opinion a sorry excuse for thanking and being grateful to the miracle of life – e.g., all those atoms and molecules sticking together and making up this thing that each of us refer to as (my)SELF. So, by doing my job, by learning how to do it better and practicing it on a daily basis while learning new things and opening to new perspectives is what ‘I’ - through the constant (re)design of my practice - can do. Other than that, we are linked by the same boundaries which inadvertently makes us all brothers and sisters walking this marvelous road of life and death. :)

How could a program like Bright Cityscapes help?

OH: People should spend more time thinking about design. Designers should spend more time thinking about people. :)

I have no idea how ANY program for that matter COULD help. Help doing what? Why do we need a program? Who is this ’we’? I sense in a way that right now we are meandering around the topic of good design and its collateral implications. But this in itself raises another topic mainly that of qualia-based characteristic reasoning and the impact it can have on a society or medium that has grown around a set of values resulted from visceral questioning. To build a ‘program’ in a place where structure is not a principal value (or does not assimilate it) is not easy - so, just be aware that… Before ‘cleaning up’ do prepare to get your hands dirty.

Design has taught me so far to always try and ask the right questions and be constantly driven by the ‘why’ behind everything that we do. Good design is based on good questioning and lastly should generate healthy habits. My advice is this, always do your job and never ever (ever) work without content. Also remember that Design is a language which you have to learn in order to speak fluently. Therefore, it is a process requiring time. Also do remember that Design is a service which should work in the interest of other people and no excuse should be admitted after finishing and delivering the work (any work for that matter) because once it is out there it will always point right back to you… so, do try and respect yourself.


Text by Ștefan Ghenciulescu