Pitsou Kedem Architects Studio opened in 2000 and today consists of fifteen architects. The studio is responsible for the design and planning of many projects in Israel and lately, also in Europe and America. Pitsou Kedem set up the studio after finishing his studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA). The studio’s design language and concept is founded on the modernist style and his work encompasses the values and principles of the period as well as the design philosophies of the modernist movement. During its formative years, the studio was involved in a constant dialogue with the fundamental principles of minimalism: reduction and moderation, clean lines for each element, separation of structural materials as part of the process designed to avoid the irrelevant in order to emphasize the significant and refining and seeking out the essence of the space. Together, all these elements lead to a strong architectural concept that is uncompromising in its search for the absolute truth, in its pursuit for purity of form and shape and in its goal of achieving a spatial perception of comfort and tranquility. This constant quest for simplicity leads to sophisticated and precise elements which, in turn, contributes to their uniqueness.
All photography artworks in our enclosed photos gallery are by Amit Geron and courtesy of Pitsou Kedem Architects.
Florian DAVID: Dear Pitsou, it is great to have you engage with us. We feel honoured and thankful.Today you are a busy entrepreneur, you are one of Israel’s most cutting-edge and sought-after architects, you lead a team of fifteen people, and you are married, with three kids! Your works have been featured already in over a hundred international publications including many covers. Do you design your whole life with as much precision as your architectural creations?
Pitsou KEDEM: Its not so much a matter of designing my life like I design my Architectural creations, the issue is really how my personality is built.
I don’t have a complete separation between how I run my architectural life and my personal life; at the end of the day a person is the same person in whichever and every path. I combine between creativity and instinct and between deep and long-term thoughts; in architecture as well as in my personal life.
DAVID: Where were you born? And what role would you say did your family environment play in shaping who you are today as a person?
KEDEM: I was born in Tel Aviv and I grew up in a family where my father was a construction contractor and my grandfather a carpenter. As a child I wandered around construction sites and carpentry shops, and that’s where I learned to love architecture and building in different scales.
DAVID: What drives you in life?
KEDEM: Passion, curiosity and family. The passion of architecture and new experiences. The curiosity to discover and feel new things that I haven’t previously experienced. And Family, which provides a strong back and frame so I can fulfill the first two other things.
DAVID: Can you tell us about the first project when you thought: ‘I think that I might have achieved something nice here'?
KEDEM: Always, when a project ends, even when I feel that I have been very successful, I always think of the next project. How to improve. These days I am currently working on a book which will summarize fifteen years of work. When it will be published, maybe then I will I feel that I achieved something special.
DAVID: As I mentioned earlier, you are surrounded by a team of fifteen who has been working alongside you for a long time. Can you tell us who does what? Do you design yourself the initial sketches for the structures, how is the initial idea born?
KEDEM: The whole idea is teamwork and brainstorming. It is an office where we believe in equality and so we all create together and we are all involved at every stage of the planning.
DAVID: You have become the architect of the Israeli’s elite, and yet you still hold dearest the values of equality and respect. It would have been easy to lose yourself in success, as many people unfortunately do. What’s been key to remaining grounded?
KEDEM: The understanding that success is always temporary, and that what stays is only your values. I try, and not always with success, to look at everything with a wider perspective and to understand that at the end of the day, my priorities are to retain a personal ethic where modesty, equality and friendship rule. That’s what matters above all, in all circumstances. I believe that in any event these things not only make me a better person but also a better architect.
DAVID: Looking at your creations, each one more beautiful and inspiring than the next, it is difficult to pick just one to talk about. However we really fell in love with your 'J House’. Can you tell us what was the most challenging aspect of its execution?
KEDEM: Its is really a unique project. Initially because of the momentum that the façade creates, as if it is not attached to the ground, secondly because of the precise and whole language throughout the project in each and every detail. We had two major difficulties with this project: The first was the desire to create a floating roof which is completely not a part of the actual building's mass. We solved that by building the roof from iron beams and light materials, in a way that it actually does hold itself. The second challenge was the sculpted aluminum skin running along the ground floor on the front of the house: beyond the difficulty in its execution, we had to design it in a way which would allow it to be opened, in order to clean the glass windows behind it. Great efforts were invested in the details of the joining to the skeleton so that these joints would not be visible to the eye.
DAVID: We also fell in love with your 'White Gallery' House. Elegance of verticality, sublime use of lights and shadows, which has become your personal signature. This house is like a journey from the earth to the sky. What was the initial client brief?
KEDEM: It is right, it does actually reflect the major central theme of my work – natural light and its effects on the space. The client who is an art collector asked me to create a building which could contain part of his art collection, and he wanted that the building itself be more a piece of art or an environmental sculpture, and less of a house. And in reality the facades from the street do seem like an environmental sculpture and less like a house.
DAVID: California seems to us a natural playground for a firm like yours. Could you tell us about your current project in Bel Air?
KEDEM: We are planning there a huge private house, and I really feel that the climate and the light conditions are similar. I don’t know enough yet about the culture here; from the little I have learned, the openness of people and the way of life here is very similar to the condition in Tel Aviv and its surroundings.
DAVID: When the Bauhaus movement was deemed ‘degenerate’ by the nazis in 1933 a lot of Jewish architects left Germany to settle in Israel, which explains why Tel Aviv to this day counts the largest collection in the world of buildings in the Bauhaus / International style. Clearly the city's landscape has evolved quite drastically since, including a lot of high-rise structures - for which you have also contributed some spectacular creations! Architecture as we know is the direct expression of a cultural context and type of society. According to you is there today the emergence of a new Israeli architectural movement, and if so what would define it?
KEDEM: Excellent question. I think that Israel, in relation to other countries, is a very "young" country that still looks to define itself. I believe that Israeli architecture should return to the excellent values of the modernist period, when architecture served the user and gave great consideration to the context. We as architects have a great responsibility to consolidate an identity to Israeli planning, and I hope that my generation has greatly improved our planning abilities and are beginning to create a local language.
DAVID: You travel the world a lot to lecture and teach on architecture. What has this experience taught YOU? : )
KEDEM: I know so little and still have a lot to learn. I learn a lot from students, from their curiosity and passion. Giving lectures helps me remember how important it is to re-new and innovate, to keep updated and to remain critical of your own works.
DAVID: I was told that you are reading a lot. The one particular book that has had the biggest impact on your life?
KEDEM: There is no specific book which greatly affected me more than others. I very much love different styles of literature, including poetry and I believe that reading so as music are two major factors which greatly affect my design abilities.
DAVID: What are you presently reading?
KEDEM: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
DAVID: Is there something about Israel you feel most people in the world don’t know and should know?
KEDEM: Yes, the fact that Israel has managed to bring together in a very rare way technological advancement and modern life while preserving the importance of friendship and affectionate relationships, things which are not usual in today’s advanced societies.
DAVID: Your biggest hope for the world?
KEDEM: This one seems to me a question for “Miss Universe”. Glancing quickly at the mirror, I don’t think that I qualify as a nominee!
DAVID: Thank you Pitsou KEDEM
KEDEM: Thank you.
We would like to acknowledge the teams who worked on these amazing architectural creations:
FOR THE J HOUSE
Design Team: Pitsou Kedem, Nurit Ben Yosef.
Architect in charge: Nurit Ben Yosef.
Lighting design: Orly Avron Alkabes.
Styling for photography: Eti Buskila.
Photography: Amit Geron.
FOR THE WHITE GALLERY HOUSE
Design Team: Pitsou Kedem, Irene Goldberg, Nurit Ben Yosef.
Architect in charge: Nurit Ben Yosef.
Styling for photography: Eti Buskila.
Photography: Amit Geron.