Whether architect Matt Fajkus is designing a sculpture for President Obama or rebuilding a home lost to the Bastrop fires, he maintains a commitment to what he calls “the spirit of modernism.” It’s a dynamic philosophy uniting function, innovation and aesthetics that Fajkus has carried with him around the world, from his studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, to the renowned Foster + Partners firm in London and home to his native Austin. “I like to approach each project completely fresh,” he says of his work. “I let the site, the client and the function drive the project— my job is to coordinate these factors into a singular sustainable vision.” In 2011, Fajkus launched his award-winning independent practice, where he strives to develop creative design solutions with architectural designers Sarah Johnson and Audrey McKee. As a professor at the UT School of Architecture and director of the university’s state-of-the-art Thermal Lab, Fajkus bridges the gap between practice and theory, working with energy-efficient and sustainable techniques both in and out of the classroom. Foremost among his considerations, however, is the play between function and form. “A great piece of architecture needs to straddle those two realms,” he observes. “It needs to serve the purpose of what it’s meant to do but do it in an interesting and meaningful way to transcend simply being a ‘building.’” For more information about Matt Fajkus and his work, visit mfarchitecture.com.
9 Questions for Matt
What is the most beautiful place in the world you’ve visited?
I once studied abroad in Barcelona, which had significant impact on me as a young architect. It was an urban laboratory where I understood the importance of a beautiful balance between interior space and exterior urban space.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I played college tennis in undergrad, which most people wouldn’t know since I haven’t played the sport in years.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My parents, who perfectly balance work and family. They have their own personal ambitions but also do whatever it takes to keep the immediate and extended family close.
What is your most treasured possession?
One thing I would hate to lose is a tuxedo I inherited from my grandfather, which I had tailored to fit me.
What piece of art would you most like to own?
A Mark Rothko painting, since they seem to truly embody the vision and emotion of the artist. When I lived in London, I would often spend time at Tate Modern, in a room featuring the Seagram murals.
Who are your favorite heroes in real life?
Many people in my family tree, including my great grandparents, took risks to immigrate to the us from Sweden, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia. And most of all, my parents for their hard work ethic and optimistic attitude.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?
Shyness, which actually allowed me to develop my drawing skills and spatial understanding—it was the best way I could express myself in my childhood.
What do you never travel without?
My sketchbook, since I never know when inspiration will strike. I like to sketch and record thoughts and the world around me, which may be incorporated into future work.
When and where are you the happiest?
Holiday visits to my grandparents’ farm in Southeast Texas, where I see my extended family and escape the routines of the “real world” for a while. Getting out into nature allows me to put things into perspective and realize that life can be simpler than I sometimes make it.