Only common things happen when common sense prevails

Taking his inspiration for architectural builds from unique sources, Tom Kunding wants to rise to the challenge of repurposing the prosaic into something grand.

Speaking to Adrian Ramsay on the host’s Talk Design podcast, the US-based architect spoke of his origins, his inspirations, and how he enjoys working on something ‘ugly’, because it’s interesting to repurpose.

It’s through seeing beauty in not-so beautiful things that Tom finds inspiration.

“I had a dad who was an architect, and I didn’t want to be an architect. I was a lot more intrigued by the artists I was hanging around with,” he said. While not being an artist himself, he really appreciated the culture.

“Artists and architects have a ‘highbrow’ nature to them,” he said. Working with a local sculptor, he asked where he got his inspiration from. The sculptor told him that his best work came from hot rods.

As a ‘car guy’ himself, this struck a chord in Tom’s mind.

“I thought hot rodders were lowbrow. And he said, ‘That’s such ridiculous talk. They’re artists just like any artist’.”

Calling his own home ‘The Hotrod House’, Tom is seemingly one of only a few architects who takes his inspiration from supposedly ‘lowbrow’ sources.

“In the distant past I had bought a beautiful California bungalow…I was restoring it. And I realised I was restoring something already beautiful, and I said to my wife, “I think it would be interesting to work with something really ugly. Really a mess.” If it’s already beautiful, absolutely restore it. But work with something that maybe somebody would throw away.”

Tom has recently penned several articles about ‘ugly’ buildings, and the joy in repurposing these buildings into something better.

For Tom – as with many artists and designers – form follows function.

“You have to understand the function in a way, or at least understand how the component pieces are fitting together. Unless you’re working in another dimension that I don’t understand.”

In a wide-ranging discussion, Tom addressed problem solving, his thoughts on building architecture, and how he views his profession as an adventure. The discussion concluded with a positive affirmation about finding joy in the work you do.

“I think it’s that thin edge where ‘thrill’ happens. And I think thrill is about optimism. Because you’re looking for success, not for failure.”

This podcast is another in a series of chats the Sunshine Coast designer has had with high profile and acclaimed designers, architects, artists and creators of all trades from multiple places around the world.

Tom Kundig’s book “Working Title” is available on amazon.

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