Established in 2003, by Stephania Kallos and Abigail Turin, Kallos Turin is an international design firm based in London and San Francisco providing both architecture and interior design services. The firm’s work combines the restraint and rigor of minimalism with a desire to challenge a more purely reductive approach to form making. Abby Turin runs the San Francisco office of KallosTurin. Prior to co-founding KallosTurin, Abigail focused on high-end residential and office design. She worked at David Chipperfield Architects in London.
We sat down with Abigail to discuss how a trip to Italy as a teenager inspired her to become an architect, what it was like working with David Chipperfield and what Kallos Turin has in store for 2019.
Take us back to the beginning. When did you decide to become an architect?
When I was a teenager, I was on a trip in Italy with my parents driving between the Ligurian coast and Venice and we happened upon two incredible buildings in one day — the Brion family cemetery by Carlo Scarpa and the Villa Barbaro by Andrea Palladio. It was pure chance that they were both open and we were able to get tours. I remember thinking that these two buildings, separated by 400 years and seemingly disparate styles, still seemed to be in conversation with each other and I was completely fascinated thinking about the relationship between the two. Essentially…I was hooked. I just visited both buildings again this past summer and got to take my daughter as well. As expected, they hold up!
Can you tell us what it was like working with David Chipperfield?
It was formative. I was fresh out of graduate school and lucky enough to be hired to be on the residential team. Stephania joined the firm a few months later and that is how we first met.
I think David is one of the greatest architects of our time — history books great. And his work just keeps getting better. That move to London and to his office, changed the course of my career. When I moved back to California and went out on my own, I kept working with the office on a large project in the Lever House building in New York. And then, when Stephania left the office and we had both gotten our first solo projects (mine in France and hers in Austria) we decided to join forces and create Kallos Turin. That kept me connected to London, and it connected Steph to California. The international nature of our office has become an important aspect of our practice.
How does living in the Bay Area affect your design practice and your design thinking?
Even when I was in school on the east coast or living in London I always had one foot in California. There is something about that western spirit that infuses your thinking.
What would you consider to be the biggest change in the field of architecture since co-founding KallosTurin?
Since we have an unusual practice, split by an ocean and 5,000 miles, we have always relied on technology to make it work. In the early years we would talk on the phone at the end of the day in London day and the beginning of the day in SF. Steph would catch me up on what she had done during the day and I would carry on working and then fax her sketches or email drawings so she had them for the start of her day. With gotomeeting and other video conference systems we work much more collaboratively — it has become so easy to share screens, sketch over each other’s work, and to review samples over video, etc. When we stared it was a bit odd to have a virtual office and now it feels completely normal.
Have there been any notable influences on your career?
So many! We constantly refer back to Loos and Mies and Corbusier and Siza to name a few. Stephania worked with Claudio Silvestrin prior to moving to Chipperfield’s office and he remains a favorite of hers and mine. And we also love to look to artists as a source of inspiration.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for 2019?
2018 has been a busy year and so we hope to have a batch of new work finishing in 2019. Currently we have residential projects in London, Uruguay, San Francisco and Buenos Aires (one in a gorgeous old embassy!) We have two cafe spaces opening in early 2019 in Montecito. This morning’s design call was for a ground up house we are doing in a stunning neighborhood in Athens. The house is for serious art collectors and will be more of a gallery that happens to be a home, rather that a house with lots of art.