This March, I moved to Berlin. The city intrigued me for a longer time already, and an opportunity came up to live there for a month. I grabbed this opportunity and looked into whether living in Berlin would be an option for me. In addition, I was always curious about how architects' offices were in Berlin. So I e-mailed several firms, visited the most enthusiastic ones, and interviewed exciting people. In this issue, I will be introducing KINZO. This firm made a very open and unique impression on me.
KINZO is an interior architecture office located in the middle of Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie. As the story is told, KINZO is established by three architects (Karim El-Ishmawi, Martin Jacobs, Chris Middleton). At first, KINZO was a dance club located in Berlin, built with their own hands. This club helped them build the foundation of the architectural office. They are currently working with international companies to get the best interior designs with their holistic design approach, which you can see straight away when you enter the office.
The middle of the office area is a very bright and cosy shared room, divided into three areas: kitchen, lunch space, and material library. I've been told they have lunch, meetings and breaks here. And once every week on Tuesday, they have a meeting with everyone in the office to get to know the ongoing projects and achievements. This conversation is with three young interior architects working and living in Berlin: Maren, Sophie and Samira.
How long have you been working at KINZO?
Maren: I started my master's 3 years ago. After graduating, I decided to work at the university, did some own projects, and started working at Kinzo half a year ago.
How is working at KINZO for you?
Maren: I think we're about 55 people, so you can work in different teams and on different projects. I got to work with many different people, which I very much like. When you're addressed to a new project, you create a team, and everyone does their part. At the same time, you can work in another team and work on a completely different aspect of a project. So there is a lot of diversity and flexibility when it comes to working in different teams. It helps me a lot to get new inspiration because I don't work with the same people every day. For example, I have a main project team, but it could be that people are joining you for furniture research or 3D modelling.
What made you decide to go from working on your own projects to working for a firm (Kinzo)?
Maren: When I was working on my own projects, unfortunately, my companion wanted to stop at a certain point and do something else in the architecture field. So I decided to do work on my own direction, and wanted to start at Kinzo to get more experience. I wanted to learn how to organize projects, see how a structure in an office works and what is necessary next to the design part.
What projects does KINZO work mostly on?
Maren: If you look at Kinzo's website, you see a lot of offices. We're the most experienced in making office spaces and some hospitality.
How is the working environment structured?
Samira: All the teams are primarily working together at the same table. We have a clean desk policy which means that you can work anywhere you want; you just have to clean the desk when you leave so someone else can work on it. But since Covid, we also have people working from home, so our working spots were already very flexible, but now even more.
What's designing like as a KINZO architect?
Maren: The main point of designing like a KINZO architect is making new working spaces with innovative work structures. We try not to make a standard office or the work structure everyone is used. We try to look one step further and adjust the plan as much as possible to the client and take the branding into account.
How would you describe the work environment at KINZO?
Samira: In general, everyone is very chill, open and respectful. There is a very informal way of dressing; you don't have to show yourself in a suit. Also, KINZO has a very young team that can reflect on the openness and informal way of working.
How do you start a project at KINZO?
Sophie: The central part is communication with clients. It is crucial to work closely with a client to analyse what they want. So you propose options that could be better or give impressions of what it could look like. This helps get to know the client and make the perfect work environment for them.
What did you study?
Sophie and Samira: In Germany, you have sixteen university cities. Most of these are pretty small or not that attractive. Some are bigger and nicer to study, like Berlin. We both studied in different cities than Berlin, although the job made us come to Berlin. In Berlin, you have plenty of architectural offices to work at. It's a good place to get inspired by and work in the same environment. Doing an internship in Berlin is also an excellent opportunity to explore if the city is good for you.
Is it common in Germany to have an internship at an office?
Sophie: In some studies, it is organized in the study structure, so offices in Berlin and around Berlin know of internships and mostly pay a reasonable salary. If you do an internship, you can get a feeling of working in the architecture branch and give you a more detailed perspective on if you want to work in that environment.
As an intern at KINZO, do you have to be an interior architect?
Sophie: No, it's also possible to be an architect, product designer or other roles. We love to have many different backgrounds in our team, which makes the design process even more accessible.
This interview is written to give inspiration or give more desire to work or study abroad. Also, to give you a perspective on an architectural company and how young architects describe what working at KINZO is like. Take a look at their website to know more about them!