The name Mac Stopa has long been recognised for his innovative and unconventional design aesthetic. The founder of award-winning architecture firm Massive Design — which specialises in designing stunning spaces for the world’s largest corporations including Google, Samsung and BMW — was recently in town to officiate the inauguration of the River collection, a new collaboration with international furniture manufacturer Tonon.
Debuting for the first time in Asia Pacific, the launch of the new collection coincides with the official opening of the new Chesters Collection flagship showroom in Bangsar. In an email interview, Stopa revealed to PrestigeOnline.com his thoughts on his newest collection, his upcoming projects and the driving force behind his passion for design.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was it that made you decide to become an architect?
My father was a doctor, and he actually wanted me to follow in his footsteps. My mother, however, worked as a stage designer for theatre and TV — I grew up surrounded by her work, which included designing interiors for TV productions; furniture for set productions; and even fashion for the theatre. She was always drawing, and I eventually developed a passion for it as well. By the time I was in grammar school, I had already created hundreds of sketches.
Several for my relatives are also architects; my uncle worked as a dean at an architecture school, and I remember being amazed by the models he would create for large scale architecture which I thought it was very special. So, in a way, pursuing architecture was a natural decision.
Are there any architects from the past or present that you particularly admire?
I do appreciate the works of Eero Saarinan. He was an architect and industrial designer in the 50s who designed the TWA Flight Centre in New York as well as the Washington Dulles Airport. I’m also inspired by Antoni Gaudí who is synonymous with the architecture in Barcelona. His works are often inspired by nature. He came up with innovative ways of cutting stones and using cement. It’s really incredible how back in the day, these architects could design with such precision without having to rely on computers.
Which of your projects would you say has given you the most satisfaction?
It’s impossible to pick just one as I really enjoy being involved in different types of design. As for satisfaction, there really is no major difference from designing a chair and a building. Both are completely different experiences.
Of course, working on large scale projects tends to leave a bigger imprint, one that can last for many years. It also means having to work with multiple individuals, and that sometimes requires having to compromise on certain things. For smaller scale projects like Tonon, it would usually be just me working directly with the owner of the company or brand. At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is to achieve results with as little compromise as possible.
Your work often embraces new forms of technology and materials; how important have these advances been in allowing you to fully realise the full scope of your creative vision?
I find technology to be truly inspiring. In fact, one of most important driving factors in my design is analysing what is happening in the world of technology. I’m always curious about new construction materials, efficient ways of manufacturing, and so on.
Several years ago, I became obsessed with 3D printing to the point were I was purchasing a new printer for my office every year. We started with the classic way of 3D printing, and today we are experimenting with laser sintering. There are so many materials available: concrete, glass, metal, polymers, etc. This technology is constantly improving, which in turn opens up new horizons.
What intrigued you personally about working on the River Collection series under Tonon?
I first met Sandro Tonon several years ago and showed him a couple of my designs. While he initially turned me down, he was also intrigued by what he saw. We decided to talk more about his vision, and I prepared several concepts based on the technology he was using in Italy.
Our first collaboration resulted in the Structure Chair and the Step Chair. When it came to designing the River Collection, I wanted to create something more organic and artistic. This collection was borne out of appreciation for nature and being by the seaside: how the wind interacts with the water, the patterns of the sand, etc. A lot of my inspirations come from nature… these elements are a universal language that I think we can all appreciate.
What other projects are you currently working on?
There’s the Warsaw HUB which is expected to launch at the end of 2019. Its a 1.2 million sqf integrated office and shopping complex located in downtown Warsaw, which connects to the underground subway station. We will be designing almost all the common areas.
Your bio states that you’re an avid electric guitar player as well as music composer; is there a specific playlist or genre that helps you with your creative process?
I still play the guitar, and have started collecting them as well. Growing up, I took classical piano lessons and was raised on classical music. In high school, I lost interest in classic music and started listening to rock music. I also started playing the electric guitar.
By the time I was an architecture student, I was working as a studio musician for rock bands. I was also a bassist for bands from different rock genres; I even performed with Paweł Mąciwoda, who would eventually become the bass player for the legendary rock band Scorpions. Ultimately, I decided that my true calling was to become an architect. At the end of the day, whether it’s playing the guitar or designing, it’s all about being creative.