Kinetic Chandelier by Eddy Sykes
On a field trip to LA’s Frog Town one Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet architect, artist and inventor Eddy Sykes who took a moment to tell me more about himself and his creation. In person, the YakuzaLou is sharp, futuristic and the Rorschach inkblots cut into brass makes for an imaginative pattern. Watching the robotic fixture bloom into what looks like a delicate, steel snowflake brought back a flash of wide eyed childhood wonder. A break away from the inanimate chandelier, Eddy brings new light with his kinetic YakuzaLou.
You began as an architect, did you construct any buildings?
I started off breaking the first cardinal rule of young architects, designing a home for your parents! It was…educational. In a way it was very revealing, design trends that we were interested in as students were simply not going to fly with people who knew me in diapers, so most of my grandiose ideas were shot down with the sensitivity of a falling piano (Thank god!). The house got built but I switched it up to smaller scale soon thereafter.
Tell me about your journey to YakuzaLou.
The approach is being conscious of the end piece at every step in its evolution- Knowing what you want to piece to communicate and being able to keep that at the forefront as you are doing the more specific engineering development. It is very easy to find yourself celebrating the theater of movement and forgetting about what the original idea was/is. Obviously working with kinetics has quite a few trap doors; the most ominous is letting the kinetics do all the talking. That is not to say that you should spend less time working on the engineering on the contrary, you have to make sure that it will function flawlessly and that can be a herculean task. You just have to make sure that when you are satisfied with that particular engineering development, the larger ideas are also satisfied.
You mentioned the name was inspired by your daughter. Do you find other inspiration outside the design world?
Well the yakuza was/is a silent, strong, influential force that you simply cannot say ‘no’ to – that pretty much sums up my daughter. I really try to stay away from design, art, and architecture information completely, at least the magazines.
I am more interested in what an 80-year-old watchmaker has in an old shoe box under his workbench. Quite a bit of small quick compositions have to be made by hand by machinist’s or watch makers that enable them to make other parts. This act of making objects to facilitate the making of other objects is fascinating to me, and in some ways so mysterious it’s almost frightening.
So process would be the inspiration?
Definitely in the mix. I can honestly say I’m a process nerd. Everything is inspirational; it’s all about how you handle the execution of that information. Let’s say for example, you are exploring the relationship between personal watercraft and gypsy caravans, would your vision be better served using a #2 double cut file or a #000 bastard cut file… I’m being kind of provocative here, but that’s what I am interested in. There is a rational behind that choice, even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can appreciate a golfer who picks a club that you would never expect and plays the shot perfectly. That entire round was a piece and the club was just one note. Process for me is kind of like that.
Where would you envision the YakuzaLou displayed?
When I say everywhere, I actually mean everywhere. Expandable surface articulation is something that is very comfortable living in a five star hotel as a glass canopy or orbiting the planet as a radio satellite. Sky’s the limit.
Do you ever use salvaged material in your work?
For studies, or one offs, for sure. I will always be attracted to old junk, it goes with the territory.
Is it more interesting to you to change the identity of a material or use it organically?
In some cases it’s both. It turns out that old bowling balls are made of a very workable material that carves better then you would expect. You know what it is after you carve a potted house plant out of it- it’s a jet black sculpture of a small potted plant-. And you are now in a position to either disclose the source material or keep it a secret-if its part of the work or not. It’s different for each piece.
What materials do you enjoy using the most?
The materials that put up the least amount of resistance.
What project/piece was the most fun for you? Why?
Even though my work may be somewhat delicate, I have had some great opportunity’s to work big. The scale of architecture still gets me excited, the complexity of large-scale work is very intense and you either love that bee hive or you don’t. I really think the best projects for me were the biggest ones.
Do you have hobbies outside of design?
I’ve restored a few old Alfa Romeos. That is a passion of mine that I have to be responsible with. I see my studio output decline substantially whenever I come across an old basket case Alfa, so I try not to tackle two money losing ventures simultaneously.
Are there any architects or designers who influence your work?
I had an opportunity to work with Ric Scofidio in the past – how could you not love that drill piece, and how about that Blur Building! He’s also a big car guy so I guess I have had the luxury of working with someone who I respected and actually liked.
What era in design is your favorite? (region, country)
Los Angeles right now.