Interview with Blank Space’s Matthew Hoffman

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Five years ago architect Matthew Hoffman co-founded Blank Space, an online architecture platform. From that came the Fairy Tales competition, an annual challenge focused on portraying architecture in a social light. While the winners of 2018’s Fairy Tales won’t be announced until March 29, we interviewed Matthew to learn more about the history of Blank Space’s annual architecture competition.

How did you first come up with the idea of the Fairy Tales? Has its mission changed since it first began?

Matthew Hoffman: When we started Blank Space in 2013, it turned out that the hardest part of setting up the entire company and first competition was selecting the topic. We spent about 4 months going back and forth on many ideas. Our mission at that time was to give architects and designers a new outlet to write about architecture. The mission has changed since then, and it happened organically in a way that we couldn’t have imagined. The entries every year not only talk about architecture in new ways, but they talk about the world in new ways. They take the narrative essence of fairy tales and use it to address the most pressing issues of today, from globalization and sustainability, to equality and technology.

What has been the range of applicants who submit their proposals?

MH: The age range is huge. We have students in elementary school develop entries as a class, or with their parents. And we’ve had Pritzker Prize-winning architects in their 80s.

Fairy Tales
Welcome to the Fifth Façade. by Olson Kundig. Courtesy Black Space.

What was the theme for 2018 Fairy Tales and why?

There is no yearly theme for Fairy Tales. There do tend to be themes among the entries that occur naturally. Typically the entries tackle current events that are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. That’s the beauty of the competition. Each year tends to perfectly capture the zeitgeist.

What has been a personal favorite among past submissions?

We don’t have any favorites. That is like a parent picking a favorite child but in this case we have thousands! What continues to blow us away to this day (and all jury members) is the sheer amount of work, ingenuity, and talent that entrants pour into their entries.

What are common themes you’ve seen among the proposals?

We are working on a new book with Volume book publishers that combines top entries from the past 5 years of Fairy Tales, and we’ve developed 5 categories that most entries fall into: globalization, equality, urbanization, sustainability, and technology.

Why do you think it is important to focus on narrative and imagination in architecture?

Architects and designers tend to be an imaginative bunch, so we aren’t too concerned with unearthing that talent. They already have it. More important for us is to put together competitions that give architects new ways to talk about architecture and design. Additionally – it is important that architects and designers tell a story because this is what touches people outside of the profession. When architects design for architects we don’t get anywhere. When architects package their work in a way that really grabs people and brings them into the creative process it is a massive success. That is always our goal in creating competitions.

The 2018 Fairy Tales winners will be announced at the Museum on March 29.

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