A career in the IT field is considered one of the most promising today – it is projected that by 2022, the demand for these professionals will increase by as much as 22 per cent. However, Karolis Lasys from Vilnius, despite everything, turned away from science and chose a career in arts. Even though, in his own words, before studying architecture at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), he was a complete geek.
“While still at school, I even represented Lithuania at the International Junior Science Olympiad (IJSO) in Argentina. But I can’t say that I really liked science. I just easily absorbed information, and my thinking methods were suitable for these subjects,” says Karolis.
Although his teachers expected Karolis to become a researcher, he decided to choose information technology (IT) studies. With good academic performance and a few internships in his CV, Karolis was ready for university. However, the failed Lithuanian language exam unexpectedly got in the way, so he had to take a gap year.
Karolis, how the gap year changed your life?
There is a stereotype that everyone who took a gap year is recommending others to take it. I can assure you that this stereotype did not come out of thin air. During that year, I realised that what you’re good at isn’t necessarily for you.
During that year, I needed to do something, so I managed to get a job in an IT company. However, pretty soon I realized that it isn’t for me. Routine, constant problem solving, general office life, being put in a box, and the feeling that you’re just a tiny part of some big project where you don’t even know what role you’re playing and whether you’re making any difference at all, I didn’t like it.
This is how I found myself in architecture and arts in general. I have been drawing since childhood, attending an art school, sociological subjects also have long interested me, and the years of self-reflection have indicated me which way to choose.
You are currently a third-year student of KTU Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture. Of all arts, how did you become interested in architecture?
When I admitted to myself that IT wasn’t for me, I already had an understanding that I really wanted to get into visual arts. At the same time, I attended Jūratė Stauskaitė Art School in Vilnius, where after talking to the school’s founder’s son and showing him my work, I received a remark that my works, although beautiful, are still not completely detached from science. “Have you ever thought about architecture?”, he asked then.
Since I had never thought about that before, I visited the Vilnius Academy of Arts, where I got acquainted with the specifics of the work of architects, reviewed various layouts, sketches, and drawings. After a talk with the then head of the Department of Architecture, I got hooked. I felt like I had really found what I wanted to do.
What fascinates you the most about architecture?
Judging by the variety of arts, I think architecture is unique in that it is not just art but also science. The architecture combines sociology and psychology, physics and engineering, and, of course, arts at the same time. A good and high-quality architectural project is a strong balancing act between all three fields. If at least one of them suffers or is not completely done, the building “collapses”, although not always in the direct meaning of the word.
It is the search for balance, versatility, creating art as a functional object that fascinates me very much. A work of architecture is not only important as an art piece, but also as a work or living environment for society and people who will live or work in that building.
You mentioned that you are a stranger to a routine, you don’t like office life, being put in a box. What makes architecture unique in this case? In the long run, can’t architect’s job become routine either?
It can really become a routine – you won’t avoid it in your life unless you do something different every day. However, it is important to understand your connections to the routine and how you accept it. When working in an IT company, everything is very strictly defined – what has to be done, to whom and how. Such a routine, where everything is very precisely defined, everything set down to the smallest detail, was never something I enjoyed. It is too strict.
But in architecture, things are different. As much as I had to work with architects, there is some freedom in this routine. It’s not necessary needed to come to the office at 9 a.m., and instead of sitting all day and drawing plans, you can sit for 8 hours and just think.
I recently visited a company in Kaunas, which has a music room in its basement with drums and a guitar. Colleagues sometimes gather there even if there is a deadline for a big project and a lot of pressure. Such a routine seems more acceptable to me. You still work, but don’t sacrifice yourself so that something would get done at that very moment. Such a routine is more about the need to achieve a set goal than to complete tasks on time.
By choosing architecture, you get involved in, say, the exact opposite area than before. How did you overcome the inner fear that something would fail and the chosen area would not bring happiness again?
To tell the truth, I have not overcome this fear, I just chose it. That’s the kind of person I am – if I come up with something, I do it. In my family, apart from my cousin, who is also an architect, there is not a single person involved in arts. My grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles are all “geeks”. I like what I’ve experienced before, but I’m also intrigued by the arts. So I thought, why not? One simply needs to overcome inner fears, and understand that they are not always rational. It’s scary to choose a different field which you don’t know, but it’s not a rational fear – you’ll still become familiar with it.
I think that nowadays people perceive their lives not as an experience, but as a commodity – something that must yield some specific result. I don’t think that this attitude brings what we really want – that is, happiness.
What was the reaction of those around you when they learned that you were quitting a job in IT, which is allegedly one of the most promising fields now and in the near future?
I haven’t quit that job, I still work in an IT company. However, as soon as the opportunity arises, I will probably leave this field completely. While this is certainly the most promising area at the moment, I chose a different study subject because I felt it wasn’t for me. The reaction of those around was dual: though they assured me that they understood why I was doing so, they were a little overwhelmed.
You are interested not only in architecture but also in photography, you paint and can also often be found behind a DJ console in various places in Kaunas, you recently started writing. How do you keep up with everything? How important are these activities to you?
There is a saying that the more you do, the more time you have. Most people think they don’t have time, but they just don’t want to invest in it. My opinion is different – if I want to do something, I will. After that, you realise that those 24 hours are quite enough time to do a great deal.
For me, all activities are important because it is all self-expression. In creating art, you express what you think, who you are, what you feel. Meanwhile, each media, in my case, architecture, photography, music, can convey different things. Through architecture, I can express a certain part of my personality, through music or photography – yet another. Self-expression is a common link between all my activities.
For example, I feel that through music I can express my emotions better than in architecture, in photography I can more easily convey various social ideas or other observations about life than I can in music.
It seems that your main goal at the moment is creativity and self-expression. How relevant is science to you today? How much of it, if any, is there still in your daily routine?
Although I escaped from science, it is still inevitable in architecture as well. As I said, architecture is a balance of three parts, one of which is science. Architects need to understand physics, chemistry because if a building collapses, permeates water or heat, it is worth nothing. Therefore, I think I will have to face science more and more in the future. However, studying in another field has changed my relationship with science: from my life partner it had turned into an occasional friendly meeting or a pleasant conversation.
Does the knowledge gained before studying architecture help at the moment? If so, how?
Yes, certainly. First, the very understanding of science. For example, programming helped me develop logical thinking, because this activity, as an area, is basically a game with rules: you need to make the systems work by describing the rules logically. This greatly develops analytical and logical thinking. That’s why to this day I apply the methods of thinking and analysis that I used to rely on in a completely different field.
I think that sometimes it is good to know another area, completely opposite of the one you’re working in – it broadens the perspective. I would even recommend doing so as it brings new knowledge. The same is true for languages: by learning different languages you not only learn to communicate with someone but also acquire the knowledge of the way people who speak that language think.
Art and technology – what connections do you find between them?
Art and technology are both based on the search and analysis of a certain logic. We need to understand what we are analysing in each case. In the case of technology, it is finding solutions, analysing functions, understanding, and applying laws. Art is also a certain analysis, in which it is not a specific problem that is analysed, but the person himself or some social situation. So art and technology are a way of thinking about people that are focused on different aspects. But the way of thinking and the direction of thinking is still similar – it is analysis.
Moreover, nowadays art and technology are related in terms of process and implementation. In the computer age, when our lives are highly computerised, art has a direct link to technology – art is often created through technology. Technology, in this case, becomes a brush.
What are your current challenges now?
There are a lot of challenges in architecture, connected to communication, the accuracy of analysis, artistic, creative, technical issues. Often, there are different things you would like to accomplish, but they are too expensive and sometimes completely impossible. Sometimes, even though you know you need to create something, there’s just no inspiration, even though you feel pressured by time. The challenges of not choosing another area didn’t disappear, they just became different.
What motivates and inspires you the most?
I am not looking for external motivation. I enjoy life and being able to create. Motivation comes even from the simplest things, such as the sun shining outside, or interacting with people. I would say that I am driven by an inner motivation to do something.
Two things inspire me. One of them is everyday life. Perhaps sometimes we too rarely realise that we live in a very diverse and beautiful world that we often underestimate. On the other hand, it is inspiring to me what a person, in general, can do with their hands. There are endless problems in the world, but people somehow solve them and do amazing things.
The interview is a part of the Creative Side of Technology project, with which KTU introduces its versatile and multitalented academic community to the society.