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In this month’s YKRA Faces, we had the pleasure of talking with Zoltán Kalászi, a Budapest-based architect, scenographer, and natural wine enthusiast. Zoli lets us in on his daily life, as well as what’s inside his YKRA bag! Read on to find out more.

Hi Zoli, tell us about yourself and your professional background.

I am an architect by training, but I also work as a scenographer. Stage design and theater enable me to break away from architecture in the traditional sense, however, the two are complementary and equally inspiring. 

I recently completed a two-year Master Course at Építész Mester Egylet (Master Architect’s Association). ÉME provides a platform for junior architects to learn from and work with accomplished professionals in the architecture industry in Hungary. During this Master Course, I worked on various projects and competitions, including a church renovation in Nagykovácsi, the architectural re-branding of a wine village in Slovakia, a social housing complex in Budapest, and the exhibition of the 50th anniversary of ÉME at FUGA. We also attended several international study trips where we met with local offices and toured architectural landmarks.

Currently, I am part of the Budapest-based collaborative design studio Pálma — a creative community located in the 11th district. My architectural practice is called Kazoda: most of my projects are residential, but recently, I have also been working on an exhibition design. Back in 2018, I designed and helped build a cabin, inspired by Yakisugi (Shou Sugi Ban), the Japanese wood technique. Since then, I have grown fond of cabins, working with wood and other sustainable materials. I am currently designing my own cabin on a mountain range in Northern Hungary.

When it comes to theater, I work exclusively with Csaba Horváth, director of Forte Company, my creative partner and media designer Kristóf Kiss-Benedek, and costume designer Benedek Mari. While architecture is concerned with permanent structures, theater is temporary and serves the narrative of a production. Despite the differences in time and scale, both creative processes involve imagining where things can happen in space.

What about your side project focusing on wine?

That’s a fun story.

I’ll start from the beginning. In 2019, a good friend of mine introduced me to Zsolt Sütő — a natural wine-maker from Slovakia. I was immediately intrigued by natural wine-making and its philosophy of low intervention in the vineyard and cellar. Natural wine is made without adding chemicals and preservatives, or as wine-makers would say “nothing is added, nothing is taken away from it”. 

The year after I met Zsolt, my friend bought a cabin in the northwest wine region of Hungary, which came with half a hectare of vineyard that needed to be taken care of. This coincided with COVID-19 and meeting a few like-minded natural wine enthusiasts. Somehow, the pieces of the puzzle started to come together organically — there was a vineyard and a collective in the making. This is how Alà natur was born. 

Over the years, this collective of enthusiasts embarked on a learning journey about natural wine-making. It is worth noting that most of us had no prior knowledge in the area, however, under the expert guidance from Barnabás Kovács, we have been continuously learning about the different processes of wine-making — starting from organic vineyard practices all the way to bottling. 

Through this learning-by-doing process, in the first year, we managed to have 70 bottles of wine and in 2023 we bottled around 800. Our latest selection debuted in December, you can find them here.

What does your daily routine look like?

Usually, I start the day by taking my dog Oscar for a quick walk around the block, followed by a brief tea ritual, where I plan the rest of the day.

Whenever I can, I try to do sports in the early mornings — yoga, stretching, or bouldering. I like to go to Flow Boulder, which is a dog-friendly climbing gym in Budapest and it’s a good opportunity for both me and Oscar to get active. The gym also has a work area, so some days, I’ll start working from there. 

Then I arrive at the studio, where I’ll consult with my colleagues on the ongoing projects. It varies how long I am in the studio for — sometimes until 6 pm, and sometimes until midnight, depending on the project.

After work, I like going to the theater or meeting up with my mates for a drink at the local bar. The day always ends with another dog walk - it’s also the time where we reflect on the day together with my girlfriend.

Do you have any other hobbies?

Besides climbing, I am also keen on hiking and it’s partly how I got to know Balázs; we used to hit the trails together. Since my teenage years, I’ve been into skateboarding. To this day, easy cruising through the city brings me a lot of joy.

You were also once an YKRA model, right?

Yes, I was a model for an YKRA campaign shot. Balázs joined us and we had a great time.

What’s in your SAILORPACK?

This is my second YKRA bag. It’s light, classy and easily fits everything I need to carry around in a day.

Measuring Tape - As an architect, it always comes in handy on the job.

Work Tools - I always keep a selection of tools with me for work. This includes my iPad, which I use when I need to quickly sketch on a location photo, or I need to answer an email fast. For manual stuff, I like to use my notepad. Most of my stationary is from Muji — the pens, pencils, felt tips, highlighters, and notebook are all from there, and I usually keep my stuff in one of their signature silicone cases.

Ink Stamp - I have this with me in case there’s something I need to put my stamp on. It has my logo on it.

Book - I like to make time for reading. My friend Gábor Bindics lent me this book. It’s a collection of essays about traditional Japanese aesthetics written in a poetic and entertaining way.

Sunglasses - Just in case, you never know when you might need them.

Kong Frisbee -  It’s my dog Oscar’s favorite.

Leash - This is also for Oscar, it’s my friend András Beke’s brand. He’s an architect, and this brand, Appintu, is his hobby side project — named after his young son’s imaginary friend.

Kezemura Gaiwan - This is a piece made by Gábor, and we agreed on a barter, I gave him wine, and he made me an interlocking Gaiwan, which is perfect to take with me on the go.

Architectural model - Obviously, these models don't fit in my backpack, but as I use my SAILORPACK for work and carry my stuff in it when I go on site visits, I thought I'd show you guys a few projects I am proud of.

The large model is a project for a cabin house that I am currently working on. If everything goes smoothly, the construction will start in spring.

The other one is a mock-up of a 100-unit housing in the 6th district. It’s an older project, with which we won an architecture competition during my team at ÉME Master Course — it was a joint effort with a team of five people.

photos by Botond Wertan

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