This is the first interview in our member spotlight series and we are kicking things off with an interview with Pocco Kobkongsanti. (You can call him Pok for short.) Pok has been a member since the early days of Land8 and I have had the privilege of getting to know him via a handful of emails and exchanges on the site. He has posted over 1600 photos to 82 projects ranging from resorts and residential communities to sculptures and sustainable products. Along with being a design phenom, he is extremely humble which makes it even easier to admire his work.
It is with great pleasure to give Pok the spotlight…
What is your background?
I am Chinese-Thai. I was born in Thailand but both of my parents are Chinese. Drawing has always been my passion. Starting at the age of 3, I just picked up a pencil and started drawing. I would spend an entire day by myself if my mom gave me a pen and lots of paper. I used my imagination as a toy.
I was raised in a small town, and then moved to Bangkok when I was 13 years old. At 16, I enrolled in the Landscape Department, graduated at 21, then worked 2 more years with Bill Bensley – my favorite boss. After that, I went to Harvard GSD for a Master of Landscape and Urban Design. Then, I got a job at Hargraves Associates in Cambridge, MA and worked there for another 4 years.
In 2004, my ex-boss, Bill Bensley called me, luring me back home. I worked with Bill for another 3 and half years, and, in 2007, I founded TROP : terrains + open space.
How did you discover Landscape Architecture?
Luck. I skipped 2 years in High School and passed the entrance exam to get the last spot in Landscape Department at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. My dad asked me what is “Landscape Architecture”, and I answered “well, I want to know that too…”
Before that I didn’t know anything about this profession.
What has been your greatest challenge to date?
Every task, I would say. Challenges come everyday. Once you beat them, the new ones come knocking at your door right away. At TROP, all projects are taken seriously, regardless of the project’s difficulty. I have never thought that any project has been easy. But, if you really want to know the greatest challenge, I would say to make a decision to leave both of my old jobs. HA and Bensley are awesome firms with great people and awesome projects. Many people try so hard to get a position there. For me, to leave them and move to the unknown place (and future) was quite a risky decision.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
Again, all projects, that are completed in the way I envisioned, are my greatest success. Well, I am not a World Class designer who working on World Class projects. I just do whatever projects, that happen to fall into my lap, and try my best to make them as nice as I can. No matter how big or how small – good design is good design.
Who is one person that has influenced you?
More than I could name. Maybe a bit from a number of people that I admire. For landscape architects, I would say Bill Bensley and Brian Sherman of Bensley Design Studio. George Hargreaves and Gavin McMillan of HA. I also admire Dan Kiley, Catherine Gustafson, Andrea Cochran, and Fernando Carancho for example. But, honestly, my biggest role model is Michael Jordan. You know, I grew up in the 90s, so, sorry, I can’t help that I have become a huge Bulls fan and, of course, MJ’s loyal follower.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Anything and everything. Sometimes, Inspiration comes from the un-expected source. Food, for example. I adore Ferran Adria of El Bulli. I keep following his works since 2000. Just love the ways he explored his “ingredients”. Those are way beyond my imagination.
If you could work with anyone person (past or present), who would it be?
I would love to work with Le Corbusier and Mies Van de Rohe. During my time at GSD, I walked passed Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center every day, and fell in love with the building. Imagine he designed that in 1961. For Mies, I visit his German Pavilion in Barcelona last year. Well, it was designed in 1929!!! The details are still amazing, even compared to modern buildings.
For modern architects, I wish I could have a chance to work with Tadao Ando or Herzog & de Meuron someday…
What trends are you seeing in LA, good or bad?
I don’t know much about trend. I try not to follow trend actually. I just design whatever I feel good at that particular time. However, it seems like people trying to be more “”green”” now, and I don’t see anything wrong doing that. The High Line, for example, are one of the best landscape projects I have seen in years. Great intention + Sophisticated Ideas + local people loving it. What else you could ask for as a landscape architect?
If FLO was alive today, what would he think of the profession?
He would just smile and enjoy the show. Just like how Dr James Naismith, the Basketball creator, would feel if he sees Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant played the game he invented. The profession evolves way beyond one could imagine, I would say. And I am also sure FLO must be real happy to learn that the Central Park is still one of the most loved garden these days…
What’s your favorite material to use?
“Natural materials. Stones, wood, water, light, sound….”
What’s your favorite color?
Where is your favorite place to eat?
I have many. Visit me in Bangkok and I will take you out.
Who is your favorite contemporary designer?
This is difficult. Well, Tokujin Yoshioka, may be?
My favorite ____ is ______.
My favorite food is Sushi…
What advice do you have for students and those entering the profession?
Do your best everyday like there is no second chance. In fact, there may be none. You just gotta do your best in the first try. If you don’t, there will always be someone hungrier who are willing to take your place.Published in