Meet Ceren Arslan, renowned architect and visual designer of Carlita’s Bon Trip

(Photo: Semina Bildik)

Ceren Arslan has maintained a close relationship with the Life and Death imprint for years. The accomplished New York-based architect and visual designer first met the DJ/producer Carlita in 2014, and through their friendship connected with DJ Tennis. Since then, the trio have become close friends and collaborators, with Arslan conducting the visual direction for Carlita’s most recent Life and Death EP, Bon Trip.  

The Bon Trip visual design is another project in a long list of Ceren Arslan triumphs. Arslan has worked at architectural firms such as SHoP Architects and KPF, has had her work displayed on well-established shows such as Milan Design Week, and has been recognized by publications like Archdaily, Architect’s Newspaper, and Elle Decor

Her most recent art project, EXIT, is a multimedia operation involving collaborations with product designers, record labels, fashion and spirits brands. 

We caught up with Arslan to chat about her history with Carlita and Life and Death, her inspiration behind the Bon Trip artwork, her EXIT project, and her philosophies on the relationship between music and design.

How did you first get into architecture? Who and what are your biggest architectural influences?  

I come from a family of architects and builders. I was quite exposed to construction sites and drafting since I was a little kid. I always knew I would be in a creative field and work with visual and compositional aesthetics, given the background architecture really made sense. My family practiced architecture on functional terms, as a shelter, as institutional buildings or as public structures. As much as the scale of practice was quite impressive, for me it’s been really about the experience and feeling of it. How do you feel when you walk into a space, is it sublime, do you feel isolated, secretive or empowered? These are the questions I constantly ask as I practice with my work. In that sense, I have a few architects I admire who turned their practice into artistry like Michael Heizer, Peter Zumthor, Ricardo Bofill, Valerio Olgiati. Of course these names are pretty contemporary for architecture, but also Borromini from the Roman Baroque, just wow. 

From your perspective, what’s the relationship between architecture and music? How do you like to express music through visual designs? 

There are a few common grounds between architecture and music. They are both structured in their own language, the rhythm, the composition, the mood and most significantly the feeling. Architecture and music arouse certain emotions when experienced both individually and collectively. What is the feeling that surrounds you when you enter into a new space and what does a song make you feel like are valid questions when you experience either of them. That’s what makes them personable and allows for an emotional memory. Videos I make for EXIT now have a certain style where the camera floats through the space very subtly and in a linear direction to elevate the focus onto the perspective and create a correspondence between the space and the sound. It is a relationship between the two to curate the flow of perception. 

Could you go into detail about your EXIT project? 

EXIT started as an art project which is a catalog of spaces designed with story-telling. Each one of them depicts a unique scene with a concept behind it. From a Green Basketball Court with Suede Balls to Church of Tolerance, each design reflects a different architectural agenda with a consistent style of being monochromatic, sublime and I would say edgy. The project is called EXIT, because each design is different from the common and familiar language of the architectural designs we are accustomed to see these days. They are EXITS from the mundane as a disturbance to the typical and they are entries to alternative and refreshing spaces. 

This is the second art collection I’ve produced, the first one being a 10-piece collection called “Episodes.” 

How did you first get in touch with Carlita? How would you describe your working relationship? 

I’ve known Carlita for a long time through mutual friends. She was just starting to DJ when we first met in New York City in 2014. As she moved to New York, she became the resident DJ at a few clubs me and my friends used to go to and we became really good friends with time. I started helping her with her creative agenda, flyers, brandbook, photoshoots, etc. as her brand turned into a super fun project. Through her musical journey with DJ Tennis, I had a chance to get familiar with the Life and Death family and also became really good friends with him. When I introduced EXIT to him, he wanted to create a collection of vinyl album covers for the upcoming year. Carlita’s Bon Trip became the first one.

What were your main goals when designing visuals for Carlita’s Bon Trip EP?

It turned out to be a super special project between Carlita, DJ Tennis and I because of our friendship. I call Carlita “bonbon,” so one day as an inside joke, I told her I had a Bonbon Trip. The name of the song turned out to be “Bon Trip”  as in it’s a good trip as an ode to our journey and her friendship with DJ Tennis, so it had to be a fun cover. I interviewed both of them and asked the question: What’s a good trip for both of you? At the end I just thought everyone has their own version of a good trip, so I created a scene with red doors with mushroom buttons that are indicative of different journeys at your selection. As part of the EXIT collection, the message is EXIT at your own discretion, have a bon trip!