Page 1

Protocols: the Estonian Academy of Arts Faculty of Architecture Guest Speaker Series 2012-2013


Published by the Estonian Academy of Arts Faculty of Architecture Editor Veronika Valk Translators Veronika Valk, Kerli Linnat Proofreader Justin Ions Designer Katri Karing Printed by BalticPrint Contact: arhitektuur@artun.ee T +372640070 Address: Pikk 20 Tallinn 10133 Estonia


Contents 4 6 10 12 18 22 28 34 40 46 50 54 58 64 72 76 80 90 94 100 104 110 116 120 126 130 134 138 144 150 156

Protocols: Introduction Catalyst: Christoph Frank Time: Jonas Norsted Process: Fabio Gramazio Empirical: Salmaan Craig Food: CJ Lim Pragmatic: Alejandro Zaera‐Polo Reciprocity: Jenny Sabin Joy: Multiplicity Reuse: Minsuk Cho Regeneration: Haakon Rasmussen Post‐Human: Oron Catts Danger: Odile Decq Innovation: Achim Menges Participatory: Renee Puusepp Craft: Ena Lloret Wildcards: Johan Peter Paludan Subversion: Microclimax Systems: Mike Weinstock Authentic: Tham & Videgård Living: Orkan Telhan Psychophysical: Sami Rintala Experiential: Jaanika Peerna Speculative: Kivi Sotamaa (New) Normal: Winka Dubbeldam Object: Tom Wiscombe Balance: Bart Lootsma Commercial: Gert Wingårdh Narrative: Srdjan Weiss Industry: Thibault Schwarz Symbiotic: Claudia Pasquero

3


The protocols … are here to reveal certain operational paradigms that architects from different parts of the world have developed. Hence, they are not about judgments or any preconceived ideas of who someone is. All of the people interviewed in this publication have been to Tallinn to give a public talk as part of the Estonian Academy of Arts Faculty of Architecture guest‐ speaker lecture series in 2012‐2013. I have had the honor of curating the series and it has been a true privilege to welcome these internationally‐ renowned architects, theoreticians, critics and urbanists to Estonia, bringing fresh perspectives on architecture, design, urban development and critical thought from around the globe.

monthly Müürileht, Estonian architecture magazine Maja, popular science magazine Horisont and art magazine Kunst.ee). A 'protocol' could be an architect's or critic's etiquette, or a predefined written procedural method for conducting design experiments. It could be a document that outlines a clinical trial, including guidelines for a 'medical' treatment of the environment. In some cases it may be a serialization of these things, yet it must be understood in the context of creative practice. A protocol might also be a set of rules that determines how we, as architects, shall route our communications, or how we encrypt our messages for fellow practitioners and when addressing the broader public. In essence, the protocols can be any, or all, of the above, and in combination.

The lectures have been open to all students and professionals in the fields of architecture, urbanism and other spatial studies, as well as to the broader circle of those interested in the future of our living environment. The lecture series has been supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment, Ministry of Culture, foreign embassies in Tallinn and the Estonian Academy of Arts. All of the interviews, the majority of them in an abridged version, have been published in Estonian language in the national media (the cultural weekly Sirp, the weekly Eesti Ekspress and daily newspaper Eesti Päevaleht, the

Used primarily in the (life) sciences, protocols provide individual sets of instructions that allow researchers—in this case architects, critics, artists and designers—to push the boundaries of the profession and to invent and explore experiments in their own laboratory—that is to say, in their own practice. The interviews in this book document the protocols of specific practices, thus providing

4


instructions for such practices and for the implementation of critical experiments that include the practitioners' biases, procedures, methods—in other words, their agenda for 'venturous practice'.

coordinator Anu Piirisild. The lecture series and this book were only made possible with their enthusiastic support, enduring patience, wholehearted hospitality and rigorous help. Video recordings of the lectures can be found at http://www.artun.ee/avatudloengud/.

'Venturous practice' is a term originally coined by Richard Blythe and is used here to refer to those practitioners who are adventurous enough to want to step beyond current practice boundaries—in other words, those practitioners whose work will change the practice, the discipline and the knowledge. Venturous practitioners are often the venturous researchers among us. In that sense, this book correlates with the Faculty's focus on design practice research—research through the kind of practice that changes the way we think about our world and the ways in which we practice design itself.

Veronika Valk, editor

Altogether, the interviews help to reveal the identity, urgency, collaborative behavior, paradigms, passion for emergent possibilities, cultural presence and risk‐taking that is characteristic of these practitioners. As a collection, this book can be used as a aid for navigating contemporary design practice, associating the independence of the individual practitioner with the correlating interdependence among peers and collaborators across a variety of fields. The majority of the speakers are familiar with each other's works and contributions, and in that sense they are learning from one another. As the lecture series continues, I hope to be able to continue documenting the range of diversity among those profoundly engaged in mastering the spatial arts. My gratitude goes to the Dean of Architecture, Professor Toomas Tammis and the research

5


>

< PLATOON Kunsthalle in Berlin Christoph Frank Š PLATOON Cultural Development

Christoph Frank

Christoph Frank is co-founder of PLATOON, an organization moving in the borders between the communication, cultural and art sectors. The PLATOON network is a global platform enabling creative professionals from a variety of elds to share knowledge, insights and ideas; to present their projects to a likeminded community and to form interactive workgroups. Activities include a diverse range of subcultural events and developments. PLATOON has headquarters in Berlin and Seoul, providing platforms for exhibitions, workshops, lectures and discussions on street art, graphic design, performance, fashion, digital art, music, lm, club culture and political interventions. PLATOON is not a classic white-cube art institution; it is a place to develop creativity. www.platoon.org


Interview with Christoph Frank by Veronika Valk

Catalyst CF: PLATOON is engaged in 'cultural development' as one of its underlying themes, so we observe aspects of culture worldwide through the past 15 years. Within this we see grass‐roots movements and creative trends occurring. We look for an underlying bigger picture and begin to select innovators, artists, groups and formats to include in our network. From this vast network many independent projects are developed, but we also initiate our own projects and form a group of players to implement them.

Veronika Valk: What is 'creativity'? It is an overexploited word, but perhaps it means something specific to you? Christoph Frank: To me creativity means observing what happens around you, analyzing it and creating new ideas, visions or creations according to your thoughts and imagination of what should be. VV: Your work at PLATOON is hybrid. How does PLATOON produce 'new knowledge'? What are the benefits of joint hybrid practice, in terms of the future of design, architecture or urbanism? CF: PLATOON is not only a hybrid in terms of design, architecture and urbanism. It is also a hybrid of art, commerce, culture, communication, science and lifestyle. The clear benefit of this is that all these things influence each other. As we collect radical inspirations from all these aspects simultaneously we can produce a 'new knowledge' that has the potential for a much stronger creative influence in each field, so that each is inspired by the others.

VV: Designers today work under an 'innovation imperative' as if inside a perpetually accelerating wheel of innovation—innovate, show your innovation, innovate again, show again, and so on. How can groups such as PLATOON act as catalysts in this 'innovation imperative', and how can they resist it? Often a particular designer becomes associated with a certain visual identity —i.e. they develop their signature 'style'. However, your interventions are more like living processes: they are defined by action rather than style…

VV: How do you evolve these projects and the concepts behind them with PLATOON?

CF: For PLATOON, the process was never about an individual person, artist or innovator. Innovations

7


are always created by a group of people simulta‐ neously and often worldwide. Therefore, this kind of imperative does not influence our work. Since we are inspired by a huge and ever changing creative network, the movement and process of develop‐ ment itself is allowed and even expected to change.

VV: What kind of scenarios do you foresee as being beneficial in terms of advancement in architecture (or urbanism) in the future? In your opinion, what could or should be called 'visionary' in contempo‐ rary architecture and urbanism? Who are the peers, colleagues and collaborators—the visionaries—that inspire you and your work?

VV: What exactly is the role of PLATOON? Is it also about activating the audience?

CF: The following general mega‐trends are also relevant to architecture and urbanism: ‐ sharing instead of separate ownership ‐ DIY instead of design ‐ collaborative development ‐ crowdfunding

CF: PLATOON is a network, a platform and a catalyst of these movements. It is not only about presenting something to an audience. It is also about bringing people together to develop certain creations and about finding ways to make these creations relevant for the audience, via either com‐ munication, branding‐projects or simple realization. But there is certainly a lot of media and PR involved.

We must realize that the digital millennium will create solutions and realities that will have a tremendous impact on architecture and urbanism. For example, when the Google car becomes a reality, our cities will no longer need car parks. Public space will increase by 25% and there will be no more traffic jams. This will have the biggest impact on urban planning during the next 20 years.

VV: What kind of working conditions do you prefer? Do you prefer to work with a private or a public client? On private property or public space? In a large or a small team? CF: These conditions all have their 'pros' and 'cons'. Private clients move faster, but public clients are sometimes easier. Both tend to lack courage as they each try to stay in the mainstream rather than go radical. For us, the private realm is usually the more straightforward situation for achieving success. When dealing with public spaces a lot more lobbying and consultation is required and the public is often very sensitive towards certain artistic decisions. A smaller team is more flexible and can be better integrated with the philosophy of the organization, although there are limits. Bigger teams have the capacity to launch bigger projects, but these come with compromises.

VV: Since PLATOON operates across several continents, what, in your opinion, is happening to the European urban scene—both for the end‐user who has certain expectations about the quality of their living environment and in a broader sense? Compared with Asia, for example? [PLATOON has experience in Seoul.] CF: The European and American situation is not comparable with Asia. The Western world is old in comparison to what is happening in Asia. We will never accept such radical changes in our cities. We will keep our old structures and develop them further. Therefore, we must learn from the various experiments happening all across the globe. Here is

8


one I just found: http://vimeo.com/44611197. It deals with the dangerous situation in South Africa, but it involves economic impacts that are relevant to other cities. VV: You are planning to expand your activities to Russia (Moscow). How are your plans progressing? CF: We are currently developing a creative format that will be applied also to Russia: the Remake Festival, www.remakefestival.com. It is a 'makers culture' format which we have created in collaboration with a group of activists from Serbia. This movement is already being explored in Western countries, so we want also to test it in Eastern countries to see how open they are to our topics. Another PLATOON format has already made its way into the Russian media: BITCOIN EXCHANGE BERLIN. VV: Will we find PLATOON in Mexico soon? CF: We had our first mission to evaluate the situa‐ tion [in Mexico] in May. It was quite a success. One of our members is currently on a second mission to prepare a general presentation to the cultural public. So, we will see what happens! February, 2012

9


>

Jonas Norsted © Reio Avaste Lanternen in Sandnes by AtelierOslo © AtelierOslo

Jonas Norsted

Norwegian architecture of ce AtelierOslo consists of architects Jonas Norsted, Marius Mowe, Nils Ole Brandtzæg and Thomas Liu. AtelierOslo won rst prize in the competition to design the new Deichmann Library in Oslo, which will sit next to the awardwinning opera house by Snøhetta. Noted for highly re ned, articulated designs, AtelierOslo also won the Norwegian Wood competition for designing an engaging urban space for the Sandnes municipality plaza, part of a series of competitions organized to address different initiatives using art and design, to coincide with the appointment of Stavanger as European Capital of Culture, 2008. www.atelieroslo.no


Interview with Jonas Norsted by Veronika Valk

Time Veronika Valk: Is time important in architecture?

We have seldom discussed whether our architec‐ ture should be ageless or last forever, except maybe for the library. Of course, we would like our buildings to contribute positively to their location—for the place to be better than if we had built nothing there—and this goes both for the building’s users and for its neighbors. But architecture is not art and it is inten‐ded to be used. In the case of the library, we always discuss different scenarios and plan for all kinds of possible futures—including a future without books. Our solution is to make the best possible place for people to be—a building that everyone can simply enjoy as a free and inviting meeting place.

Jonas Norsted: Yes, very much. First, all good archi‐ tecture reflects its time in some ways—by invention, materiality or political significance. Place is also im‐ portant in this respect: by looking at a building in the context of its location, and by examining its construc‐ tion and its design, one can understand its historical significance. Historic buildings can be a source for inspiration and ideas, like a mine of precious mine‐ rals. Second, the way in which a building has been constructed will cause it to age in good or bad ways. If you use good materials, a building may become more beautiful with time, yet we can also enjoy rapid and experimental building that is not necessarily intended to remain in place for a very long period of time. Architecture has great potential for activating a place, and not only through massive structures. Simple things can also have a great impact.

VV: What extends the lifespan of architecture? JN: Architecture is like anything else—something that one has to care for and maintain. I believe architects can do a lot by proposing nice buildings, but ultimately it is the people who inhabit and use it that must ensure it does not fall apart. So it is a symbiosis. Optimistically, one may say that if one makes something nice that people will like very much, then they will most probably keep it alive.

VV: What does the process of aging mean for your work? JN: We do not think about aging in itself as a driving force, but we are very interested in materials, their surfaces and appearances. Therefore, we like to investigate how we can use them to underscore our architecture.

March, 2012. This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as ”Kui kaua elab maja?” in cultural weekly Sirp on 05.04.2012.

11


>

Fabio Gramazio © Reio Avaste Flight Assembled Architecture by Gramazio & Kohler © François Lauginie

Fabio Gramazio

Fabio Gramazio investigates spatial relationships and contextual behavior through programming, using the complementary potential of digital fabrication and traditional design. As Professor for Architecture and Digital Fabrication at the Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich, his research activities are concentrated on the development of fabrication processes for the additive production of highly informed, non-standardized architectonic products, explored within the teaching process in terms of their architectonic, constructive and economic potential. Gramazio & Kohler's recent works include the sWISH* Pavilion at Expo.02, the new Christmas illuminations in the Zurich Bahnhofstrasse, and the contemporary dance institution Tanzhaus Zurich. www.gramaziokohler.com


Interview with Fabio Gramazio of Gramazio & Kohler by Veronika Valk

Process even if it is static. For instance, we have worked with light—with Christmas decorations and illuminations that work explicitly with time. We built a long screen of light one kilometer long. Everything in that project was about time: the timing of thirty days before Christmas, the changes in the structure, and so on. Almost all of our other works are about move‐ ment—movement in space—but this is only con‐ ceivable if you also move in time, taking the time to understand, to read the project. But you also need to move consciously in space. There is no movement without time passing. Again we have a sequence.

Veronika Valk: How would you describe the importance of the longevity of architecture in your work and what is your concept of its 'lifetime'? Fabio Gramazio: The concept of time is very important in our work, but on another scale—on the scale of the design process, but also on the scale of the usage of the building. VV: How does the timeframe of the process of fabrication influence the outcome? FG: For us, time is essential because it tells us the sequence within the fabrication process. The sequence determines what will come out of the process and how the result will look. The sequence can also tell you if something is possible or not. During ”The Foam” project [investigating strategies for designing and fabricating panels with polyu‐ rethane foam], the sequence can totally change the formal aspect of the work. Thus, you can do some‐ thing that is defined by time or the timeline—like in music, where the timeline may be the most impor‐ tant element of the whole thing. On a larger scale, time is essential to architecture. Time changes archi‐ tecture. The foremost impact of time on our work is that once it is built it is supposed to perform in time,

VV: How would you describe the relationship bet‐ ween creative use and architecture (or building)? FG: The things that interest us can never be captured with a single image. You need many images, or a movie, or... The best is to visit the project, to go and explore the space. Another example: the key concept of the winery project is revealed when you move around the outside of the building, yet there still exists the possibility of taking a photograph. But it is not possible to take a meaningful photograph of the house which I presented in my lecture, since you can only understand the building when you are inside the

13


and people have come to regard it differently—it may even have shocked them initially and seemed very strange, but over time they have become used to it. In contrast, the installation we produced for the Venice Architecture biennale received very good feedback as it was in a professional context. Christmas decorations are for everybody, but if you do something that everyone likes then it is probably shit. With the decorations, we had people who loved them and people who hated them. This emotionality had little to do with our work per se, but rather with the sensitive topic of Christmas and the central location—it was installed on the main street of the town. This caused the radical polarity: there were those who adored the project and those who hated it, with no one in‐between or indifferent. I have never witnessed anything like it. This happens rarely in architecture, since you may build the strangest building and have those who hate it and those who love it, while the majority haven't even seen it so they don't care. Even if it has been published and discussed [in the newspapers] and so on, the majority are not interested in the building. With the Christmas decorations, it was in the [news] for a month the first time it was installed. It was on TV, and people were getting mad at each other. Of course, these were the emotions generated by Christmas—the expectations, doubts and faith associated with it. In the end it is about the freedom to be consumerist, for example, while at the same time pretending to be happy and generous. After all, what is a typical Christmas decoration?—A big billboard to sell more watches, clothes, or whatever. This conflict was expressed in the arguments about our project. We expected a reaction, but not to that extent and not with such totality. It was a shock to find out that even people who had never actually seen the project live had an opinion about it. We had obviously touched upon something that is

house, moving from one place to another, changing your perspective and relationship to the outside. VV: Perhaps your thinking on 'lifetime' and 'longevity' is also expressed through your choice of building materials? FG: It is not so conscious, but yes. Unconsciously, we tend to choose materials that have some specific aging process. Some materials age very well—they age, but conserve their qualities, characteristics. What we do not like are materials similar to polished steel, for example, because they do not change and look exactly the same after ten years. Personally, I like the aging of objects, and architecture that has the feel of history—this is about time again. A house with a history is far more fascinating than a new one. This is a paradox, since as an architect you are paid to build new buildings. But I would never build anything that to look as if it were [already] old. That would be a perversion. Maybe you could do it with fashion, but not with architecture. VV: Do you ever return to your projects to see how people are use them and what happens to the buildings once they are in use? FG: Yes. Perhaps the most radical case of this has been the Christmas illuminations, as they are set up every year and I have the opportunity to see them on each occasion. The work has not changed, but the way people perceive it has changed across the years, in an inverse relationship. It has been noticeable because the work is not permanent, but is re‐installed once a year for only a short period. In the beginning, people didn't really accept the work as it did not serve the usual clichés traditionally associated with Christmas. As the years have passed, the project has somehow become part of the street

14


somehow very sensitive but at the same time very interesting. It was never intended to be a social experiment, but an aesthetic and technological one. There was the technical solution to control light using computers—a novel solution that had not previously been available—but the project had a social effect that we could no longer control (though it was not for us to control). Traditional architecture would never have been able to provoke such heated reactions. We realized that the reason was in fact quite banal—[it was because of] the absence of iconography and [because] we had decided to use cool light instead of warm light (i.e. the usual yellow or orange).

of the exhibition. It felt strange. In the first moment you are scared because the flying things are like insects. As a human, it is difficult to relate to insects because you don't know how intelligent the insects are—[they] move very quickly or suddenly stop mid‐ air, pause or do not move at all, or they change direction very quickly and so on—yet you see the flybot as intelligent because it behaves purposefully. That kind of [insect‐like] movement is difficult for humans to interpret. However, the machines had a plan, to build a tower. Rationally, you know that the machines cannot have much intelligence since they can only fly and move objects from A to B, but once you become used to it you develop some kind of a confidence. This is also the case with a large robot—people are not afraid, because they can interpret its movements in such a way that it appears to have certain human capabilities. People think—though it's a stupid assumption—that the robot would not harm them. To a certain extent, something similar happened with the flying machines. The fear that the machines would crash and hurt a spectator because of the weight of the bricks, or because of an error, soon vanished. You realize that the flybots are just doing their job and that's fine.

VV: You mentioned radicality. Does this also arise from experimentation during the design process? For example, in another installation you experimented with using flybots to construct structures. People entering the space were initially shocked and frightened by the flybots flying around carrying bricks, but gradually as they began to talk to one another the atmosphere became relaxed. FG: That was indeed a design experiment. The exhibition was about performance, and we integrated those 'effects' of interaction between the public and the flying machines into the design of the event. It was meant to be an installation, since the actual project in itself would not have been interesting enough to be displayed in its final static form. The core of the project, the tower, is about a utopian future and refers back to the tradition of architecture where it was common practice to propose an 'ideal city', as in the Renaissance, for example. On the other hand, reality is always physical so the installation was very calculated. We tested it first on ourselves to see not only what it would look like but also how it would feel to be part

VV: What is the 'human element' in the design process? What can be delegated to robots and what is up to humans? FG: Right now, in our current set‐up, we use computers and robots—not the internet or anything more intelligent than a computer that performs calculations. We are interested in the next stage. I do not discount the possibility that artificial intelligence will evolve, but in our current pragmatic approach we work with bricks because bricks are what we have now. We make it very clear that the

15


role of the human never overlaps with the role of the machine. The computer makes calculations, the robot produces things. The human factor is important because without the human there is no design. But I would not place these in a hierarchy, since there is no design without the robot either. Really, it is about partnership. Normally we have to turn it the other way around, because when we talk to people we find that they are often afraid that if we begin to use computers or robots they will take over the role of the designer. That is why I showed the 'table project' [“mTABLE” / “mSHAPE”] during my lecture. That only happens if the designer is not willing to do her job. Otherwise, the human and the machine are complementary and give access to another level of design. I like to think of the human as a partner to the machine. I like to think of the human and the machine as being equally important in the design process. They depend upon each other.

robot to do something that I am capable of doing myself? It could be that I am lazy or that I do not have enough time. In that case it is automation, not design. Designing is not about mass production, it is more about the quality of what you do. Another thing is the execution—once the design is finished you need a collaborator to enable you to translate it into reality. The creative act is very clearly human. Nobody wishes to delegate it to machines. This also relates to people's fears that they do not know what the machine can or cannot do—it is a fantasy to think that a machine could take over the job that they love. VV: Have you ever experienced a desire that the robot would be creative? FG: Not in our set‐up, because our robot is really stupid. On a conceptual level—in terms of visionary thinking—yes. I do not know if it is desirable, but it is possible. Imagine that a robot or machine has intelligence: How far could that intelligence go? Could it start to be creative? In the flybot project, the human came up with the concept and did the programming, the computer performed the calculations, and the flybots produced it, and that is it. The result is fantastic, but that is it. However, with the 'sand project' [proposes the use of granular materials such as sand as a reusable molding material to fabricate unique building elements in concrete with a minimum of waste resulting from the formwork] the scenario was more complicated. If the robot has a laser pointer for measuring and uses those measurements in a further process then I wouldn't speak about creativity or intelligence, but something happens in the control loop that is no longer under human control. Of course, a human initially determined that the robot had to take certain measurements and make certain things and

VV: Are there ever moments of frustration during the production process when you find that the robots are unable to do certain things instead of humans? FG: During the prototyping process we still do things by hand that would be delegated to machines at the second stage. This is not frustrating. It is just the process of design. You go through [numerous] iterations, improving the design and the process. If you find yourself asking that question then something has gone wrong in the design process. If the robot designs the house and I then spend days and nights drafting up each different slat on the facade, then something has gone terribly wrong. I would decide that it makes more sense for me to design the house and let the computer calculate all the different elements and shapes, so that I could then examine and review them. Why would I want a

16


Fabio Gramazio, (dipl. Architekt ETH SIA BSA) is Professor for Architecture and Digital Fabrication at the Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich, since October 1, 2010. His lecture Digital Materiality in Architecture showed both the practice of 1 Gramazio & Kohler and their academic research, which is focused on the concept of Digital Materiality. Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler are joint partners at Gramazio & Kohler Architects in Zurich. Their recent works include the sWISH* Pavilion at Expo.02 (for IBM and SwissRe), the new Christmas illuminations at Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse and the contemporary dance institution Tanzhaus Zurich. Their professional activities also include developing innovative construction and material solutions. Owing to their interdisciplinary experience, Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler have developed a rigorous and detailed understanding of the integration of CAD and CAM logic in the architectonic and construction process. The research activities of the Professorship for Architecture and Digital Fabrication are concentrated on the development of fabrication processes for the additive production of highly informed, non‐standardized architectonic products. Parallel to this, strategies are developed to enable the use of these new production possibilities in architectural design. The architectonic, constructive and economic potential of these developments is then explored within the teaching process. An industrial robot, developed by the assistant professorship and with a production space of approximately six by three meters, is used for research and teaching, and permits the direct construction of building parts on an architectonic scale.

so on, but the result is different from what you would predict. Thus, there are two options—the dynamic and the deterministic. With the dynamic method, it is interesting to consider which part of the creative process is going to be shared with the machine and to what extent. Should it be that the very first concept is provided by the human and the rest is for the machine to calculate? Such questions arise many times in the arts. The question is also about the extent to which design is about the original idea or about the execution. This question is unanswerable. This is true even with conceptual or abstract artworks. In architecture, so many things happen along the way of translating an idea into reality, into matter. Every collaborator has an impact on the outcome. The better the design of the process is in the beginning, the more control the human has over the execution and the end result. The opposite is to deliberately give up control; and yet this is also a control mechanism, as it is the human who set the process up in such a way. The example of the 'table project' suggests the freedom of the user to customize the product. And yet, how free are we in making these everyday decisions? Is there really freedom choose in a market where everything is already predesigned, pre‐decided? Perhaps, in the end, it doesn't matter what you choose.

April 6, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Kas kogu võim lendrobotitele?” in cultural weekly Sirp on 20.04.2012.

1

www.gramaziokohler.com ; www.dfab.arch.ethz.ch

17


Salmaan Craig giving a lecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts Faculty of Architecture in Tallinn Š Toomas Tammis Yazd: Iranian pre-historic 'refrigerator' architecture Š Villem Tomiste

Salmaan Graig

Salmaan Craig studied Industrial Design before undertaking an Engineering Doctorate hosted by Buro Happold and Brunel University. During this time he designed and tested a biologically-inspired material for protecting buildings from solar and ambient heat, while allowing them to cool through atmospheric re-radiation into space. He then became a Facade Engineer at Buro Happold, developing his interest in the interaction of materials with heat for projects such as the Abu Dhabi Louvre. Now a member of the Specialist Modelling Group at Foster+Partners, he tries his best to record, develop and put into practice the disparate ideas for thermal material structures that occasionally wake him from sleep. www.fosterandpartners.com


Empirical Breathing Buildings: Veronika Valk on the lecture given by Salmaan Graig at the Faculty of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts

the material is best evident on the nanometric scale as the atomic‐level processing of the matter allows us to use technology to construct structures the same way as in nature: atom by atom, molecule by molecule. The invention of new building materials with special features provides the architects or designers with the opportunity to use for instance highly strong fibre and composite nanomaterials and also various high‐tech foams. What are the possibilities for designing a passive house using biomimetic materials, atomic layer deposition and solid films? Craig's 'breathing facades' bring the fresh air in through the wall without any heat loss. By testing porosity and air tightness, he has come to constructive solutions in which the external air is heated to the required temperature on its way through the external wall into the interior. Air moves through the ribbed micropipes resembling the projections of a neural network precisely as fast or slowly as needed for heating the air. “Just imagine— in case my solutions take shape and come to be implemented, we may soon find ourselves inhabiting a new era with no ventilation pipes,” the engineer says. However, Salmaan Craig does not actually work on the nanometric scale, but one understandable to

On his visit to Tallinn, London‐based designer and engineer Salmaan Craig gave a lecture ”Towards a New Desert Architecture“ on the use of hybrid building material in solving the heat transfer problems in external walls. Salmaan Craig had studied product design before enrolling at the doctoral programme of engineering at the Brunel University in London. In the given study programme, the doctoral candidate's research is conducted in a company over a period of four years and thus Craig began working at Buro Happold. Although primarily a company of top construction engineers whose founder Ted Happold had close cooperation with German architect and engineer Frei Otto, they have now turned also to environmental technology. In the course of his research, Craig designed and tested materials inspired by biology in order to protect buildings from heat and sunlight, dreaming of so‐ called breathing houses where the cooling is based on natural ventilation with the thermal radiation reflecting back to the atmosphere. Craig's lecture exhibited how the scale may sometimes turn out to be more important than the matter. The characteristics of materials become evident in their behaviour in a different situation. The connection between the behaviour and scale of 19


learn in the physical world? Would you say that you prefer direct experience and measurability to indirect information and computability?” Craig's research in engineering is indeed based on empirical experience—that is to say genuine physical tests with various building materials and performance data in variable conditions rather than computer simulations used by most architects at present. “In case of tests it is important to know what exactly is studied and what is the expected outcome,” he says, adding that the results must be 'presumed' in a way. He also prints out the virtual CAD‐models to study their features, durability and behaviour in the physical world. Thus, although in Craig's research the physical tests and virtual models go hand in hand, the starting point and output are constituted by the reality around us.

3D printers: the precision of the latter is 200 micrometres. An important role is also played by the adaptability of the material to its location, that is, topology and self‐location, similarly by heat absorption, thermal radiation and the resistance to cracking. Here, Craig also considers the temperature of the so‐called relic radiation of 2.7K above absolute zero (‐270,5°C) in the cooling system thus in a way borrowing from the pre‐history of the 'refrigerators' of Ancient Greece and Arabic countries. He has studied the functioning of the ice‐ building pyramids in Meybod (Iran) and the collection of condensation water both in desert environment and hot climate in general. Craig has been inspired by the discoveries and experiments of Marc‐Auguste Pictet, the physicist, chemist, astronomer and meteorologist at Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who studied the thermal radiation of 'cold' and 'hot' objects, and the reflection and absorption of this radiation. He has also been attracted to concepts such as the so‐called Trombe wall—passive solar building technique by engineers Félix Trombe and architect Jacques Michel from 1960s (with the original idea patented by Edward S. Morse in 1881), to glass sponges, silicone membranes and the impact of colour on the structure and internal architecture of the material. During the discussion following the lecture, Martin Melioranski who is an architect, researcher and director of 3DL at the Faculty of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts asked Craig, “In the past ten years, architecture has witnessed strong bias towards digital computation and simulation. Even longer in the domain of research—already in 1970s and earlier. I gathered from our previous discussion that you have certain reservations about computer‐aided research. Do you think that algorithms will one day catch up with what we can

April, 2012

This article was originally published in an Estonian translation as “Hooned hingama” in cultural weekly Sirp on 26.04.2012.

20


>

CJ Lim Š Reio Avaste From Smartcities to the Food Parliament: an investigation into the urban consequences of food transparency Š CJ Lim

CJ Lim

Professor CJ Lim has over 20 years' experience in the design of the built environment, and is listed in Debrett's People of Today and the International Who's Who for his architecture and academic contributions. In 2004, the Guardian and Independent newspapers listed him as one of the New British Talents in Architecture, and the Iakhov Chermikhov Foundation in Moscow included CJ Lim in their top ten of young international architects in 2007. In 2006, the Royal Academy of Arts' Summer Exhibition in London awarded CJ Lim the Grand Architecture Prize, a prestigious award with past winners including Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Colin St John Wilson. In addition to practice, he is the Professor of Architecture and Cultural Design at the Bartlett, University College London. www.cjlim-studio8.com


Food

What Can Local Peas Do for the City?

Kadri Klementi, Aet Ader

biologists. Cross‐sectoral cooperation stands for continuous adaptation, as we learn something new every single day. It's clear that the objective of architectural education can no longer be an Architect with a capital A, as the study areas related to built environment have undergone major changes in the past ten years. It is very well evident for instance in my bookshelf: while the books bought a long time ago are primarily related to architecture, then the more recent ones have taken unforeseen leaps to farther subject areas.

Visiting Tallinn in April in connection with the visiting lecturer series at the Faculty of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts, architect CJ Lim explains why we should take a more reflective look at our dinner plate and relate the sight to the urban space. CJ Lim is the founder of Studio 8 Architects based in London and a Professor and Vice‐Dean at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. Lim considers both the shuttling between the academic and professional worlds and the constant change of scale characteristic of his daily job: one day you plan a whole city or urban district in Asia, the next day you compile a book with finely cut paper illustrations. The architect compares it to the change of gear in driving—various projects alter the adjustment of the whole office clockwork accompanied by constant adaptation, evolution and refreshment.

KK: Could we say then that in addition to the expansion of people's scope of interests we may also detect the convergence of previously partitioned topics? CJL: Yes, certainly. The world has changed tremendously mainly due to changes in knowledge building and exchange of information. We are simultaneously dealing with the broadening of knowledge and the convergence of very specific knowledge. It is probably conditioned by the attempt to make the world more economical.

Kadri Klementi: Are universities catching up with the kind of teamwork that is characteristic of your company? CJ Lim: Both at the office and school we work with a number of various specialists: energy conservation engineers, landscape architects, constructors and geographers, even with nutritionists and medical

Aet Ader: Your office is in London but you also work

23


a lot in China. How did this happen?

carbon‐neutral cities, but if everyone makes a small contribution, we can reduce the emissions. One way is to reconsider the local food industry and urban agriculture. In the United Kingdom over 90% of the fruit and vegetable are imported. Remember when a few years ago there was an ash cloud covering Europe? Our supermarkets were empty! Most of the vegetables come from North or South Africa, for instance Kenya. Could you believe that? It's such a long way! And this thought frightens me. There are vast expanses of agricultural land in China. But farmers do not want to cultivate fields any longer. They want to go to the cities. And the government does not consider this to be a threat to sustainable development. It's not that the farmers should be stopped, but there is nobody to encourage them to continue their present lifestyle either. The population of the whole of Europe is smaller than that of China. Imagine if the Chinese imported their peas for instance from Kenya! When talking about the energy balance, we mention solar, wind and tidal energy, but nobody notices that also food energy should be included there.

CJL: It all began with a project that we were asked to do in China in 2004 with a site of 11 km². In order to fully comprehend the site we had to set it against some of the areas we knew already such as Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York. It was an extraordinary chance to work with something so large. And in China such opportunities are given also to first‐timers. That would never happen in England! But it's different in China. Sometimes they make good choices, sometimes not. But they always have a vision and bring together people who may not have done such projects before but offer new and fresh ideas. In England and in other European count‐ ries it's customary that once you have designed an airport, you will always design airports and if you haven't designed a museum before, nobody will ask you to do it either. So it's very odd in terms of prog‐ ress—you are constantly offered the same ideas. KK: It's interesting that we first talk about the convergence of various professions and then immediately go over to the problem that architects and project managers or customers do not understand each other.

KK: In other words, we would actually need a global food policy?

CJL: I hope it will change. Increasingly more people who are not architects or planners have joined the discussion on built environment. I believe that the whole society will become environment‐friendlier and we will think more about buildings that provide shelter.

CJL: Absolutely! Globalisation should not be seen as a profit machine but as culture enabling us to support each other symbiotically. This is what I also discuss in my book “Smartcities + Eco‐warriors” drawing attention to those urban areas where it's possible to produce food but also to how the landscapes of food production could express the characteristics of the city. Instead of constructing the buildings first, we should work the other way round: the whole city should be designed on the ba‐ sis of green areas and food production which will la‐ ter determine the location of buildings and people.

AA: Would it be possible to include everybody if we started a city from scratch? CJL: That's the only way to do it! We have to think about so many topics. It's not possible to build

24


CJL: It can work two ways. When building a city on former agricultural lands, the population is already dependent on agriculture. They must be respected and considered when building the new city. They could be the local food producers taking care of the vegetable parks. And symbiotic relations could be built upon that: for instance, as a doctor or lawyer I may not be interested in horticulture and I will lease my plot in exchange for a weekly basket of vegetables that is, a part of the crop—it's a win‐win situation.

KK: What does urban agriculture look like? CJL: There's a photo in my book of people digging a vegetable patch in front of the parliament building in Berlin. There was not enough food after the war and so people began to grow their own potatoes and other vegetables. The whole of Hyde Park in London was one large field of potatoes. What I want to say is that we as the designers of the built environment should think more about the function of parks, rivers and forests. Parks must form a part of our energy balance. In the Chinese project it was our suggestion to establish a park with a vegetable garden. Food production may also be beautiful. We should appreciate edible landscapes more.

KK: Does it also mean less dependence on monetary economy? CJL: Yes. I think that any discussion on cities is interesting if it questions the 18th‐century systems that we now consider to be natural. It is similar to the vicious circle with designing airports or museums we discussed earlier. In Tallinn I visited a museum that was actually a narrow gangway in the Old Town paved with the story of Tallinn in dates. Amazing! It's just a public passage, nothing more! Genius! Why should a museum always be a box with a grand entrance?

AA: What about social sustainability? Does urban agriculture join people? CJL: Certainly! Social cohesion is highly important. Urban agriculture may not be sufficient to feed everybody, but providing even a part of our daily nourishment would make a great difference. And it is equally important that urban agriculture or horticulture makes us go out of the house. Why should we force ourselves to do exercise? Digging the ground keeps us fit and also allows us to meet the neighbours and share something. Estonian society is calm and quiet but in larger cities the population is considerably more versatile and the social relations tense. Urban agriculture and food are excellent means for relieving the tensions: it doesn't matter whether you are Catholic, Jewish or Muslim—we all eat. We can all talk about food and have a passionate relationship with it. Urban agriculture is the most peaceful religion.

KK: We've already talked about the Chinese, but what is the Europeans' attitude to urban agricul‐ ture as they have already estranged from nature? CJL: Horticulture is certainly not for everybody. But it remains a fact that in London you have to wait for six years to get your allotment garden! There's a great interest in it and I'm sure it would be even greater. If not for the crop, then for the social interaction. The state and municipal governments spend a huge amount of money on promoting social cohesiveness. Urban agriculture is a considerably more organic means for that than the more traditional ones.

KK: How does urban agriculture function? Is it related to small enterprises?

25


KK: Could it be the rise of the offline? People are yearning for real contacts? CJL: Absolutely! Real contact with real people is highly important! Already now you can do practically everything online—even order a bag of groceries from the supermarket to your door. But then your selection is limited to food that you already know— there are no such moments that you pass something that smells wonderful and you decide to try it. Should ordering food home become a prevailing trend, the food selection will become very limited. Supermarkets are curious mechanisms: they know what you order and sell the information to food producers. KK: What a frightening idea! CJL: Isn't it? And all of a sudden we are eating only cabbage and carrots. Already now we have special urban farms in London with chickens, goats and cows so that schoolchildren would see where their food actually comes from. Life in a large city may limit also one's knowledge. When I'm in China I always tell the government (that I work for): don't try to make western cities! Instead, learn from our mistakes and don't repeat them. I often hear, “We want cars!” And every time I have to answer then, “Oh, no, you don't want cars!” London, New York, Paris, Copenhagen all want to make their city cent‐ res car‐free and attract cyclists instead. Tallinn is such a small city that cycling would be perfect here as well. I know that there are some very cold months, but then it could be replaced by an eco‐bus system. KK: Estonia is a very car‐centred society. CJL: There are precisely the same sentiments in

China. They feel that they have been an agrarian society and moved around on bicycles for so long that now that they have money they want cars. “Your cities are filled with cars, so why shouldn't we get them?” they ask. And I reply, “You don't understand—as soon as you have cars, you also have serious problems!” KK: Precisely, it's not about buying a car, but buying a problem! CJL: Exactly! And Tallinn should notice the wonderful opportunity to decrease their contribution to the carbon emissions. Just think about it, it's a small city where 7 or 12 kilometres is a long distance! It's an opportunity to grab on! Also walking is a pleasant means of transportation. You see things when walking. There aren't too many people living in Estonia. AA: 1,3 million. KK: We are practically non‐existent. CJL: And this is your strength! I hope that the new generation will make itself heard. It's very important for the city to be abreast of innovative and visionary planning. City officials must come and see what the students are doing. The preservation of cultural heritage is naturally important and your Old Town is just gorgeous, but now you have to think about what to concentrate on next.

April, 2012.

This article was originally published in an Estonian translation as "Mida kohalikud herned linna heaks saavad teha?" in cultural weekly Sirp on 25.05.2012.

26


>

Cover of The Sniper's Log: An Architectural Perspective of Generation-X by Alejandro Zaera-Polo Alejandro Zaera-Polo Š Reio Avaste

Alejandro Zaeraâ&#x20AC;?Polo

Alejandro Zaera-Polo is a contemporary architect of international reputation, as well as a treasured educator in leading architecture schools around the world. He is also a proli c theorist, widely published in different professional media. He is founder and director of Barcelona- and Londonbased Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture (AZPA) and cofounder of London-based Foreign Of ce Architects, which has been recognized as one of the most creative design rms in the world, integrating architecture, urban design and landscape architecture, and producing internationally acclaimed and award-winning projects for the public and private sector. http://azpa.com


Pragmatic Present day needs pragmatics: a conversation with architect and educator Alejandro Zaera‐Polo

Triin Ojari

ly separated from one another. The highly ambitious architectural bureau Foreign Office Architects (FOA), founded in 1993 by Zaera‐Polo and his partner Farshid Moussavi, was closed permanently last year when both partners opened their own practices, but Zaera‐Polo has stated he will continue working in his offices in London as well as in Barce‐ lona. As he recently started working at Princeton, he might also do something in the US as an architect. Zaera‐Polo visited Tallinn and the Estonian Academy of Arts as a part of a series of lectures by international speakers.1 He spoke about the envelopes of buildings and his analysis of the last five years, regarding the relationship between this so‐called skin and politics.² He was critical and ironic towards the contemporary world; he sees the role of architects as limited and restricted only to one specific field. He advised architects to be moderate and pragmatic, to find possibilities within the frames of the projects: “to be creative in another way”. In his analysis of the envelopes of buildings, he has truly linked the roles of practitioner and analytical researcher; his observations are connected with specific buildings and materials, while his personal experience also plays a key role. Zaera‐Polo, somewhat cynical today, sees the way

Born in Madrid, Spain, Alejandro Zaera‐Polo belongs to that generation of architects of the second half of the 1990s, who first worked at famous architectural bureaus (at OMA, Rotterdam from 1991–1993), then on a widely publicised project (together with Farshid Moussavi, he won the compe‐ tition for the Yokohama International Passenger Terminal in 1995) and increased his reputation with his active involvement in the academic world. In addition to being an architect, Zaera‐Polo has been a professor and a Dean in the Netherlands—from 2002 to 2005 the Dean of the Berlage Institute, and after that a professor of architecture at the Delft University. He has also led the Diploma Unit of the Architectural Association in London and from 2012 on, he has been the head of the School of Architec‐ ture at Princeton University. He has successfully united the roles of practitioner, insightful thinker and visionary educator. As he mentioned, he never sees himself as one or the other: these roles always complement each other (although, it is true that his role as an academic does depend on his role as a practitioner working in the market of architecture). This is also characteristic of European architects. In the United States, the segregation is more obvious: academia and the practice of architecture are clear‐

29


Yokohama terminal, a symbol of the young “folded” architecture at the end of 1990s, has changed in today's world, full of cultural conflicts. That faith in a democratic world where a young architect has the possibility to work freely has changed into a corporate view of the world where borders are imposed hand in hand with nationalist neo‐ conservatism. Right now, they would probably not name their bureau Foreign Office Architects. The conversation with Zaera‐Polo took place on a rooftop terrace with a view on the city, together with the Dean of the Department of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts, Toomas Tammis, and Veronika Valk, an architect and one of the organizers of the lecture series. It continued during the lecture's Q&A and later on, in virtual space.

AZP: You can be creative within the frames of the system, as a project manager. Creativity manifests itself in another way. The problem is not that the Americans are bad somehow, they might even be more developed. Maybe Europe really is an old‐ fashioned world, but at the same time, it is not going anywhere. It simply encompasses an increasingly smaller part of building. The reason for that is that the public expects certain kinds of results; they want to control the architects as during the last 15 years they have often created a big mess. I am not surprised that the public is critical towards architecture and does not consider architects to be very effective. We have seen a whole generation of star architects that struggle to realize their sketches while acting as if they were geniuses.

Triin Ojari (TO): How do you see yourself at the moment—as an architect or as an educator?

TO: That leads us to the question of education in architecture—does it, and how does it react to the changes in society?

AZP: I would say both. For many years, I was only involved with architectural projects and did not teach at all. At the moment, I am not so busy and am focusing on academia for a few years. In that sense, I am very European; I do not follow only my financial interests like Americans or Asians, nor am I purely an academic. Of course, that is the way of life I enjoy more. At the same time though, I believe that it will be increasingly hard to manage like this in the future —buildings are becoming larger and more complicated and the customers want better management and specialized integration—this will also dominate in architectural practice and in the Anglo‐Saxon model. Architecture will be less than 10% of the professional service.

AZP: I do not have a universal recipe for academic work, even though, a while ago, I thought I had it. During my Berlage years, I had a more clear vision what the role of architecture was. Right now, due to the global situation, the picture has become more complicated. At one end of the spectrum, there are schools that teach students to work wherever, on the international scene, where a certain specializa‐ tion is needed. In Europe, architects still mostly work locally, while in the US big corporations dominate and that is a totally different practice—they work in the global arena. The European bureaus are smaller and connected with local projects; Asian agencies would also rather work locally as the demand there is enormous. When I applied for the position at Princeton, I was asked to present my agenda. The Princeton School of Architecture has a specific focus—it is a

TO: The decrease of the creative element is a sign of our times. How has the field of architecture changed in these years?

30


quite eccentric and small school that does not cater to the system of large corporations. Right now, it ranks 18th among the schools of architecture in the US—and that is not good enough, we should be on the top 4 or top 3. It is, after all, one of the wealthiest universities; it is an elite university that could use different funds to basically buy the kind of students they want and still the situation is not satisfactory when it comes to working in large corporations. In my view, Princeton does not have to create a supply for large corporations, it should instead occupy a niche in the American system, and Princeton graduates could work for Frank Gehry or Diller + Scofidio, for example. Obviously, this kind of specialization could only take place at a small and wealthy university. I would be careful in saying what needs to be done today. There is no one single way to teach architecture, it all depends on the environment and the way you position yourself compared to others and what your alternatives are.

and place was very different than today—Rotterdam in the year 2000, and the economy did well. Veronika Valk: With the emerging of practice‐based doctoral studies that originated from Australia but have also taken root in Europe and, to lesser extent, also in the US, the world of academic education in architecture has also changed. What exactly is science and what is research? AZP: I think there is a catch here. The type of education given in the US is extremely schizophrenic—not actually within education itself, but because of the divide within the profession. There are the ones who teach and others who practice. These two worlds hardly ever come together. This is not the case in Europe; most relevant players have a certain connection with academics. I'm more sceptical about design or practice‐based doctoral studies.

TO: Was your time at Berlage, the beginning of the 21th century, different?

Toomas Tammis (TT): Many schools, among those the Scandinavian schools, try to do that. The question here really is funding—there is a certain amount of money designated for research and if your field is not considered valid within that system, you simply will not get the funds. That is why the schools of art, design and architecture are emphasizing that the work within those fields is equal to a PhD in other fields.

AZP: Unlike Princeton, Berlage had strongly focused on practice. People were going from the school to OMA, to MVRDV and other local bureaus in Rotterdam that were doing very well. That was the time when the education system was concentra‐ ted on the idea of globalization with the goal of promoting big names, and through that change, education in the field of architecture as well. Every school tried to produce a new Koolhaas or Gehry, the works were similar everywhere and that was extremely boring. Berlage was trying to make the point that this kind of object‐based star archi‐ tecture does not have much of a future. We must pay attention to specific research topics and be realists, not speculative analysts. However, the time

AZP: So, the question is more about finance. I think of design as having and using a program—whether it is typological, site specific or something else. When you are creating, designing something, the result might be a prototype you can sell all over the world but the question is really about making the best screwdriver or the best machine. For me, a PhD means people who are not selfish and serving only

31


their own practice but are doing something for the entire field. Could you really do your PhD simply by perfecting your own practice? That seems more like lower‐level study.

model has become multilateral. Overall, it is a positive process, although it may bring along certain problems. As a democratic approach will probably make projects significantly complicated, it may well mean that architects will no longer be able to challenge the authority. It is a difficult question: how much freedom does an architect need to achieve the necessary suspense.

TT: The question is whether a university gets accredited or not—it will not happen without having doctoral studies, so the schools of arts offering higher education have started to demand that they can be recognized as equals. Whether a practice‐based PhD is equal to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, is another question.

TO: Returning to the topic of your lecture, the political aspects of the envelope of buildings—is that analysis based on your personal experience and practice?

AZP: As architects, why can we not focus on programming the city or other wider topics that are not research but not practice either? The kind of topics that are connected with the practice of architecture in a broader sense—it would be relevant and I do not see a problem here. As a designer, you constantly have to think about funding, technology, public opinion and many other aspects. Practice means synergy between several factors. It is highly questionable to get scholarships from public institutions for research or for a project. As architects, we are capable of finding relevant research topics on the global arena and creating knowledge that can be translated and shared.

AZP: In a way, the whole envelope issue is a reaction to the horizontality. During our Yokohama project, we felt like the world was open to us, like we could work wherever we liked. By now, I have come to the conclusion that that is not the case; borders are a vital system in architecture as well in politics. The issue of the envelope is an attempt to say that even though there are many mechanisms for connecting that are important culturally as well as for the contemporary world, the problem of how to separate things from one another should be thought of more. Environmental concerns do not play a marginal role here. Modernist houses were extensively transparent, linking the interior and exterior, but when it comes to heating and the inner climate of these houses, they are not very effective. Sustainable development emphasizes exactly that limit which, for the contemporary culture, will also become an iconographic issue. Sustainability will be the challenge of the future. The interior of buildings is usually highly regulated—the depth, width, use of the office space, etc.—and even though one can always say that as an architect they are being innovative and will make great changes, I would say, “Yes, maybe” to that, as globally, there are more

TO: How would you characterize the role of architects in urban planning at the moment? To what extent could architects intervene—maybe they are more like curators and mediators who work together with local communities and other non‐professional user groups? AZP: I do believe that design management as a method is becoming more and more important. Architects must get used to the fact that the management of a project and its commissioning as a

32


and more rules and to question them all will be very difficult. You have to accept the reality and manipulate it effectively. There is no need to fantasize about how to reorganize the space within a shopping mall—the client knows that very well already and you are only needed to design the casing. We are not inciting a revolution; the question is how to explain things in a way that people will understand. They have to be made visible for people to connect with them.

can change time and space. In comparison with the 1990s, it is completely different and our architecture also reflects that.

May‐June, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Kaasaeg vajab pragmaatikuid. Vestlus arhitekti ja koolijuhi Alejandro Zaera‐Pologa” in Estonian architecture magazine Maja, 3/2012.

TT: How has the world changed compared to the 1990s? Have global capitalism and its business plan really taken over? In Yokohama and in the Blue Moon Hotel, you applied the concept of total design, you designed every last detail. Today, however, buildings are part of a business plan with very little room left for changes. AZP: For me, there have been two great changes. In 1991, the world was different, environmental concerns were not an issue; now I believe they will be the main force in the construction industry for the next 20 years. The issue of the envelope of buildings is crucial here, as 80% of the problems with energy saving can be solved through that—we are becoming increasingly dependent on passive energy. Another important change is connected with the political landscape and globalism—September 11, the Arab Spring, the so‐called clash of cultures. We were all enthusiastic about the free movement of the workforce, the merging of the cultures on a global scale and the free world. We built flowing houses with no boundaries and tried to capture the essence of the world then. Now we know that this world does have its borders, that we cannot continue as we did and that architecture must propose an iconographic image for this new situation, set limits for itself regarding how much we

1 During the open lecture series at the EAA, many younger generation

experimental architects presented their ideas: PLATOON, Atelier Oslo,Studio8, Mass Studies,Multiplicity etc. ² See: Alejandro Zaera‐Polo, The Politics of the Envelope. A Political Critique of Materialism. – Volume, 2008, No 17, pp 76–104.

33


Cabinet of Future Fossils © 2014 Jenny E. Sabin Branching Morphogenesis SIGGRAPH 2008 © 2014 Jenny E. Sabin Jenny Sabin © Reio Avaste

>

Jenny Sabin

Professor Jenny E. Sabin is an architectural designer, artist and educator. Her research, teaching and design practice focus on the contextual, material and formal intersections between architecture, computation and science. Through the visualization and materialization of dynamic and complex datasets, she aligns crafts-based techniques with digital fabrication alongside questions related to the body and information mediation. Sabin was the rst non-scientist member of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering (IME) at the University of Pennsylvania and has co-founded and co-directs the LabStudio together with Peter Lloyd Jones. Sabin is also a founding member of Nonlinear Systems Organization (NSO), a research group at PennDesign. She currently teaches in the area of Design and Emerging Technologies in Architecture at Cornell University. http://jennysabin.com


Interview with Jenny Sabin by Veronika Valk

Reciprocity Frequently, colleagues make suggestions as to who I should collaborate with, but just because I collaborate with scientists doesn’t mean that I collaborate with all scientists. There’s just so much out there, and you have to focus and dig deep in order to actually get something out of it that is meaningful for us as architects and designers, and in architectural terms. In the context of my collaboration with Dr. Jones, I was introduced to the notion of reciprocity—a concept of mediation and feedback between the context or extracellular matrix, and the code or DNA. This provided a potent and dynamic model for me to consider, especially the concept of biological reciprocity— how context specifies form, function and structure.

Veronika Valk: How difficult is it to begin a project? Quite early on you decide what is relevant to your practice, to pre‐screen what interests you and what connects with your diverse background. How would you describe this intuitive process? Jenny Sabin: With my earlier collaborations, such as with Peter Lloyd Jones, I didn’t necessarily know at the time if there was a right or wrong, or a starting point for success. A refined intuition for knowing where to begin came through the projects and the processes, which included both successes and failing productively. VV: I like that term a lot—‘failing productively’.

VV: From the kind of biological systems that you are looking at today, where are you headed tomor‐ row? Do you already have a hunch about that?

JS: That’s where new knowledge is produced. I don’t necessarily think it matters where you start, but where you take it. In the context of trans‐disciplinary collaborative work, there are specific biological systems that may be more productive for architects to study over others. For me, an understanding of which systems are more beneficial over others has come through process and communication. I’ve relied on my scientific collaborators to focus our area of inquiry and what to look at in terms of biological systems, because it can get overwhelming.

JS: I’m interested in jumping scales. I’m fascinated by what materials scientists are doing with biomimicry in terms of looking at whole animal systems. This is fruitful ground for next generation adaptive materials and responsive architecture. I’ve spent a number of years now looking and working at a cellular scale and that’s been really productive in

35


terms of understanding systems of communication and form, but I’m now interested in jumping scales. For example, there’s another biologist, Peter H. Niewiarowski at Akron University who specializes in adult geckos and biomimicry—he studies the whole animal, which is rare.1 A lot of people who specialize in geckos focus on the feet, or on a particular system that is specific to the gecko, but Niewiarowski has a very systemic approach that is beginning to move into materials design. This is what I mean by ‘jumping scales’.

abstraction, otherwise the result responds only to itself or remains schematic. VV: The notion of ‘failing productively’ has been somewhat alien to architecture as a profession— architects have not been allowed to fail productively, as society expects them to maintain the credibility of the profession. JS: It’s part of the process, but it’s not talked about. When approached by an important client or a big corporation, one puts on a different hat. ‘Failing productively’ is part of my teaching and part of my research, but when it comes to producing projects for clients, one doesn’t talk about failure. It makes them nervous. I simply describe this part of the process as a series of successes. I need the client [in order to] produce the project. They help materialize ideas that may otherwise remain abstract and within the realm of visualization or at best, simulation. Clients approach me based on what they’ve seen emerge within my entire practice, so they’re always very interested in the research and my links to the university. But there are different goals at hand.

VV: Is there a limit to this jump in scales? How far can we jump? How far could it go? JS: I don’t know yet as I’ve worked primarily with biological systems that are at a very, very small scale—cells. I haven’t worked at scales beyond that, with things that one can see with the naked eye or hold in the hand. My way of working and teaching is always through phases that bring in external, architectural constraints. To be able to answer the question meaningfully, one has to work with the systems and the problem of scale. In the end, it is not necessarily about translation, but more about embedding and ‘productively contaminating’ the system with external constraints. So it’s a constant back and forth movement, where the tools for visualization and modeling are redesigned according to contextual constraints such as programmatic issues or site‐based and material parameters. In the end it might not be a huge leap, but there’s a manifestation that takes place, which brings it into the world of architecture as opposed to leaving it within the domain of biology. I imagine that starting at a different scale would entail constraints that prompt new questions. I often choose to start with a mathematical or algorithmic starting point, but the process is still the same—one has to move beyond

VV: Do you have certain clients that you prefer over others? Those which allow this ‘fruitful contamination’ to take place? JS: Thus far, the most fruitful clients have been institutions such as museums—the American Philosophical Society (APS) Museum was fantastic to work with, since they were so open.² They were so excited to be in a dialogue with me, so they placed very few constraints on the project. Now I’m working with Nike Inc., which is an entirely different experience when it comes to the resources they have for innovative projects, but like the APS

36


the future be like? The project also draws upon historical relationships between nature and humans —how information about nature and science is disseminated and communicated to the masses. The greenhouse itself was entirely made of plastics. Greenhouses have historically been the subjects of technological and material innovation. My greenhouse looks to the future, but in the context of contemporary waste and in consideration of what we are leaving behind. The longevity of the green‐ house is in this sense infinite. The ceramic objects housed within the greenhouse vitrines and micro‐ climates exhibit a certain amount of permanence.

Museum they are incredibly open and interested in fostering experimental work. They are helping to open doors and make things happen at a level that I’ve never experienced before. Thus, it’s a learning process. The collaboration with Nike takes place in the context of new technologies and also in the context of sports and physical activity. VV: The museum example speaks of one type of client—the cultural or art institution—but have you been approached by any scientific institutions? Would that even be a possibility? JS: I’ve been approached by scientific organizations that are interested in my digital work in terms of custom toolsets—visualizing data, for example. Some of those projects have been fruitful, but it’s more about involving me and my students in specific tasks. It doesn’t happen so often that they’d come and say: “Let’s go and experiment together and see where it leads.” We do design our own tools through scripting and writing code, mostly within existing software such as Rhinoceros. We also use Processing [an open‐source software tool for the visual arts] to animate and visualize systems. In the past, I worked with Generative Components, but at a certain level of geometric complexity the model gets quite ‘heavy’.

VV: How about building‐in evolution? Making something that has an evolutional life on its own? JS: I’m interested in personalized architecture and how buildings may act like organisms in their own environments, adapting to change and environmental feedback, much like the biological reciprocity that I described at the beginning. The types of effects that could be elicited by such adaptive architectural elements and interfaces could achieve a flip or phase change between the tangible and the intangible, from material to immaterial. Precisely how that would work, we don’t yet know. I am interested in probing the human body for design models that give rise to new ways of thinking about issues of adaptation, change and performance in architecture. My collaborative eSkin project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, starts with these fundamental questions and modes of design thinking, and applies them towards the design and engineering of passively responsive materials, and sensors and imagers. The goal of the eSkin project is to explore materiality from nano‐ to macro‐scales, based upon our understanding of nonlinear, dynamic human cell

VV: When you produce objects or things, do you think about their longevity? Take Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils—do you project those into the future and consider how they may interact with the environment? What happens to them in the future? JS: In some respects, Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils was a spin on the topic of sustaina‐ bility and longevity—what might the digital fossils of

37


behaviors on geometrically‐defined substrates. In contrast to a purely technical solution to the problems of sustainability, we are specifically interested in the role of the human in response to changing conditions within the built environment using minimal energy consumption. I’m very interested in the lifecycles of buildings from a systemic point of view. The kind of ‘eco‐wallpaper’ (to use one of Michael Hensel’s terms) that’s been plastered everywhere is a quick‐fix, working politically as big business. In order to really make change we have to rethink the whole problem and conceptual framework for sustaining sustainability.3 It’s not about ticking a series of checkboxes to gain LEED certification—it’s about thinking more systemically about design in the city, in culture, in society.4 In the US at least, the problem has been treated as a technological one only, and that’s how it’s taught in our schools, but it’s a much bigger animal than that. Even if technology is the key factor, we have to consider that we live in a built environment. But what is the culture of that environment? How do we live and work sustainably within that?

They’re not always going down the most efficient route. And maybe there’s something to that. [Outside, from a nearby courtyard, we hear the growl of a Ferrari’s engine bursting into life.] June 2, 2012, in Kalasadam at the waterfront in Tallinn This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Arhitektuur, tootlik põrumine ja tulevikufossiilid” in cultural weekly Sirp on 22.06.2012.

VV: Referring back to the cellular level, the cell has just 50 cycles until the cell dies—biological things are not meant to live forever. JS: In biology, adaptation is the key. Biology presents interesting models for us to consider in architecture. Yet those biological systems are not necessarily always efficient in their adaptation.

1 http://www.uakron.edu/biology/faculty‐staff/detail.dot?identity=1201909 2 http://www.apsmuseum.org/ 3 http://aap.cornell.edu/arch/events/events_details.cfm?customel_datapageid_2742=517822 4

LEED: Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design—the United States' building sustainability ratings program. http://www.usgbc.org/leed

38


>

>

Sioux Clark and Tim O'Sullivan of

Multiplicity

The Church by Multiplicity Š Emma Cross Tim O'Sullivan and Sioux Clark Š Emma Cross

The Australian of ce Multiplicity combines the talents of interior designer Sioux Clark and architect Tim O'Sullivan. Together, they have won a number of awards for sustainable architecture and design, among them IDEA and RAIA (Victorian Chapter) Awards in 2005, as well as 2000 Museum of Victoria 'House of the Future' Ideas Competition in conjunction with AlsoCAN Architects. Tim & Sioux's work deals with the challenge of reinterpreting existing buildings, the bene ts of re-using old materials to give the space texture and history, and the importance of forming a sympathetic relationship with clients while encompassing a multiplicity of disciplines in architectural practice. www.multiplicity.com.au


Interview with Sioux Clark and Tim O'Sullivan of Multiplicity by Veronika Valk

Joy Veronika Valk: You said in your lecture that 'architecture takes time'. 'Time' seems to be a really important element in your work.

tend to be not so particular—there might be very particular IT or heat requirements, but it's not quite so personal. We like to take the time to truly answer the brief, to truly create situations where somebody is comfortable living. It becomes less about 'us' and more about 'them'. On the other hand, for the project of converting a church into a home, the process was influenced by the nature of the builder. The project was built over a longer period of time and we had the luxury of having discussions with the church people. But what I want to emphasize is that we always need to ask the tradespeople what they think about the construction and if they have any suggestions. We work with them toward an outcome.

Sioux Clark: Especially when working in Asia, architects say that they are always pushed for time. It is as if they do a sketch, go out to the supermarket, and find that someone is already digging the foundations. From our perspective, time is necessary for thinking about architecture even if it has to be produced quickly. Having time to think and work out the details is important to us. Tim O'Sullivan: The way we design: when given a problem, we come up with a solution, but put it aside to then come up with another solution, and then create another solution, and so on. So, in our work we often come up with ten different solutions and then sit back to decide which solution we like the most. Sometimes we discover that there could be an amalgam of other solutions. That's just the schematic level. Afterwards we begin detailing the project—to really get the details right—and that takes time.

VV: So you don't only take time to design things, but you occasionally jump in and build certain parts of the project yourself? TOS: We spend more time on the building phase of the project than on the design—problems occur, materials may not be available, builders become nervous about certain details that are not solved until the building construction is underway.

SC: We are currently very client‐based. We do residential work and thus we have to answer a particular brief. With commercial projects the briefs

VV: Can you tell me about your sense of 'locality'— as an architect who is present on‐site, present for 41


the client? And how do the long‐distance clients and projects work out for you?

the process with the architect, then you don't need to the site as much. The problem really occurs when the client doesn't know what architecture is—we call this a 'nervous client'—and a builder who is not used to the kind of work required—for example, when they do standard work rather than architecture. Then the architect can end up with lots of problems.

TOS: We have a project now which is a four‐hour drive from our office. SC: We are also doing a project in Perth which is a four‐hour flight away.

SC: Contemporary technology makes communica‐ tion easier. Everybody has an intelligent phone—the builder can take a photo of the site, sketch onto the photo with his phone and send it to us. We can then just ring him or send a sketch back. Communication, especially visual communication helps a lot. Working in another country, the smoothness of the process would depend on the site conditions and having somebody there for the duration. Say we have been asked to do a conversion of an abando‐ ned church in Haapsalu—that would mean that one of us would be there, communicating on the site one‐to‐one, but equally working through technolo‐ gies, as the discussions need to reach back to the office as well. You can be remote from your office and still work in the office. It is a matter of the nature of the project and how important it is to be there at the time. Long distance work is becoming more and more possible. I don't know how [Alvar] Aalto worked, but there's a whole history of architects who worked in another country. I'm not quite sure how they coped with it or managed their time, but I assume that they were there at the time, or that somebody from the office was there at the time.

TOS: We structure it in such a way that once every week, or once every two weeks, we visit the site. We continue doing this until the job has reached a certain stage and we think the builder understands [what we want]. Then we step back and just make phone calls. It can kill you. The church project nearly broke our office because of the amount of time we spent going there just to have chat with the builder… SC: Well, we had a very bad builder. Having a really tight budget means that people tend to go for the lowest tender. You interview the builder to make sure he can do the job, but sometimes they are just not up to it. Then you have to nurture them, babysit them through the process. If you are lucky enough to work with really good builders, they get an idea of what the architect wants fairly quickly and then you don't need to worry as much. TOS: We've got a really good builder in Melbourne at the moment working on a project, and he understands. He's quite a visual person and he'd look at all our drawings and all our details and he'd just go: “Yep! I understand what you're doing!” He'd ring us up and talk through a problem. He'd say: “Don't worry! I'll work it out anyhow.” If you've got a good builder then you don't need to head to the site as often. If you've got a really good client, who understands the design and is prepared to through

VV: You chose your materials very carefully, sometimes even collecting certain elements yourself over time. You seem to like collecting things and then finding a use for those things in your projects. You select very carefully what fits

42


and may or may not happen here in Estonia is that in the residential sector, people move around. It means that something that has been done for one person becomes inherited by another. Quite often they will want their own setting, and even some serious architecture is not protected against alteration. So, even though a project could last a 100 years, it doesn't mean that it is going to last a 100 years. Here in Estonia we visited a building from the 16th century and that was quite an experience for us.

where and for what purpose. Do you go back to your projects after they have been completed to see how the materials are aging? Here is the third dimension of 'time' in your work: what happens to the buildings once you've delivered your part. How long do you think your projects will last—30, 50, 100 years? What is the effect of time on architecture? SC: I guess we might consider a time span of 100 years. We don't know whether this works or not. If the designer puts time and thought into something then there's a likelihood that it will be done well enough and that it will last. Having said that, the building needs to go to a good owner because any architecture needs to be nurtured by its owner.

VV: That leads to my next question about adapta‐ tion: How, or to what extent, does architecture need to be able to adapt to new uses, to new conditions? You mentioned in your talk that you could imagine the converted church becoming a church again at some point? Do you consider the possibility of this adaptation already during the design process?

TOS: Buildings need to be lived in and they need to be cared for. SC: For example, we went to a house by Aalto somewhere between Helsinki and Jyvaskyla. It was built for a composer but has been turned into a museum. There were cobwebs all over the place. One could imagine the building moving into a more advanced stage of disrepair. We like to think that our projects will be around for a long period of time.

TOS: Indeed—a lot of our work is in historical buildings and we try to redesign them in such a way that what we add can be read separately—and can thus be removed. A lot of our work is designed also in a way that one can unpack it on the site, but later on pack it up again and take it away. It is often like a kit of parts that can be screwed together and can be pulled apart—a lot like an installation. In the end, it depends on the budget, who the builder is and what the client wants. We do often take the view that buildings ought to be able to adapt, but it's hard for architects to forecast what the future brings, since society is changing at an unbelievably fast rate. It is hard to make spaces function as adaptable and for the user to be adaptive in them. The difficulty with making the space really adaptable—openable, etc. —is that people are usually lazy. If there's a foldable wall, they won't really want to fold it back.

TOS: Our budgets are pretty small, so we don't often have the ability to be working with the mate‐ rials that we know will be there in 100 years' time. SC: Using recycled materials in an appropriate way might mean, for example, that in one project we used stainless steel lift doors as wall coverings. Those doors had already been in use for 40 years, so they were all scratched, but there's no reason for them not to be there for another 40, 50, 80 or 100 years. The thing that seems to happen in Melbourne

43


SC: Space can be used in a variety of ways and it can change function. We don't necessarily give labels to spaces: wardrobe, bedroom, dining room. TOS: Even our office is a perfect example of this line of thinking. During the day it is our office—upstairs is Sioux's study, but it's also our bedroom, and when the staff leave at the end of the day we pack everything away and it all becomes our dining, kitchen and living area. Adaptable space works when the user is able to participate. SC: The more significant the building is the more adaptable it must be. A lot of our schools are built in such a way that the gymnasiums can be public meeting spaces and become a local center for something else—for example, for public performances. Thus there is another life over and above the original use. However, a lot of office buildings are built only to be occupied eight hours per day, even though they could be used for longer than that—during the night or over the weekend. TOS: More often, the truly adaptable buildings are also really beautiful, breathtaking spaces that have been designed with a strong intent, brief and purpose. Imagine you have a book to study and you instantly think that this would be a great place to sit back, relax and read. Society demands that we have multipurpose spaces and this going to be more so as the population increases and there is less space and less money to build with. We have got to be more adaptable. SC: Our work is very much about life, ventilation and movement. All the spaces have access to daylight and they change according to light conditions. And one moves through the spaces—the circulation route means that one can change the way the space

is used. We have a very benign climate. In Melbour‐ ne, a really cold day means that it is +10°C or +5°C outside. Your buildings in Estonia close down, but our buildings open up. TOS: You should hear people whinge when it gets down to +10°C during the day or +5°C during the night. People have started to take everything for granted. VV: If buildings need to adapt and it's always up to the end‐user to play around with the building, then how do you trigger that kind of playfulness? How do you catalyze the end‐user to exploring the possibilities of adaptability? Do you have hidden experiments in your work? SC: It has to be fun. The designer has to entice people to do things. We're doing a couple of projects in that line at the moment. There's one with a big shutter system, a bed‐and‐breakfast project by the beach where the louvers are quite large and are in front of a big glass wall. One could instantly imagine a button to push to open or close the louvers automatically, but we're trying to develop a system with a chain and a big wheel that needs to be turned manually. Sometimes we also like to install big sliding doors. There are couple of buildings by Steven Holl where rooms close up in beautiful planes. Thus, we although we design the buildings for somebody's needs, we also look for ways to create an opportuni‐ ty for particular atmospheres to emerge and to allow the clients to discover them on their own. VV: Do the clients need a 'starter kit' or 'user manual' to get going?—Something to trigger their imagination?

44


SC: Sometimes we may make certain things a bit difficult—'to get to this, you will have to do that'—so they discover the tricks themselves.

VV: I have a feeling that this element of surprise— of the unexpected—is the human element in your designs.

TOS: Another example of how we pay attention to seemingly dull things: I love door handles. We pay attention to the things one touches and door hand‐ les are just one example—how do you make a person want to go and pull that door open, or close it, or move through it. We address the building as one touches it or experiences it. Pulling things out of the wall allows one to play with vibrant colors that chan‐ ge the atmosphere and hue of a room. And then it becomes part of a game—changing the space for the user, who begins going around looking for cues.

SC: We try to think through everything. Most of the time we understand how things will work out, but the clients never really understand until they inhabit the space and then they get it. TOS: Good clients love humor. Architecture is such a serious profession. There are so many architects who are so serious about it! Everything! It makes me want to be a little silly. It is just my natural reaction to when people are too serious. We know that life is serious and that architecture is serious, but we would also like that to be some humor. We enjoy laughing and we enjoy life. That has a natural effect on our architecture. It is reflected in our response.

SC: Sometimes [fortunate] accidents happen. In the warehouse project we had a cellular, polycarbonate wall as a stair balustrade, and because it is so smooth people tended to touch it all the time as they went up or down the stairs. We discovered that during thunderstorms, when it is really humid, touching the wall releases a little static electricity and the entire wall goes green or glows. Of course, this was a complete accident since the emphasis was on having a material that would reflect light— that would be easy, smooth and serviceable—but this whole other thing came along.

June 14, 2012, on a terrace in Tallinn's Old Town

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “25D‐arhitektuur: aegruum pluss kohanemine” in cultural weekly Sirp on 26.07.2012.

TOS: There are always minor experiments, but we are not conscious of them. They just occur naturally. SC: It also depends on the personality of the client—on whether he or she is energetic or lazy. So we might occasionally test our clients to understand what the client might not like or whether there are things they should be doing. We have long relation‐ ships with our clients and they usually end up really well, but they can be very difficult along the way.

45


> >

Minsuk Cho Daum headquarters on Jeju island by Mass Studies Š Kyungsub Shin Ring Dome installation for Yokohama Triennale by Mass Studies Š Mass Studies

Minsuk Cho

A graduate of Yonsei University (Seoul) and the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University (New York), Cho won the Architectural League of New York's 'Young Architects Award' in 2000 for his work at his former of ce Cho Slade. In 2003, Minsuk Cho founded Mass Studies in Seoul, Korea. The of ce is involved in critical investigation of architecture in the context of mass-production, intensely overpopulated urban conditions and other emergent cultural situations that de ne contemporary society. For each architectural project, Mass Studies explores issues such as spatial systems/matrices, building materials/techniques and typological divergences, to foster a vision that enables the discovery of new socio-cultural potential. Currently working on projects of various scales, ranging from small residential projects to large towers, Mass Studies also designed the Korea pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. www.massstudies.com


Interview with Minsuk Cho by Veronika Valk

Reuse MC: We've done smaller, slower and more costly projects where we were fortunate enough to have clients with an ambition to build something that lasts. In other projects, we had to take into account that the building might only last for 30 years, which is the average lifespan of a building in Korea. We did a project 6 years ago which had a 'model house' typology. It was a temporary cardboard dummy‐ model for a large real estate project, showing dwelling units for sample apartments. Once the sales are complete the dummy is usually demo‐ lished, but we had a client who wanted to install the model house as a semi‐permanent building and the building became a cultural centre for the area.

Veronika Valk: Cultural specificity is so important for us as architects … Minsuk Cho: I can, perhaps, speak for my home country. Koreans are incredibly collaborative, it's as if there's no competition—people are extremely nice to one another, even though the society is very hierarchical. On the other hand, community initiatives like those we see in Europe or in the US are limited in Korea. It's a culture that is no longer based on a localized community. I see how little time people spend in one place. Once we were farmers, and as farmers we were grounded by a certain place for generations. Today we're drifters, finding other places to live according to where our work may be, where the kids go to school etc. This has been happening for 30 years, but like Europe the population has started to shrink. Like Estonia, Korea is among the most connected countries in terms of accessibility to the internet and web‐based services, which makes the culture increasingly mobile.

VV: Speaking of programming, has the boom in Korea had an impact on lifestyle? MC: The internet boom has had a huge impact on lifestyle. I'll give you an example from my neighborhood where our office is—an urban setting with alleyways. The alleys used to be for cigarette stores and laundromats, but have been replaced by a hipster invasion with shops for designer goods. At some point I began to notice that no one really buys anything from these street stores any more. I

VV: Speaking of drifting—it also relates to the lifespan of buildings. How would you describe the influence of longevity on your architecture? What is your concept of the lifetime of a building?

47


realized that they were offices for internet‐shopping businesses, disguised as mini‐flagship spaces for brands. The street pretends to be an area for fashion retail although the industry doesn't really need it, but these companies still need the urban setting. For some reason, they still a need spaces to meet and gather.

residency, which lasted for 7 years. The fact that artists are used for inventive urban regeneration is a mechanism produced by capitalism. But how much responsibility should be put on the shoulders of artists? Must artists really solve all the problems?

June 14, 2012, Tallinn Old Town

VV: So there is potential for non‐programmed spaces, where anything could happen? What do you consider to be the impact of your work on the broader urban scale, and in the future?

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Sildistamata ruumid” in cultural weekly Sirp on 02.08.2012.

MC: I am currently interested in doing heavier projects. I have an ambition to make them into very beautiful ruins in the end, because each has its own inherent architectural value. The current economic system has turned the whole value system upside down. Most buildings are now built solely to generate revenue and these low‐grade structures are torn down and rebuilt, with higher sales values and land prices going up. It's the vicious circle of a money‐making tool. It's strictly about fiscal value and has little to do with architecture. This is what capitalism does to society. VV: We've got Soviet era 'ruins' around the Old Town and on the waterfront in Tallinn—structures which just stand there, empty, without any use or purpose… MC: Korea also has this problem, but more so with buildings and urban spaces that were built only a few decades ago, sort of like 'instant' ruins. For example, Seoul used to have 20 different subway lines and massive amounts of underground space. We did a project for an independent filmmakers association and turned one of those unused underground spaces into a film studio and artist

48


Haakon Rasmussen © Reio Avaste Ørnesvingen viewpoint by 3RW Arkitekter © 3RW

>

Haakon Rasmussen

Haakon Rasmussen is CEO and owner of 3RW architecture of ce in Bergen, Norway. He's been teacher and diploma tutor at Bergen School of Architecture, guest teacher at the architecture department of Tamkang University and at Shih Chien University. He's also been commissioned as an advisor for governmental and municipality agencies during the past 10 years. 3RW is engaged in a broad variety of projects, from private houses to consulting the Norwegian Ministry of Defense in developing new strategic concepts for their properties. 3RW architects have received the AR award, were overall winners in the Architectural Review award in 1999 and won the Ralph Erskine award in 1997. In 2008, 3RW won the Europa 40 under 40 award. www.3rw.no


Interview with Haakon Rasmussen by Veronika Valk

Regeneration in Norway appeared only in the 1970s and in that sense this is all very new and has not yet been thoroughly researched. However, academic interest certainly exists—even more so because it is still all a work in progress and there is the opportunity to learn new things.

Veronika Valk: You have a very specific view about the future of the Norwegian coastline. You have also done quite a lot of work with the Ministry of Defense with regards to environmental contamina‐ tion. Estonia has a lengthy coastline and a legacy of military and industrial pollution to deal with. Do you have any advice for Estonia on these issues?

VV: Often the problem we face in Estonia is that the issue of the environment is regarded only as the issue of the 'natural' environment, but not as that of the built environment.

Haakon Rasmussen: In Norway, very strict rules and regulations have been set out by the government regarding pollution. In the 1970s, the law of Environmental Protection was introduced. Following that, a special law was introduced to deal with pollution, which regulates who is responsible and how the pollution is to be dealt with. Apart from that, there is an entire ministry for environmental protection, as well as agencies for climate and the environment. These are continually elaborating the rules on environmental protection. It has almost become a science in itself. It is based on research, and continues to evolve. Without all of the above it would be very difficult to gain the support for these projects from all of our citizens. Thus it all begins with a legal framework that forces everyone to think in the same direction. On the other hand, environmental protection is a very new subject. As I said, the corresponding laws

HR: In Norway there's been a similar political goal, whereby 10% of the natural environment is considered 'wilderness'. There are designated protected areas such as national parks, nature conservation areas etc., where no manmade structures can be built. This goal has almost been achieved, but there are also problems related to it. When you make something into a national park or a protected area, many activities become prohibited. All of a sudden it is prohibited to use motor vehicles, helicopters and so on, and this can affect farmers, forest workers and others who are trying to make a living from the forest. However, in Norway the focus has been on both natural and manmade systems, especially with

51


regards to the coastline where the shipping industry is one of the concerns. For example, in almost every harbor in the world, boats are taken out of the sea and the paint is scraped off before repainting. But this paint contains PCB [Polychlorinated Biphenyl, a broad family of man‐made organic, toxic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbon—VV] and I imagine that there are enormous quantities of PCB on the seabed around every harbor, in every country. It's a huge mapping project to get an overview of the quality of fish and crustaceans, and of the levels of heavy metals and PCB in particular. That's why a major project has been launched at a naval base in Northern Norway to clean the entire seabed of a small ord. They're pumping up the whole seabed, filtering it, and moving the hazardous material elsewhere. It costs so much that there is no other way to do it than via a rigid framework of legislation.

various categories. Still, many parts of the infrastructure are run like private businesses—they are part of the market economy and administered as corporate enterprises, but often the government is the majority stockholder and guarantees the fine balance required to ensure that basic human needs are being met. For example: if you look on a map at the state‐owned military shooting ranges and compare them to private shooting ranges then the latter add up to 10 times the size of the state ones. Yet the private ranges lack the resources to take care of environmental problems. I believe that the centralized system is taking better care of the environment because it has an overview of the history of the site and thus potentially an overview of the complexity of the site. From this, it also has the capacity to arrive at a consensus both officially and unofficially. The big challenge is to get everyone on one side. After that it's about figuring out the strategy, tactics, technicalities and costs necessary to achieve the desired result. Take, for example, a forest that needs to be cleaned. You don't want to be too invasive. First the cleaning process needs to preserve biodiversity, but you also need to consider future possibilities—a different utilization of the area in the future will generate different environmental thresholds. However, when dealing with a new housing area the strictest rules apply—for example, in Norway there's a rule that a small child should be able to eat half a kilo of soil from their home grounds every day without getting sick. Once you begin to explore what the problem is, and what the possibilities are, then the reality needs to be taken into account.

VV: In Estonia, there is a trend toward reforming public infrastructure so that it is privatized. Do you have any advice about this? A variety of SOEs are all on the table: Eesti Energia and Eesti Post (both profitable), Elering (the backbone of Estonia's monopoly electricity network), Andmevara (state databases and information systems requiring data security and protection), Estonian Air (making a loss, but still in much better shape than, for example, Air Baltic), Eesti Loto (the main funder of Estonian Cultural Endowment and The Council Of Gambling Tax—the major sponsor of Estonian culture) and Tallinn Port (the Estonian sea gate for both tourism and cargo). HR: Privatization for privatization's sake is not the answer. Pretty much all of the infrastructure in Norway is controlled by the government. The tendency is to differentiate the infrastructure by

VV: To imagine what the reality should be is one thing, but the reality itself is another thing. How do we go about taking the latter as our starting point?

52


HR: Consider Tallinn waterfront. Enabling this area to be used as an area for swimming or for living is not a clever use of resources. We have to accept that we cannot consider the area as available for residential development for a long time. We must wait. It is possible to implement methods that would take, let's say, 50 years—a waiting period. It could be that the area first needs to be cleaned and thus arises the question of what to do with the area during the transition period.

ledge during the implementation of the project. Architects tend to know a little about everything— enough to know who to contact and which skills to outsource to ensure a project's success. In that sense, architects are good project managers for conducting environmental projects. We are trained for this; trained to think and act in such a way.

VV: In your experience, would it be possible to set up a sort of semi‐natural situation whereby nature is allowed to take over in order to help clean‐up the area?

HR: By working with things that don't add up— giving students assignments where there's never a clear path from A to B. We aren't interested in the result, but how the student got there—how he or she responds to the task, and his or her own work. Imagine a painter …it's about stepping back to see the whole picture even while the picture is not finished. It's necessary for the whole profession to see the ways in which things are solved in other countries and in other cultures, since these influence the ways in which we question things, approaches…

VV: The navigation of excess data seems to have a lot to do with intuition. How do you train that?

HR: Exactly, there's some research done on this issue, especially for marshland. The trick is to use the natural processes to treat the pollution without being too invasive. Another way is to plant certain species that bind heavy metals, for example. VV: Will this kind of knowledge form a part of our profession in the future?

September 7, 2012. Tallinn.

HR: Yes, but not only for us. We need to collaborate. The environmental scientist and the hydrogeologist are good at taking samples and analysing them within the scientific field, but they are not necessarily able to discuss the design of future scenarios for living.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Keskkonnakaitsel on väga hea rakendada arhitekte” in daily newspaper Eesti Päevaleht on 25.09.2012.

VV: What might be the future of the architecture profession? HR: Urban regeneration needs to incorporate a multiplicity of skills and a variety of knowledge, as well as coordination of the symbiosis of this know‐

53


Oron Catts © Reio Avaste Pig Wings by The Tissue Culture & Art Project © Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr Victimless Leather: A Prototype of Stitch-less Jacket grown in a Technoscienti c "Body" by The Tissue Culture & Art Project (Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr) © Krzysztof Miękus

>

Oron Catts

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project (which he established in 1996) is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he founded SymbioticA, an artistic researchcentre housed within the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, at the University of Western Australia. Under Catt's leadership, SymbioticA has gone on to win the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008. He is currently the Director of SymbioticA, a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction at the Royal College of Arts, London, and a Visiting Professor at Aalto University's Future Art Base, Helsinki. www.symbiotica.uwa.edu.au


Interview with Oron Catts by Veronika Valk

Post‐Human more optimistic. For my kids' sake and for the world they're going to grow within I would like to believe that the human future will be interesting. I would avoid being anthropocentric.

Veronika Valk: What are your views on transhumanism and posthumanism? Oron Catts: I am not a transhumanist, but a posthu‐ manist. For example, organ transplants pose a huge controversy. With tissue engineering, when you try to grow a new organ outside the body, it doesn't work. For the past 20 years scientists have tried to do it. The successes are in skin growth. Trying to create a functional organ is not going to work very well. That is why a lot of the research is within stem cell research where you put the stem cell inside the body and within the context of the body there's the attempt to grow the new organ. Still, there are serious problems. Additions to the body that are not functional—like Stelarc's work [an Australia‐based performance artist who incorporates themes of cyborgization and other human‐machine interfaces in his work—stelarc.org] —are possible.

VV: How far could the merger between the human being and the environment develop? OC: If we allow the engineers to take over, then the human future is actually in big trouble. The engineering logic is single‐minded and narrow, dealing with control. To look at a cell, for example, as a set of simple biochemical reactions, is dangerous. The ambition to engineer and control matter using nanotechnology is dangerous. What's going on in the heads of synthetic biologists goes in a similar direction, yet they've started to use a much more careful language, aware of how complex biology is. I'm talking about the language of control. The scariest is what we are starting to hear from neuro‐engineering, as there's more and more rhetoric about controlling our thoughts, our minds, how someone thinks. For you, coming from a background of a very totalitarian regime, it is easy to imagine how seductive it might be for the leaders and politicians to control how people operate. For example, it's ridiculous how in Israel they are doing

VV: As an architect I must provide a guarantee for the buildings to last for 30 to 100 years. I must incorporate the future in my work. So what could a human being be like in a 100 years time? OC: There's no straightforward answer. I used to be pessimistic, but now that I have kids I must be a bit

55


research on implementing ways to immunize soldiers from post‐traumatic disorder. They are aiming to use systems of bio‐ and neuro‐ feedback to teach the soldiers how to turn off areas of the brain that might be damaged once they've been to the battle. In essence, they're turning people into psychopaths, because by shutting down the biological mechanisms of the brain which tell us that what we do is wrong and dangerous then those people might not have a trauma afterwards. It's the type of engineering logic that's creeping into the ways in which society functions. Quite a lot of my work is about saying that the hype around the technology is not what we've been told, that it's not valid to de‐contextualize life. As artists it's our role to point out where things are going wrong. I believe in the uselessness of art. Art is provocative, forcing people outside of their comfort zone. Art shouldn't be didactic, it shouldn't be involved in warfare and those kinds of things. Art should be subversive and operate in a different way.

from the lake, trying to figure out how the decisions that she made at her farm made a difference for the lake. This goes back to the idea of how all everything is connected, as Joe Davis likes to say. VV: How about other areas, for example medicine, doctors? OC: I also work quite a lot with doctors, and they're very different from scientists. In medicine, they are on the forefront of this interface between biology and engineering. If they allow the engineering logic to take over, if they don't have any affinity to the living, to the idea that life is special, then they shouldn't be doctors. The challenge for the future of medicine is to find a way of using the scientific knowledge to treat the patients without surrende‐ ring themselves to the engineering mindset. VV: Estonia has a Gene Bank with more than fifty thousand samples from donators. The idea is that this helps to diagram certain traits and features characteristic to our nation and to deduct the kind of diseases we're vulnerable to. The official future prospect would be to apply some preemptive or predictive measures in practicing medicine. And in my opinion that fits into the engineering logic?

VV: Art is nonetheless not disconnected from everything else that is happening. In the European Union the spatial planning issues are left up to the member states—there are no general rules for spa‐ tial development. On the other hand, the under‐ lying policymaking interferes with the planning.

OC: True. Even more so as there are 10 000 times more non‐human cells—yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms—in our body than our own human cells. It makes the human microbiome project ever more important, compared to the human genome project. It's not just the gene pool that makes you Estonians but also what you eat, the water you drink and what environment you live in. Certainly the more knowledge we have the better. Yet the moment we think we understand something, then we try to control it and make use of it. When the

OC: This is also the case for example with the Lake Clifton thrombolites in Australia. It's on the borderline of the national park. Everything that has to do with the living conditions of the thrombolites is outside of the national park. The border of the national park is only a visual border, but in fact everything that is important for those organisms to survive is outside its jurisdiction. There was an artist in residence at SymbioticA working on her PhD, Catherine Higham, who lived in her farm 500 km

56


human genome project was developed, the rhetoric was about the products that would come out of it. VV: We live in a world of Feasibility Studies. OC: In Australia, we call them the KPI, the Key Performance Indicators. But life is something else. It's wet and slimy. We've spent the past 10 000 years trying to protect ourselves from the moist, slimy, living things. Why do architects now think that it's so romantic to live in a tree? When introducing new life forms, it's necessary to consider that they don't take over, roam free or become weeds. VV: The rhetoric about growing cities is objectifying the cities as much as it's about objectifying nature. But are you afraid of anything, let's say in the lab when you're working with living organisms? OC: I'm not afraid of life. But occasionally I'm afraid of the conceptually problematic ideas proposed by some people. VV: Perhaps evolution comes through conflict rather than consensus? OC: According to Lynn Margulis, the biggest leaps in evolution are about joining forces, about collaboration rather than conflict. It doesn't fit the capitalist thinking, the power play of market forces.

September 14, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Kunstnik, kuller tulevikust?” in popular science magazine Horisont, 6/2012 and as “Biomeedia uus vana dogma” in art magazine Kunst.ee, 4/2012.

57


> >

MACRO museum in Rome by ODBC © Roland Halbe Opera Garnier restaurant in Paris by ODBC © Roland Halbe Odile Decq © Reio Avaste

Odile Decq

Odile Decq graduated from La Villette in 1978, while studying at Sciences Politiques Paris where she completed a post-graduate diploma in Urban Planning in 1979. International renown was soon to come in 1990 with her rst major commission: the Banque Populaire de l'Ouest in Rennes. Together with her partner Benoît Cornette, they were awarded the Golden Lion in Venice in 1996. Since 1998, Odile Decq has been faithful to her ghting attitude while diversifying and radicalizing her research. She has completed the MACRO (Museum for Contemporary Art in Rome) in 2010, the Opera Garnier's restaurant in Paris in 2011 and most recently the FRAC (Museum of Contemporary Art in Rennes) in July 2012. www.odbc-paris.com


Interview with Odile Decq by Veronika Valk and Triin Ojari

Danger impose what is favorable for me on others. I wear black because I don't want to wear anything else. I love black—when I see something black in the store I just go to it immediately, instinctively. But I didn't want to punish others with my obsession.

Veronika Valk: There is a strong element of scenography in your work—in the way you attend to how people move through the space, the bodily relationship to the space. Odile Decq: I love spaces where I can move, where people can travel, where the body is free. I think about how we 'practice' a building from the very start. How we practice space as a human body in the building. In that sense yes, it is a narrative way or a scenographic way, an intuitive way to approach architecture. I start by going to the site, reading the brief, and then we begin to think about the design in a group of 2‐3 people. Ideas come through communication, explaining the ideas through little working models, reacting to them, redrawing them. It's more of an intuitive rather than a preconceived architecture.

TO: Using black in your interiors might also refer to theater? Your architecture looks very theatrical to me. VV: Your architecture, for me, is full of drama, in a way … OD: But before that I didn't dare use black for other projects. Working on the MACRO museum, we tried different color samples and nothing was good enough. And then we tried black—and it looked fantastic. Of course people were shocked: “What's this, a black museum??!?”

VV: Your lecture was titled 'Horizons'. You've stressed the importance of the color black in your designs. A completely black room performs similarly to a completely white room for our senses —the space starts to have an imaginary horizon, as if the space has no limit.

VV: It's as if one designed a theatre that was completely white, as a 'white box'. OD: Yes, and with FRAC this line continued. And now people expect me to make black interiors. But I can't always do it…

OD: Some 6 years ago I didn't suggest the color black in my designs so often because I didn't want to

TO: The problem of a 'signature architecture'—it

59


has almost become your handwriting.

architect in Europe today? The star architects are often accused of being arrogant …

OD: Indeed, I feel a bit trapped in this. VV: So what do you do when you feel trapped? OD: I try to escape. VV: The color red is also very dramatic. OD: But I love this, it's energetic. It represents life. It makes a good contrast‐combination with black. VV: Do you wish to have control over your designs, and over the atmosphere of the space, to the very end? OD: Sometimes things happen by accident and surprise me too. TO: You do everything down to the smallest detail yourself?

OD: I hate the 'star system' in architecture. I don't play along with this. I find my way inside the project on my own every time. An architect has to be very keen on context, the work has to be very contextual. VV: Beyond the visual there are so many other senses that we use to experience space. Have you, for example, designed spaces according to acoustic properties? OD: I love the idea that the materials, the walls, can be touched. Acoustics is much more difficult to work with. There was a fantastic exhibition once in the Pompidou Centre that was specifically designed as a soundscape. For me, sound in space is more connec‐ ted with the finishing materials. It's not so easy. VV: Touch and sound are said to be tightly interconnecting in our brain, analyzed by the same area in our brain.

OD: I try. TO: What is your relationship with art? OD: It used to be that anyone could decide to become an architect. Yet now it's a licensed profession. It's become a closed system. When I work with the galleries I find it difficult to explain that an architect makes art. But by the same token, for journalists, it's easy to understand when an artist makes architecture. This is strange. VV: Architects have not been very good in articulating that they're free to use a variety of means to make architecture or urban design. TO: How do you see the status or the role of an

TO: You emphasized in your talk the importance for architects to sense the future. How do you define the possibilities for an architect to do this? OD: It's really easy. When I was teaching before 2007, at the beginning of the semester I asked my students to research for one month into the future—to seek out things to come, in medicine, biology, mechanics, astrophysics, economy etc. They each had to provide a little lecture for the whole group, so that everyone could ask further questions and the topics could be discussed further. Thus we discovered advancements in nanotechno‐ logy and many other things. It was interesting to map out where we're going. The world of today is not the world of tomorrow. It is important for the

60


students to consider what might happen, for instance, in ten years' time.

VV: They tend to be rather apocalyptic. OD: Scary—pessimistic about the future. I tend to be a pessimist about the future these days as well. When I look at the young generation, they're so conformist, so conservative and individualistic. They lack a sense of collectivity. Not just in Paris but everywhere. For me, this is dangerous. Young people are connected to the world through the internet, but they're not able to communicate on a physical, personal level. Meanwhile the world is becoming more and more difficult for them to operate in, with the job cuts and crises. In the end, they'll vote for someone very strong.

VV: Do you consider it problematic that the researchers who come up with future scenarios— for example in the institutes for future studies or similar organizations—do not take into account architects' experiences and views when building the scenario? It's very rare that an architect would be invited to contribute to these future scenarios. OD: This is sad, because the profession of architecture is very particular. Not only because we collaborate with other disciplines, but also when we start a project we have to consider that this project will still be used in 20 or 30 years' time. Already during the construction period society is changing, thus we must look at what's happening very closely.

TO: Virtual culture also influences physical space. Physical space is losing its importance over the virtual world.

VV: We're trained to do that.

OD: Take the overwhelming safety measures—how everything has to be so secure. I tell my students to take risks, or I won't die for them when they're in trouble. The young generation is in a comfortable situation and they don't really want to change anything. In France, architecture schools are also too isolated. I plan to launch a new architecture school in Lyon soon. It'll be a private school, focused on research and material sciences.

OD: We are trained to look into the future, and to synthesize that in our buildings. TO: Architecture is a very slow art. Is it then safe to make mistakes, since it's possible to correct things along the way? OD: It makes an architect a bit more relative and reflective, caring for how things might change, and thus that the building or urban development can accommodate the evolution. Advertising, film and furniture are as keenly aware of things to come.

VV: Which paths have the graduates of your school taken? What have they become? What has happened to them? OD: Some are now quite well‐known in Paris.

VV: Do you watch science fiction movies? VV: But they haven't started their own revolution? OD: I used to, but not so much anymore, because what are science fiction movies today?

OD: No!

61


TO: How do you see the notion of being 'revolutionary' or 'rebellious' in architecture? In a way, it's a contradiction in terms, as architecture is a very responsible and regulated profession. OD: You must be very precise and do your work seriously, but still be rebellious. It's the only way to build trust. When you're doing something unusual, you must do it extremely professionally. I've always been resisting my context—the family, the school etc.—I've always wanted to escape from the box. In architecture, the revolution happens slowly. TO: Your clients are serious. OD: By choosing me they accept my approach. They know that with me something will happen that they didn't expect. I say no to limits. Today, people are no longer so surprised by my designs. It has taken time to come this far.

OD: Yes, but we don't do public competitions; only invited competitions. For some reason I've not been regarded so favorably among the juries in France lately. However, the private developers are coming to me now. We cannot afford to be limited in our thinking, otherwise we should take a permanent holiday, quit. One may be a pessimist about the world, but one must be an optimist to change it.

September 21, 2012, Tallinn.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Odile Decq liigutab horisonte” in weekly Eesti Ekspress on 12.11.2012.

VV: You're honest to yourself and to your clients. TO: How do you feel when going back to your buildings and discovering they've been changed while they are being used? OD: It can be a challenge. But excuse me, people can live. TO: How big is your office? OD: 17‐18 people. TO: That's small, considering the number of projects you're working on. VV: The majority of your work is the result of a competition?

62


>

ICD/ITKE Research Pavilions 2010 and 2011 by ICD (A. Menges) & ITKE (J. Knippers) Stuttgart University © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart HygroScope installation at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2012 by Achim Menges and Steffen Reichert © ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart Achim Menges © Reio Avaste

>

Achim Menges

Achim Menges graduated from the AA School of Architecture in London in 2002. He has taught at the AA in London as well as at the HfG Offenbach University of Art and Design in Germany, in addition to holding visiting professorships in Europe and the United States. He was a partner at OCEAN NORTH London/Frankfurt from 2004 to 2009. Today, he is an architect and professor at Stuttgart University where he is the founding director of the Institute for Computational Design. Currently he is also Visiting Professor at Harvard University GSD and Visiting Professor for the Emergent Technologies and Design Graduate Program at the AA in London. www.achimmenges.net


Interview with Achim Menges by Veronika Valk

Innovation Veronika Valk: I am intrigued by Frei Otto's legacy and its relation to your activities at your institute in Stuttgart. What is your opinion about Frei Otto?

purposes. The initial form‐finding is the aspect that interests us the most. It is about engaging material and physical processes as drivers of design.

Achim Menges: Our University has 16 institutes. Frei Otto's still exists under different leadership, working in different areas than Frei Otto did. I guess what we are trying to do in our institute [Institute for Computational Design, ICD] is to take on one part of Frei Otto's work. Frei Otto made a number of groundbreaking innovations for architects and engineers. Firstly, he was one of the first to work in the intersection of architecture, technology and biology—and that is a [significant] contribution. His work in bionics has not been acknowledged because he thought that biology should learn from techno‐ logy and not the other way around, but in general this kind of interdisciplinarity represents an attitude we would like to continue. Secondly, Otto's design methodology is important to us. He still worked like a Renaissance architect who aims to define form, but he began to look into form‐finding processes whereby the role of the architect is to be a modera‐ tor. He did that with physical models. It is important to differentiate the physical models he used for form‐finding and those which he used for structural engineering. The latter are the more famous, elabo‐ rate ones, which he often used even for calculation

VV: Where does the human being fit into in all this? What will a human being be like in a 100 years' time? Since buildings must survive for a certain period… AM: Neither I or Frei Otto would pretend that what we are currently doing covers the entire complexity of architecture. There are fundamental sociological and pragmatic aspects that remain, for the time being, somewhat outside of what we do. What we do might be called 'proto‐architecture'. It is not yet architecture because it investigates particular aspects: to become fully‐fledged architecture it must be more inclusive of ways of catering for habitation and so on. In my opinion, innovation is only possible when you exclude some aspects from the outset. If not, you face dilemmas so big that you'll never be able to do anything. That's basically the situation of architecture now. Architecture faces increasing economic and social pressures. We are unable to deal with all that and still be innovative. This means that 99% of architects turn to 'recipe' solutions. VV: How do you define your selection criteria for 65


the work processes?—How do you choose your staff, research fellows, research areas? Is prescreening based on the concepts and projects on offer, or more on the personal profiles of the people and their skills, their background, their research agenda? How does that affect the development of your institute? AM: I have one precondition for the candidates to join the institute: they must have both a design degree and a computation degree. Most of our peo‐ ple have this dual expertise. I put more emphasis on the design degree. I often work with computer scien‐ tists, but without design training it is difficult to crea‐ te the overlap between the fields which I mentioned before. The institute breeds what one could call a 'computation designer'—someone with a versatile profile, experienced in both areas. The entry qualifica‐ tion can be on either side. I expect all of my researc‐ hers and doctoral students to do a PhD centered around their topic. We discuss the research topic intensely. We try to create permanent engagement with particular lines of research rather than always starting from scratch. It is a huge advantage of institutions like the University of Stuttgart that you don't need to start anew every year. There is a limit to how far people can advance in just one year. It is evident that people are happy to give up some aspects of their work and pass them over to others. VV: Do you see the Masters program as fertile ground for pre‐investigating topics that will be valuable at the doctoral level? AM: The idea behind the Masters program is ob‐ viously that forms a bridge between the educational model and the research. It's what we have somehow achieved already—the conduct of PhD research is already informing our teaching. The idea is that research is the vehicle for establishing studio

agendas. This is important both for the researchers (who can explore multiple aspects of the work) and for the students (who can thus engage with far more advanced things than they could in a regular studio setting). This is the context in which these 'Research Pavilions' take place. One could almost say that it is a collaborative effort between a select crew of students, the PhD students at our institutes, and biologists. This year‐long building process is the catalyst to push the individual aspects of the work. VV: Your institute seems to have four clearly‐ defined units: Computation and Materialization, Computational Morphogenesis, Robotic Manufac‐ turing Laboratory and Competence Network Bio‐ mimetics. So the interests revolve around those? AM: We are interested computational and generative design processes, digital and robotic fabrication—the latter especially in direct relation to the 'form'. And then we're also interested in so‐called 'biomedics for architecture', which frankly doesn't really exist yet. There are biomedics and bionics for specific building products and building technology, but not really for architecture. Perhaps these are the three research areas. In each of them we've identified some branch topics, which we're happy to extend or shift. VV: It seems we also have quite a lot of potential in biotech here in Tallinn and also in Tartu. The prob‐ lem is often finding a common language. You've also worked with textiles, wood and other materials in many of your projects—Where else do you see the untapped potential of the material sciences? AM: Regarding material systems, I don't think there's any one particular type of material to investigate. Up to now, we've looked at textiles and foils—membra‐ nes—quite a lot. We've focused on wood; we've also

66


concentrated more recently on glass‐fibre and carbon‐fibre composites. We're doing a lot of work with aggregate systems—granulate substances that design particles—and also with metal. So I think from our perspective there's no limit to the materials we could engage with. Establishing a discourse with biologists can be tricky. No biologist recognizes the need to collaborate with an architect. Already at the Architectural Association in London we had the privilege of George Jeronimidis teaching a module on the Masters program I participated in. He is a really prominent figure in the field of biomimetics and generated enough interest in me to engage with the local scientific community when I returned to Germany. The Biomimetics Competence Network at our insti‐ tute deals with one of the focal areas for us. It enga‐ ges very few architects. In fact I might be the only architect there. There are some building‐oriented engineers, but the others are all from other fields.

working in a multi‐disciplinary setting it is important to maintain the boundaries between each discipline in order to generate interdisciplinarity. Otherwise everything is compromised. It is a great misunder‐ standing, especially by architects, that when they see our work they think the architects are preten‐ ding to be engineers—structural engineers, environmental engineers, etc. Computation is nonetheless interesting as a communication platform. It allows us to communicate with all these other disciplines in a much more straightforward way—enabling us to discuss things when the terminology is otherwise so specific that it would otherwise be too difficult to arrive at a common understanding. Working computationally eases the interdisciplinary discourse, but this doesn't mean that it solves anything in itself or dissolves disciplinary boundaries. Ten years ago all architec‐ ture schools were trying to pull in as many engineers as possible and the engineer was pushed to the status of star‐architect. Now, in academic circles, there is a return to thinking of architecture as an autonomous discipline, strengthening the role of the architect. Both extremes have their difficulties — there's a difference between the approach, methods, tools and ethics of an architect and those of an engineer—but that doesn't mean that an architect and an engineer cannot make an equal contribution to architecture.

VV: Who are your competitors? AM: There aren't any! [laughs] Seriously, the community I am a part of doesn't exist in Germany, so there's no competition in Germany. You might say that this is due to a lack of interest in such an approach, rather than the continental European attitude. There's a lot being done in biomimetics in the UK, and it is beginning to appear in the US. Jenny Sabin works in a similar area, as do some people at MIT and Harvard. VV: Is there a difference between an architect and an engineer? What are you? An architect?

VV: Your work in Stuttgart is quite advanced, and in some parts of the world it might even be seen as too advanced. How do you spread the ingenuity of your work globally? Where is the limit of implementation?

AM: There's definitely a difference between an architect and an engineer. It would be foolish to think that interdisciplinary work would dissolve or erode disciplinary expertise. I think it's the opposite:

AM: We try to achieve low‐tech results from a high‐ tech approach. We are different from Northern America in the sense that we don't want to limit our work to a context in which you need exotic materials 67


or extremely expensive manufacturing processes to produce things. In the end, we bought the robot because it was the cheapest thing to do—a robot offers by far the most economical method in terms of production. The big investment is the program‐ ming of the robot. That's the agenda really: in all the things we do and build there is a substantial intellectual and research investment, yet the result is actually rather simple and economical to build. Regarding the cycle of innovation—what it means to be adventurous at a certain point, how the innovation enters the mainstream, then informing the Third World—the main challenge of architecture during the next 50 years will be towards the environment. The smart phones people in India or China have already have the computational capacity matching that of the kind of supercomputer you might have found in a European technical university in the 1970s. Computational resources required to advance and elaborate processes will be available in a relatively short time, and it will be important to ensure that it enables us to engage with a more intelligent architecture that ultimately uses only minimal, mundane resources. To investigate that, as a student I often travelled from London to build, for example, things in Brazilian favelas. This raised the question of how to actually deal with the new technologies—of what happens when you're sitting in a favela and must build something in just one week on a budget of just one‐hundred pounds. In fact, you can do a lot—a lot that has a direct social impact on people's living conditions. VV: Especially if you've got the robot with you. This reminds me of Fabio Gramazio's story of how they had to transport their robot to the Venice Architecture Biennale in order to build the Structural Oscillations installation for the Swiss pavilion 'Explorations' in 2008. But have any

robotics manufacturers approached you and asked what you might need for your work? How should the robots advance? You are already thinking about design, so perhaps you are in a good position to suggest ways of improving their products? AM: We have collaborated a lot with Kuka. They are very open. However, we're also collaborating with a timber manufacturer, so the engagement also involves the industry that is going to use the results of the research. It is interesting to note that Kuka, for example, is not very keen to tailor their machines for any particular purpose. We don't buy the robot from Kuka, but from someone who is called the 'system integrator'. The robot is the basic hardware, but in order for the robot to make anything, you need specific software, specific control interfaces. Kuka is not interested in developing these interfaces because they would then need to diversify into many branches. VV: Looking at your portfolio, the quality of your work suggests that you've got all the resources and capacities you could wish for. But is this the actual situation? Is there anything that you miss? AM: This is going to be a long interview! [laughs] There's really no public funding body for architectural research. Pulling the resources together consumes so much of our time. We could do a lot more if we didn't spend all our energy on funding issues. I don't want to blame the former generation of architectural academics, but I must say that at some point they missed the chance to inform the decision‐making bodies, to inform the politicians that there must exist funding bodies for architectural innovation and research, which in Germany and throughout Europe are non‐existent. You may try to squeeze into all kinds of niches

68


within the European funding schemes, but in the end your chances are near to zero. VV: In your opinion, should these funding bodies occur at two levels?—at a national or state level and also at the European level? Or would it be sufficient to have just the European level and do the lobbying there? AM: The system in Germany is such that the universities don't have any funds. Taxpayers' money goes to a central fund and then each university applies for funding. However, there's no body to apply for architectural research. There's engineering, there's building, there's architectural history, but when it comes to the genuine research concerns in architecture, then there's nothing. On the other hand, architecture is usually considered to be an art rather than a form of engineering. But here the situation is the same: the funding bodies don't consider architecture to be an art. VV: There's a dichotomy between the pressure to innovate together with the speed of manufactu‐ ring, and scientific research that is not always oriented pragmatically. Where do you position yourself on a line going from the innovation imperative to the scientific mindset? AM: Everything is immediately accessed for its economic potential. Obviously that's a trend in all disciplines. Even the basic research in biology focuses on areas of potential economic income. That's a very unfortunate development. However, we would like to commit to something like that basic research, whereby you don't really need to consider how to turn it toward economic benefit. That's problematic, since an architectural experiment can still be very fruitful even if it has no direct relevance

for the building industry. To have a better understanding of such research we try to keep the freedom that comes with being in the academic realm, although I see academia becoming more goal‐oriented, more focused on the direct application of research results. We enjoy academic freedom without having the necessity to envision how one or another investigation is going to be viable in 5 to 10 years' time. We are aiming at genuine inquiry. All the funding bodies are tied to 'feasibility studies', believing in research only when there is a market for it. Yet what we witness is that the industry is often much more interested in what we do, than the funding bodies are. The industry is supporting us in our research, finding it worthwhile to invest in the experimental nature of innovation. VV: Now you're based in Stuttgart. Does the municipality pay attention to what you do? AM: Stuttgart is trying to rebuild its train station. It's a controversial project in itself, as the building was partially designed by Frei Otto himself and is under historic protection. The coalition was behind the project, which caused a public prising—decisions made behind closed doors and so forth. The project came to be a symbol of how not to do things. I want to stay out of local politics. VV: But eventually you would want to see your projects realized in the cityscape, embraced by the public (and public space), by society? Do you want to leave the lab at some point? AM: There are few opportunities to build things in public space. For that reason we are cooperating with the ministry at the state level, with their support. Funnily enough, if you don't do that then the first people who will try to stop you from doing

69


experimental buildings are the architects themselves. They see you as a competitor, although the university is not allowed to compete against the practitioners. Therefore, my aim is to facilitate situations where we may build something that doesn't fall into the category of 'buildings'. VV: Would you be interested in doing a 'non‐ building' on Tallinn waterfront? AM: Definitely. These are exactly the opportunities and strategies we seek. I would say that it is almost impossible to make experimental architecture as a regular practitioner today. We need to find other contexts in order to operate as experimental architects.

September 28, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Materjali tehe, protoarhitektuur ja teised „õnnelikud juhused”” in cultural weekly Sirp on 23.11.2012.

70


>

Bloomsbury Village in StickyWorld Š Renee Puusepp Renee Puusepp Š Reio Avaste

Renee Puusepp

Renee Puusepp is a practicing architect as well as researcher of computational design. Having started his formal training and architectural work in Estonia, he completed his MSc in Computing and Design as well as a PhD in Architecture at the University of East London. While his academic work has focused on agent-based modeling techniques to generate circulation diagrams, Renee Puusepp has also built a number of prototypes for form- nding purposes and explored parametric design concepts. As a director and co-founder of London-based company Slider Studio, he has deployed these prototypes in practice. www.reneepuusepp.com


Participatory Out to the World with Participatory Design: Design and Environment for Everybody

Veronika Valk

SliderStudio is a combination of architecture and creative programming resulting in architectural projects or processes. A good example of that is YouCanPlan allowing citizens to have a say in the planning processes related to them. StickyWorld grew out of YouCanPlan—it is a more general solution allowing people to communicate better with each other. Conceiving the business model, increasing the number of users and customers and everything else accompanying the establishment of a company certainly requires creativity. And this means that you cannot take the prescribed paths. You know where you want to go but in order to get there you need to rely on creative thinking. Creativity is finding the best solutions for your skills,” Puusepp believes. But is a person alone on this road or would it be better to walk with others? If so, how does Puusepp select his travel companions? “It's often just a coincidence. You can only take along those people who go in the same direction. Or you can go along with those who have something clever to teach you. The creative thought sparks better among friends. University enhances creativity and the contacts made there form a good basis to continue further. The academic

Renee Puusepp, Estonian‐born architect who has lived and worked in London and Berlin, gave a lecture in the open lecture series at the Faculty of Architecture of the Estonian Academy of Arts on October 4, 2012. In addition to defending his doctoral thesis at University of East London in 2011, he has co‐authored a number of international web‐ based software solutions bringing architectural design and urban planning closer to the end‐user. For instance, YouCanPlan enables the community to intervene in the design of the neighbourhood, while SiteCapacity provides a dynamic opportunity for calculating the so‐called capacity of the property realtime development based on the present market situation. However, instead of technical topics, we discussed more general issues with the talented architect and urbanist, first inquiring about his understanding of 'creativity'. As it is such a widely used word, what does it mean to him? “In addition to specialist fields that are traditionally considered 'creative', I think that also business as a profession requires a lot of creativity. In the past five years, I have witnessed the birth of two companies—SliderStudio (2004) and its spin‐off StickyWorld which is now wholly independent. Architecture is, no doubt, a creative area, so

73


environment promotes thinking and discussing together and I have certainly many good contacts from there. Even when we haven't communicated for a long time, we often discover that we have actually moved in the same direction. Many architectural firms now have their R&D departments, but a mere label does not generate creativity. It takes mutual understanding to find good and unique solutions. So, also putting together such an efficient team certainly requires creativity,” Puusepp says. Once the team has been put together, does controlling and directing teamwork require daily 'creative' maintenance? “It depends on the proportion of routine, but it may certainly include also creative elements,” Puusepp answers. What is the role of architects today in Europe with its decreasing and aging population? “The major structural changes in the present European cities call for the ability to reuse the living environment. In Europe, the architect's role is to see how to help the built environment to adapt to the changes. As the population in Europe decreases, we have a favourable situation in terms of space compared for instance to the population concentration in Asian metropolises. Then again, as the number of employees is also decreasing, we need to think about leaving the more boring bits in the reuse projects of the living environment and infrastructures to machines,” Puusepp suggests. Having lived in London for a long time, he witnessed how the Olympic Games influenced the development of a specific area, “The way the Olympic Park and Village area was taken to use is pretty amazing. If in Athens, the Olympic Park came to cause serious problems, then all aspects were given sufficient consideration in London. The whole country made considerable efforts to organise the development projects of the event and the living

environment. The area is near the so‐called Silicon Roundabout, an active technology centre and the hub of start‐up companies, which will definitely contribute to the synergy. There have been discussions about leaving the Olympics Media Centre to technological companies which could work out very well—the media centre has state‐of‐ the‐art communication links supporting the development of the technological companies. And as it's not located in the city centre, the property prices and rental fees are considerably lower. A living city requires people, jobs and a very good infrastructure,” Puusepp explains. Should you have a creativity crisis and some projects don't seem to get solved, how do you free your mind? Puusepp replies that then it's time to move about, travel, do something else for a change so that your ideas could run free and you could see things from a new angle. “Cycling and visiting new environments, seeing new things always work for me,” he affirms. “In London I walked along the Thames a lot, also along the Grand Union Canal leading through North London, Kings Cross and Camden to Birmingham. I really like East London as it has so many layers—you'll certainly get your thrill of contrasts from there! Bank and Liverpool Street are mostly filled with the suits who leave the area deserted at the weekend. And next to it there is Shoreditch known for its galleries, although the art galleries have now come to leave the district for West London. Compared to some other metropolises favouring cycling, London may be regarded as a relatively tolerable city. A cycle hire scheme was established three years ago and there are plenty of cycling lanes. A bicycle is certainly the fastest means of transport—according to statistics the average speed of cars in central London is 4 miles an hour, that is, about 6 kilometres in an hour

74


which is the average speed of adult walking. London is becoming similar to Central‐European cities and thanks to the congestion charge both the speed of traffic and air quality have considerably improved,” Puusepp explains. How has Tallinn changed in the past few years when viewed from the outside? “It's always good to come here and I think autumn suits Tallinn, but a proper winter is some‐ thing that you start to miss when living abroad. Tallinn has changed in two ways—first, it has become a Nordic country which could also be described as internationalisation and therefore sometimes a little boring too, however, we also have our exciting and unique aspects that we should learn to appreciate more. On the other hand, I like the architectural quality of new buildings—if during the boom years you mostly encountered design ideas copied from magazines, then now the Estonian style seems to be getting stronger in designing the buildings and the urban space,” Puusepp describes. An important role is most probably played by the increasing number of urban festivals and the soaring city‐activism. “The general democratisation process of Estonia and its extension to the urban space is highly important. It also applies to the development of technology—Estonia could be considered as a good 'testing lab' for trying out and developing clever solutions in order to export them later out to the world. The world population is increasing and there is a constant need for new development models— Estonia's role is to lead the way by its participatory democracy,” Puusepp believes.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Loov mõtleja Renee Puusepp” in newspaper Äripäev (Ehitus special edition) in November, 2012.

75


>

>

Fluid Cast / Flying Animals process at the AA DRL by Maria Eugenia Villafane, Ena Lloret Kristensen, Catalina Pollak Williamson and Jaime De Miguel Rodriguez (supervisors Marta Male Alemany and Jeroen Van Ameijde) in 2009 Ena Lloret © Reio Avaste

Ena Lloret Kristensen

Ena Lloret Kristensen has been Research Fellow at the Chair for Architecture and Digital Fabrication in Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich since 2010. The starting point of her research is traditional casting systems, which rely on the rigidity of a static cast to shape the material, and she reconsiders casting as a dynamic process of formation. Her work suggests a construction method that could produce instant structures by using a quick-setting process. Her work re ects on the potential in thinking of the sea itself as a deployment environment, opening up a wide range of possible applications. www.dfab.arch.ethz.ch/web/e/team/106.html


Interview with Ena Lloret by Veronika Valk

Craft VV: Your sensitivity to material is exceptional. You have extraordinary ways of working with material, rediscovering and experimenting again and again. Can you identify any key points during your time at the various schools and institutes you have worked at, which have emphasized who you are as a designer?

Veronika Valk: You went to see some of the student works at our faculty. How does your experience of studying architecture in Denmark compare with what you have witnessed here? Ena Lloret: The students I saw at the Estonian Academy of Arts were strong on the graphical and conceptual level, but the content was not so innovative since the work seemed to stop at the image. One group didn't even have a model and another had gone in three different directions, but in order to make informed design decisions it is important to have a real model. This—model making —was much more present at the design school I went to. Also, students in Tallinn might be affected by their current isolation from other disciplines— not seeing others doing furniture, ceramics etc.— although the potential is there. In the design school I attended later in Eindhoven we had a very big workshop space. Thus, it might be useful to give students access to a workshop system so that they can work with wood and other real materials—to learn how things stick together and don't fall apart. With the advancement of visualization technologies there seems to be a tendency to lose touch with physical reality. It's really about forcing physicality back into architecture. Architecture didn't use to be a field. It was about craft.

EL: I love to be in the model workshop. I'm not a precision maker, but a bit rough and clumsy. It all started at the design school, with the opportunity to be in the workshop. I make quick and even ugly models, but they help me to understand the physicality of the object and its spatial qualities. I am fascinated by the interior logic of (any) seemingly chaotic material. Various tests with metals and other materials have proven to me that it's not smart to go against the inner logic of the material. It's not about 'designing' as we might understand it—predetermining and forcing a form upon the material; it's about following the rules of the material. It occurred to me later on that I have a feeling for materials. When I came back to the Architectural Association in London I didn't like the discourse of parametricism that I was surrounded by. There are certain qualities that can be checked with the help of parametricism within complex geometries, but I don't believe in the totalitarian

77


cities designed by Grasshopper. I guess I have a more humanistic approach to architecture. I choose to do things my way. Eventually, I did a course with Alisa Andrašek and finally agreed to become brainwashed at the AA… VV: Having gone from conservative Denmark to innovative Holland, working at the OMA and then moving to London to study at the AA, you finally ended up at ETH in Zürich. Is there a line of thought connecting all these moves? EL: It's about understanding the matter, or the core of the physical reality of the project, and then wrapping a skin around it. I think I've been pushing myself purposefully into contrasting contexts, jumping from tradition to wildness. In Switzerland things are more grounded for me. I see from the past 12 years that it's all been about testing and then doing, with each round at an increasingly large scale. VV: What do you intend to achieve during the 7 years you will be at the ETH? What keeps you going? EL: Curiosity. It's like Pandora's Box: the more you look into things the more you see appearing. After ETH, I guess I want to go back into practice, and not to microscale. As a designer, it is important not to become too specialized in one thing. I know that I will not be locked into concrete forever. It'd be great to have the energy to keep searching. October 19, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Sulavalu‐arhitektuur: voolata vabalt ja püsida koos” in cultural weekly Sirp on 30.11. 2012.

78


>

Johan Peter Paludan Š Reio Avaste

Johan Peter Paludan

Johan Peter Paludan graduated from Aarhus University in political science in 1975. After training as a high school teacher he taught for some years in tandem with his increasing work at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS), which was founded in 1970 by Thorkil Kristensen, former Danish minister of nance, Professor of economics and general secretary of the OECD. Having been deputy director of CIFS for many years, Johan Peter Paludan was the managing director of CIFS from 2001 to 2004. In addition to working with scenarios, he has been involved in research on the future of education particularly adult education. www.cifs.dk


Interview with Johan Peter Paludan by Toomas Tammis and Jüri Soolep

Wildcards be fruitful to operate with wildcards: events that are extremely unlikely but full of consequences, should they be realized. If everybody can print their own house, what then?” Our interview opens with the question of 'quality':

Johan Peter Paludan introduced his talk 'The Future: Megatrends, Paradigms and Wildcards' with the following statement: “The future does not exist. It is hence hard to 'study'. However, you have to try because decisions have to be made in the present, but work in the future. This goes for buildings in particular. You can 'attack' the future in various ways. Short term trends can be important, but only in the short term. When you are talking of architecture, a longer perspective is needed. Megatrends are the broad inertia‐rich trends that can be counted on to be around for the next ten to fifteen years. They are broad, verging on the banal, so you have to work with establishing the consequences for—in this case—architecture. Once you have established, through a mega‐ trend, the mining of the more foreseeable parts of the future, you can begin working with scena‐ rios by starting to look at the overarching para‐ digms. What comes after hunter/gatherer society, agricultural society and industrial society? Some say we are living in the information society. We at CIFS say that we are living with four concurrent paradigms—the Industrial, the Dream Society, the Creative Man and the Knowledge paradigm— and you should also, as an architect, know which paradigm applies where. Finally, it can sometimes

Johan Peter Paludan: 50 or 100 years ago, you could think about 'quality' in a different way, because you are in a society where you perceive that you are building for eternity. You can justify really insisting on quality. The Danish railway stations were built about 100 to 110 years ago. Beautiful! Absolutely good quality!—Not only in terms of design, but also in terms of masonry and all that. Those buildings were meant to stand forever. But things change, which is paradoxical since we know that buildings do last. Still, in your mind you no longer think that you are building for eternity. Toomas Tammis: Even the regulations say that you can choose whether you're building for 50 years or 25 years—the average is 50 years... JPP: We have left the society that had a clear hierarchy whereby somebody knew what is best—somebody who was best for society, best for buildings, best for whatever. Today, it is not the case—and that is the zeitgeist. It makes it difficult to

81


that violence and the quantification of debt are what led to 'money'. He tries to find a way to resta‐ te ideas about capital within the current neoliberal society. The 'debt crisis' has begun to spread every‐ where now. Thus, I'm also interested to see if the previous understanding of capital—as a measure of labor and as a measure of value—is changing.

talk about quality, or any forms of quality, if by 'quality' you mean what people like (which is the prevailing mindset today). Jüri Soolep: But isn't it the case that the disappearance of 'quality' and 'hierarchy' that you mentioned are just ephemeral? This [appearance] is on the surface. Inside, they are definitely still within the phenomena—there are still hierarchies and decisions made according to those hierarchies.

JPP: As a consequence of digitalization, we have entered a period where everything digital, or which has been digitalized, can be copied at zero cost. Therefore, we may speak of having entered an era of 'anarchonomy'. We have two kinds of economy: the usual one, which is based on money and copyright, and an anarchic one where you can easily share whatever you wish. And we have 'pirates'—pirate communities and such like. There are differences between these two kinds of economy. In an anarchonomy, when something doesn't work there's hardly anything you can do about it—such as make a claim, etc.—whereas in the traditional economy there is always somebody you can blame, some pro‐ ducer that can be made legally accountable. Therefore, if businesses are to survive, new business concepts must be developed, and so the economy is changing. For example, in the music industry musi‐ cians no longer earn so much money from produ‐ cing CDs, and live music has increasingly become a good way to make money. As the traditional econo‐ my is changing, with so many products no longer being physical objects, the ways of the so‐called “good old days” no longer make so much sense. The economy is fluid, but maybe we will find a new cultu‐ re, a new idea of economy. In a way, this is nothing new since money involves the question of trust, and when you no longer believe that you can use it to ac‐ quire whatever you want the fluidity will accelerate.

JPP: The term 'quality' is shifting quicker than it used to do. Maybe there is a hidden hierarchy, but it changes its mind more quickly than it used to. This superior, hidden hierarchy is also a part of the chan‐ ging society, thus it also changes, giving flimsier picture. From the open cultural hierarchy of the past, to the more diffused hierarchy of today, the name of the hierarchy is 'money'. Those who have money make the decisions. In the 'good old days', it was the king or the state who had the money—the state still has money, but now others have money too—so maybe the hierarchy is not hidden, but diffused, spread out. There is no 'one' hierarchy. JS: It would be good to return to the question of the structuring of society and its hierarchies, but you mentioned money. Some might say 'capital', but not necessarily. I fear that the current crisis has become this 'wildcard'. As you explained yesterday, with money as capital, there no longer exists a measure of value. We have arrived at a stage in society—with the digital platforms and global movements—where money cannot be addressed as it was before. There are examples, like David Graeber who talks about debt. 1 During the first 5000 years [of human society], money was not a measure. Textbooks on political economy describe only a kind of imaginary exchange value whereby money becomes a measure. Graeber's argument is

JS: What do you think about the banking crisis? It seems that the digital economy has produced this 82


flamboyant fluidity of capital moving all over the world, so that all of a sudden money means different things in different places. Is [the confluence of] the digital and real economy at the heart of the crisis we're facing at the moment? Is it just an economic crisis, and thus self‐explanatory?

competitor, we will have to create one. Some people —wanting to be provocative—say that China is the true face of the future of capitalism. And they are roaring capitalists—absolutely! Yet still the Party and the State hover over China, regulating and guiding, so maybe this is the future of capitalism. Maybe we shall have a world that is not quite as globalized as we thought it was going to be. Maybe that is necessary.

JPP: You could view it in the context of globaliza‐ tion. With digitalization, globalization means that money can go wherever it wants to go—and it does go wherever it wants—and consequently we already see signs of more and more countries wanting to become protectionist. It appeared fortunate that Obama would probably beat Mitt Romney in Ohio, but in reality he was a protectionist. He was supporting his country's own industry to ensure its survival against outside competition. With China, the same thing, despite the talk about the WTO and free trade they are just as protectionist. This could be regarded as a retreat from globalization… The wildcard here is the talk about a 'Utopian Tax'. One answer to the financial crisis is a reinstatement of regulations of some form, because we now realize that one major reason for the financial crisis is the huge deregulation that was done during the 1990s. Capitalism cannot be left to itself. One of the basic reasons for the crisis is that capitalism is in deep shit, as it should be. If you take the current condition seriously, the precondition for efficiency is competi‐ tion. Capitalism has not had any kind of competition for the past 20 years, since socialism died. The com‐ petition ended and capitalism was the sole survivor —though some may say that socialism is not dead but just sick. Before that, there was at least the idea of an alternative system—a postulate of another way. This has gone. Therefore the solution is going to be some kind of an artificial competition. And the name of the artificial competition is “regulation”. If capitalism cannot stand alone, without a natural

JS: And will that shut down the global financial system, or limit it? JPP: Well, I don't think it's going to go away, but it will no longer be able to make these huge changes and turn things on their head from one second to the next, because the world has seen what happens when we have such a stupid system. TT: There is hope then? If we see the future [world] moving away from this constantly fluctuating state and becoming more and more fragmented and regulated—might we also see the so‐called 'experts' rising to some sort of importance again? The loss of expertise has been grounded on a complete liberal flux, where the layman's opinion was valued as much as as the expert's. This was one of the things negotiated by the stakeholders and the market. Now, when that becomes regulated, won't there need to be another kind of decision‐making process in order to return to a system of value? JPP: The market mechanism is not going to be abolished. We are not going to have a centralized system. Therefore, the future expert will be the regulator. TT: Who is the regulator then? Does he or she then turn to an economist, or an architect, or a doctor—or not?

83


JPP: Since it is capitalism as such that is to be regu‐ lated, we need people who understand capitalism to regulate it—economists, scientists and those kinds of people. TT: This is what we are already seeing, but don't you foresee some sort of revival of the 'skilled', like doctors, who do something that others cannot? JPP: The mystique of the expert has been exploded and it is hard to put the pieces back together. Since we live—and will continue to live—in some sort of market economy, then some individuals will be known to be better at what they do. Somebody will be known to be a better doctor, another will be a better architect, but I don't see 'architects' or 'doc‐ tors', as such, reclaiming their earlier higher status. JS: Here one may see, pessimistically, dark clouds looming ahead. When one talks about regulation, there has to be someone who regulates competition within the economy, for example. The loss of expertise means also the loss of quality. Speaking of judgment—we don't know what quality is any more, as it has become democratic. In a way, this refers to the impossibility of making sound value judgments. If there is a regulator, he or she is making the decisions according to some kind of regulations, which have to be formal. If the quality is not judged by experts, then it has to be judged by some formal process. Are we moving towards more and more formal systems? We are seeing that in some countries. For instance, the architectural education here suddenly has all kinds of 'accredita‐ tions'—there is no belief in quality or in quality decisions, instead one has to prove it through the system. Taking it to the level of the state and economy, we now see a web of formalities that have to be navigated in order to get anything done.

JPP: I agree. The really dark scenario is that we are increasingly using all of our resources on the control mechanisms and less and less on doing things. It's madness. In Denmark we have a social security system where the workers spend more time on documenting what they have done than on actually doing it. The situation is already bad. We need to somehow revert to trusting that people will do what they are supposed to do. Take the tax system, it does not control everybody. Most of us are (mostly) honest, thus the benefit of having [a system of] total control is too small. With public money especially, some kind of check is necessary—public money is a little different from private, market‐ dominated money. Thus, some kind of control mechanism is still needed, but the aim is not to have more and more people being employed in the control mechanism. It's not going to be easy. JS: Doesn't this bring us back to the hidden hierarc‐ hies—regulating things within the formal system and then making decisions? Remember the British TV comedy series 'Yes, Prime Minister!'— every‐ thing will be decided at the level of formalities! JPP: Still, I don' t think regulation will have to be more detailed, but based on rules—general rules—rules about how the financial sector should act. […] Sometimes, when I'm in my most Marxist mode, I ask why we—the ordinary people—should keep our money in a private bank. Having money in an account is part of the infrastructure. Bridges are not private, roads are not private, so why should the banks be private? As Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England said: “If you're too big to fail, I don't think you should be part of private sector”.³ One way to regulate the financial sector would be to establish a public system where people only have accounts for their salaries. No big deal—it would be

84


while the middle class is neither better nor worse off. This is at least the true picture of what we used to call 'the developed world'. We are not getting poorer, but we are not catching up. Before that there was a sort of convergence where the richer were taxed more heavily and a Gaussian normal curve applied with all the 'standard' people in the middle, never earning enough but neverthe‐less surviving. There was also a small percentage of filthy rich people and a small percentage of people who had fallen [into real poverty]. Today, the curve is more like a camel's back, where the middle is being squeezed. The 'poor' are not the starving, but are not able to participate. For example, a child is not going to die when he cannot go to a friend's birthday party because he cannot afford a gift. But mentally he dies a bit. So I see it as another kind of poverty. More countries have entered a development phase. This means that the middle class is growing, globally—especially in China, India—that part of the world. It depends on how we define the middle class, but within the current definition India's middle class contains 200 million people. That's as much as half of the US population, and counting. It's no wonder that China has grown due to the State and the Party, yet Indian growth has been despite the State and the Party— thus it is more impressive, in a way. So, global poverty is diminishing, though not quickly enough.

easy. You wouldn't need to be an expert speculator. The small private banks could indeed remain deregulated, taking the risk of bankruptcy. JS: This is probably supported by some of those countries presently pushing the idea of an economy without cash. But then comes the question: Who makes the value judgments? What is [anything] 'worth'? And then we are back to regulation. JPP: No, because we still have the market economy, which contributes to saying how much something is worth. Yet judgments of 'quality' are democratic judgments. Perhaps we are disgusted with capitalism, but we are unable to escape it. We are not going to drop it just because everyone has realized that capitalism is a lousy system, as we don't have anything better. Democracy is another lousy system, but we haven't got anything better. JS: That takes us to another topic—one that was not so evident in your 'megatrends' lecture yesterday: poverty. Your talk was rather optimistic, but we face a reality where more and more people have no access to water, education, etc.—the most basic means. With the growth of population, and with the growth of poverty in some areas... JPP: If we are looking at the global level, we do not have an increasing number of people in poverty— below the level required to cover the basic needs. On the contrary, those who are truly poor—and there are too many, absolutely!—constitute a decreasing percentage of the global population. Another way of looking at it is 'polarization', where the rich get richer and the poor stay poor—they do not get any poorer, but they also do not get richer. The United States is a good example: the increase in the fortune and income of the top one percent has been obscene,

JS: So there exists a comforting megatrend—that poverty has been decreasing—but what about education? JPP: Education is also spreading—again, not quickly enough—but if you are looking for where all the support is coming from, it's private welfare. People who've got some money are doing a lot for literacy and all sorts of other things. There is a long way to go, but we are on the way.

85


TT: Getting back to infrastructures and the way we live in the Nordic territories, which are very big and have relatively few people—for example, here in Estonia, in Finland, in Norway and to a lesser extent in Denmark—, and with reference to your lecture, which touched upon the urbanization whe‐ reby people move into the cities where traditionally we have had a rather dense network of very few people—How do we deal with that situation? Maintaining infrastructure—physical and nonphysical—is among the most expensive things. With fewer and fewer people spread widely across the territory as they more become concentrated in smaller, urban areas—what do the megatrends for megacities mean in the Nordic context? JPP: Consider mobile telecommunication, it is possible to maintain communication networks far out into the country, even if there are just two people out there. In Africa, they have leapt directly into mobile telecommunication. Recently, the Kenyans have become so good with mobile phones that an American bank bought software from Kenya because they know more about it—because they had moved directly into that [mobile] age. So, I don't see the problem being communication. I do see problems in the physical infrastructure. TT: We used to think that the need to travel physically—by airplane, motorcar etc.—would decrease with the increase in telecommunications, yet they've both increased. You cannot get away from people moving. JPP: One 'semi‐wildcard' is that when teleconferen‐ cing becomes cheap enough—sending taste, smell, 3D etc.—it will increase the possibility of meetings being very much like face‐to‐face meetings. I don't know how fast that would happen, but to travel by plane is no fun any more.

TT: Yet do you see certain areas actually dying out, left derelict? JPP: Yes, and then they may become valuable for tourists who want to go trekking in Sweden. It becomes wild nature, authentic. This takes us back to the question of quality, as I sometimes think that the concept of 'quality' has been replaced by the dream of 'authenticity'. You could say that it is a natural consequence of acceleration, because the more things change, the more people will tend to yearn for the authentic. Ten years ago I made a presentation in Albo, in the North of Jutland, where we discussed the paradox of the north side of the ord. The earth there is lousy—it is not fertile—so I suggested that in the future, every time a farmer in North Jutland retired from work the public should buy the farm and leave it alone, thereby creating a part of Jutland that would become really wild. Financially, it would probably be worth more financially as a tourist destination than as an agricultural area. They didn't like it, I can tell you. Not at all. Yet when you think about it, it's not a bad idea. Or take Norway: it is ridiculous how huge sums of money in are spent in order to convince people to stay in the North of Norway. TT: …and [having to] drive through the mountains... JPP: It's hilarious—it's like Swiss cheese! My daughter is a doctor and worked for two months in the North of Norway and she said that the only thing you had to look at were people with psychiatric or abuse problems. There's nothing to do but drink. Instead, let the area grow wild. Look at the statistics—the population is decreasing there. They move to Oslo, some to Bergen or Trondheim. There's no doubt about what people want. And having been to the North of Norway, you can 86


understand it. It's not a place worth living in. [Laughter] You could say the same thing about Northern Sweden and Finland—Who wants to go there in the winter, when it's cold, dark and boring?

JPP: Gamification may be understood as having a 4 classic [domain for] expertise, but without the expert. In the 'good old days', the teacher had the authority to say to the pupil: “You must learn this!” —“Why?”—“Because I say so!”. This doesn't work any more. We have had to shift away from authority, to seduction, edutainment and gaming—ie. gamifica‐ tion. I don't see anything wrong with making it easier for young people to learn things. When you see how quickly they learn to work with an electronic game, they overcome linguistic difficulties without a problem. Their learning process is extremely fast. Plus, with gamification, you strengthen the most effective pedagogical principle of all—'instant feedback'. You do your math and the machine says 'Right!' or 'Wrong!'. In the 'good old days' you did your math and a week later the teacher told you whether it was right or wrong. Thus, we are looking at an increase in educational quality, because it is more fun and more effective—win‐win. We are living in a society where people want to have fun or they will go and do something else. Of course, we can allow ourselves to follow 'das Lust‐Prinzip'...

TT: These are huge territories. JPP: Enormous. Yet they might become more valuable if they were empty of human beings. Just the wolves and the bears, with just some hunters allowed in who could be charged heavily. TT: This is already a business in Estonia—you can come hunting here, and you get heavily charged. JPP: Look at where Iceland is! They charge a thou‐ sand euros or more for being allowed to fish at special salmon‐rich locations. On top of that, if you catch a salmon and don't want to give it up, then you can buy it. For the rich Americans it's nothing: “OK! I'll pay!” TT: So in that sense all that is rare is becoming more valuable.

TT: Everyone decides for themselves. It cannot be imposed from outside.

JPP: We human beings are walking a line where all that is abundant worthless, but what is scarce is precious. The people who live in the cities don't see nature, so they think that it is scarce. Thus, they adore it and are willing to pay for it. As we said, the market economy is fundamental in capitalism, and the thing about the market econo‐ my is that it delivers a pseudo‐objective measure of what people think is valuable. Thus, it is a democratic way of sending signals about what you think is good, and what you think a 'good life' is. What is scarce is 'attention', 'care', and real, pristine nature.

JPP: Games will capture [the attention of] most of young people—yet it is not what they decide. Games are good since they stimulate the part of the brain that wants to be rewarded. When you win a game, you get an instant reward. Therefore, most people enjoy them. JS: What about gender politics in gaming? I saw an article in the Westerbotten Courier with the headline: „Girls prepare for examinations in macroeconomics, and boys play Warcraft”.

JS: Can we also talk about the 'gaming world' here?

87


JPP: I think it's a challenge that the educational system has resulted in more work being done by girls than by the boys. You can see from the Danish statistics that girls are increasingly getting a better education than boys. Thus, I think we need to change the educational system and gamification could be one part of that. Or, we have to accept the shift from a male‐oriented society to a female one. In that case we will just have to hope that women will treat us slightly better than we treated them when we were on top. I once described several scenarios of how we get there. One was called 'assimilation', which would eventually be completely aleatoric, given the time it takes for a man to meet a woman in the old‐fashioned way. The second scenario is that the question will lose its meaning because we are shifting from the good old days when 'men were men' and 'women were women' to a future in which we might have extremely masculine men at one end of the spectrum and extremely feminine women at the other, with a diverse range in‐between—with gays, lesbians, transsexuals etc.—so no one cares about 'male' and 'female'. According to one German sexologist, in the future we will still fall in love, but first we fall in love and only then ask: „What sex are you?” So, [gender] becomes somewhat secondary. The third scenario is what I call the 'male dodo', named after the dodo bird, which became extinct because it was too heavy to fly. Perhaps men will end up the same way, because they are not so keen on their education and women are going to take over eventually. And then there was a scenario where the women wanted to go back to doing part‐time work, being at home with their children and their friends—they allow men and some masculine women to take charge. The fifth scenario described how, in the future there will be so many dimensions of career differences that gender will lose its meaning. There were a couple more

scenarios, but basically I think that the 'male dodo' is not unrealistic. JS: For us in architecture and urbanism, it is important to look at future modes of living. As you said, the house is going to change. We are building on the past and yet future modes of living are what really interest us. JPP: On Manhattan, apartments are being built with no kitchens because 'they don't cook'. I once saw an advertisement for some kind of a financial company where there was a woman standing in a room which had been totally decorated with textiles, and it said: 'I don't cook'. She had changed the kitchen into something else, because 'I don't cook'. Thus, you have a change in the function of the family, which also has consequences for the interior of houses. TT: Or, for example, in Tokyo, where everything is small since property is so expensive. The kitchen is so tiny that it is impossible to cook there—you can maybe make breakfast—and because of that there are no longer any proper grocery stores around as we know them. There are some small stores where you can buy something to put into a microwave or eat right away, but if you want to cook... JPP: Japanese society is also very interesting because it has become so atomized. Imagine a business that supplies guests when people are getting married, because they have no family—they have no network—but they want to have a big party! It is a professional service. TT: In the future that could be provided by robots. JPP: Or, you could print out your guests. The good thing about robots is that they don't mind [the work]

88


and they are available 24 hours a day. They don't become unionized... TT: They don't generate problems. JPP: Precisely. You can throw them away when you become tired of them. It's still difficult for people to think of an artificial being helping them. It's like all the talk about combining technology and biology— cyborgs etc.—but would they say no to a pacemaker? Then they say: 'But that's different!' But it isn't. It's combining technology and biology. It's a small thing, but we are accustomed to it, so it's alright. JS: That reminds me that current robotics have not succeeded in mechanizing the three laws of robotics. Instead, we are making killer robots for the army, which is a dark scenario for the future…

amongst species. Evolution of the various advanta‐ ges stopped around 10 000 years ago with the appearance of man, who had won the competition. We went from a 'primordial soup', where riches were spread horizontally and continued vertically through generations, to the current situation in which we can engineer biology. In the future, a kid might receive as a birthday present 'My Little Biochemist'. He would sit there and play, making his own organisms. They would not always be pretty, but he would love them because he had created them himself. It's a nice story, isn't it? TT: It might end up being the ugliest teddy bear in the history of mankind. [Laughter] JPP: Precisely.

JPP: ...with the whole ethical dimension of someone sitting in the US with a joystick and then—Poof! —5000km away some people die. This has been dri‐ ven by the so‐called 'humanitarian' President Oba‐ ma. He has been the main driving force. It is under‐ standable, since he will receive negative opinion if a US citizen would die but his local reputation is not harmed by killing a few of the bad guys over there. Obama might have no interest in what left‐wing Europeans may think of him, but if you were to put Obama in the European context he would appear extremely reactionary. What is liberal in the US is conservative in the European context, but we love him because he is not as bad as Mitt Romney. Have you heard about Freeman Dyson? A few years ago, he wrote a piece about the 'Primordial Soup'. Once upon a time, the only life on Earth was single‐cell orga‐ nisms—all alike. At some point one of them acquired an advantage, through mutation, and kept that advantage to itself—that was the origin of species. This went on for millions of years, with competition

November 2, 2013, at the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn This article was originally published in an Estonian translation as “Arhitektuuri tuleviku‐uuringud” in Müürileht on 09.01.2014, http://www.muurileht.ee/arhitektuuri‐tuleviku‐uuringud. 1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Graeber

² The concept of economics and tax policy with an intent to consider or reconsider what is truly valuable to the individuals and to society as a whole. It assembles the overall workings of Money‐Based Economies, Resource‐Based Economies, and Mixed Economies with their relation to tax policy and the implications that arise or may arise within them. ³ Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, called for banks that are "too big to fail" to be cut down to size, as a solution to the problem of banks having taxpayer‐funded guarantees for their speculative investment banking activities. "If some banks are thought to be too big to fail, then, in the words of a distinguished American economist, they are too big. It is not sensible to allow large banks to combine high street retail banking with risky investment banking or funding strategies, and then provide an implicit state guarantee against failure.” 4

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non‐game context to engage users and solve problems.

89


> >

Benjamin Jacquemet and Carolyn Wittendal © Reio Avaste Patrimoine et Malabar 2009 at "Saperlipopette, Voilà Enfantillage!" festival in Château d'O in Montpellier © Microclimax Berg-Berg 2010 in Saint-Gervais-sur-Mare © Microclimax

Microclimax

Microclimax is a creative practice founded by Carolyn Wittendal and Benjamin Jacquemet, working on social and human relations in urban and rural environments, and public or private space. Microclimax s interventions are living processes de ned by action rather than style. The site, the use and the user form the bases and matter of their projects, which vary according to context and are developed via interaction with the local environment. Microclimax uses sampling, absurdity, diversion, collage, recycling, provocation, etc., as toolsfor the production of hybrids of art, architecture, design and landscape. Each project drawsa functioning poetry from contextual and material reality. Microclimax has participated in a wide variety of architecture and design competitions, winner awards and recognition for its work. www.microclimax.org


Interview with with Microclimax (Carolyn Wi endal and Benjamin Jacquemet) by Veronika Valk

Subversion this synthesis, and that is why there is enormous potential for new knowledge to develop in the profession.

Veronika Valk: How do architects produce new knowledge? Through confirming the engineering hegemony, following the path of an artist, or...? Your work is hybrid, often meandering between sampling, absurdity, détournement, collage, recycling, provocation—as tools to produce hybrids of art, architecture, design and landscape. How do you evolve your design concepts—by crossing contexts, spatial dramaturgy?

VV: How can architects and artists catalyze or resist the 'innovation imperative'?—the way that designers today are perpetually accelerating a wheel of innovation: innovate, show your innovation, innovate again, show your work, etc. As a result of this process, once a designer's handwriting is associated with a certain identity, it becomes a 'style'. Yet your interventions are living processes defined by action rather than style.

Microclimax: The architect, due to responsibilities towards the community, has to synthesize a multiplicity of data—the commission brief or program; the physical, social, legal and economic contexts; the political will; the individual and collective needs; the technological environment; the philosophical or creative intentions, and so forth—to present a more or less objective view of the world— as an artist can do—and to offer a design proposal as an answer to this complexity. The context is also 'a moment'. It is a living element, always in transformation. Evolution of the modes of life, innovation of the material, tools, mutation of the environment—all these constitute the many factors that make architecture an ever evolving practice, transforming itself to adapt to every situation. The subjective creation operates in

M: “To resist is to create”, Gilles Deuleuze. “The first resistance is the resistance to the norm”, KompleXKapharnaüM [street‐theater company]. Is it that the designer is set in a wheel of innovation or is it the user that is set in a wheel of consumption? Does the style reflect the creativity of the designer or the tendencies presented by the market seeking new products? Our system of production often leads to applying the same commercial goals of product design to architecture, landscape, urban design... and the result is that today more and more spaces are programmed to be as profitable as possible. Public spaces are privatized, and design and style

91


have mercantile value. Due to certain design tools that we use—sampling, collage, détournement etc.—the process can have a style, but the form itself depends a lot on the context. Most of our projects propose an upgrade of the context or usage, rather than formalist answers. The art element—as a potential for life—is constituted by the perception and appropriation of space by the user more than by its materiality, even if we cultivate its plasticity. VV: What is the role of installation and performance in architecture? Could it be that, in your case, it is also about audience activation? If that is so, how do you activate your audience? M: The implication of the user as audience, and the generosity of the installations, are mostly achieved by using identifiable elements, common and contextual references as icons that recall affect and give confidence—even though their collage or détournement may challenge the user's 'confidence', touching on the 'sensible' and the collective imaginary, as well as questioning the Real and offering alternatives. With the Glov(v)Box [Tallinn, 2006], 100 ambiguous luminous latex hands were screaming for contact in a public space, awakening one from one's deepest phobia or provoking an irresistible need to touch them and take a step towards friendship with the weird presence of the installation—or even to reveal sensitive or sexual behaviors... Another example, the BergBerg project, is a permanent public installation [commissioned according to the '1% to arts' scheme] in a secluded little village in the South of France, offering a small but generous artificial territory to explore public space on the scale of urban furniture. It resonates with the surrounding landscape, as it also invites you

to climb the neighboring mountains and discover new horizons. VV: How can architects explore technological and scientific advancements and experiment with new tools while retaining their critical stance? M: The technological‐scientific and the critical are not opposites. To be critical, one has to know or at least understand the measure of the interests the project serves. It is perhaps similar to the Aïkido attitude: use the force of your adversary... It is better not to underestimate technology as an aim in itself, but rather a question of how to subvert it. We usually use positive criticality to propose other possible approaches, alternative paths or complementary usages. VV: Which working conditions are better for you to experiment in? Would you prefer the urban or rural environment, public or private space as your laboratory? M: Every context has its own constraints and the scope for experimentation depends a lot on the client. We find that there is a lot to do in each environment, so we are still open to any new situation. Both the private and the public have an important role to play in the 'generous city' and in the evolution of society, even if we are still convinced that it is more efficient to develop the public context, since it reaches more users at once. VV: How should both architects/artists as well as scientists/engineers benefit from joint hybrid practice in the future? M: By multiplying interdisciplinarity in their projects and integrating it into the assignment. In that way

92


there will be more occasions to collaborate, exchange approaches on topics and find shared answers. The possible range of disciplines potentially involved has to be widened. For instance, it is vital that we to rethink the actual impact of the urban development in a way that would go beyond the usual restrictive economy‐efficiency‐security triangle of influential factors.

We can only invite the profession to be aware of its determining social role and not to give up on the production of alternatives and of a positive utopia (even if the hardcore ultra‐liberal context tends to impose a low‐profile and obedient service if the profession is to survive). The right to build for others is a heavy but extraordinary social responsibility!

VV: When do those moments of knowledge contamination occur that could help produce the 'embodied environment'—both poetic and functional—and that could help the end‐user to develop their interaction with architecture and the environment?

November, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Kandvatest aukudest helde linna poole” in cultural weekly Sirp on 26.10.2012.

M: The genesis of a project is probably the main phase of potential contamination. The idea may be inspired by a scientific‐technological fact, or it could just emerge on its own. We search for validation of hypotheses, and for solutions, through techniques or sciences, but this exchange is often needed all along the process of materializing the project. The challenge is always to retain the essence or the creative intentions throughout the project process and into its materialization. VV: How is the hybridity of languages—of artists‐ researchers‐scientists—to be advanced? What kind of future would you regard as beneficial in terms of the ethics of the profession of architecture? Your work revolves around social, human relations... M: We share the idea that architecture on the small scale and urbanism on the larger scale give form to society. So, we take into account the impact of our production on the users and always question the intentions that structure the program of the commission—the 'counter‐project' is still possible...

93


>

Michael Weinstock Š Reio Avaste

Michael Weinstock

Studied Architecture at the Architectural Association and has taught at the AA School of Architecture since 1989. He is the founder and director of the school's Emergent Technologies Masters Programme. His research interest lies in exploring the convergence of biomimetic engineering, architecture, emergence and material sciences and has published widely on these topics since 1989. The potential of the convergence for the materialization of intelligent materials, structures, and ultimately, the organization of cities, provides the motivation and suggests the long-term goal. He received Acadia Award for Excellence in 2008. http://emtech.aaschool.ac.uk


Interview with with Michael Weinstock by Triin Ojari and Toomas Tammis

Systems Architecture of Emergent Systems

in evolution, evolutionary history in genetics and mathematics. My current research is about urban systems, projecting the kinds of webs we need to establish cities in stream environments. I have to physically situate them in places as the world conti‐ nues. It is an intensely mathematical and computa‐ tional project. It's not science fiction to say that the world in a hundred years' time will be cooler, but we chose existing places in deserts and on coasts, and we measure the data there is now and try to develop designs for that—to be culturally appropriate for those locations. We have started to be interested in northern latitudes, in the tundra conditions where climate change is more extreme. We look at ranges of different localities that have a calculable evolu‐ tion behind them and can teach us something. We can measure and quantify pretty exactly the climatic and environmental conditions. These are not buzz‐ words for us. Our project is very data‐driven. Some traditional architects would find it lacking creativity. But mathematicians dream about poetry and beauty and find them in mathematical structures. This is just a slightly different perspective on the same thing. The idea of an architect as an artist is quite recent idea.

Triin Ojari: Can you tell us about the research done at your Architectural Association [AA] studio? Michael Weinstock: All transitions in human history have been about the changes in information systems, energy systems and, in consequence, on material systems of architecture. [We are engaged in a] historical mode of research—I'm looking for those moments of transition and to see where we are now, trying to lay some groundwork for the coming transitions. Research in academic life is not easy without grants. A Master's program has to deliver the Mas‐ ter's degree. The research is not blue‐sky thinking; it has to be validated, presented in a clear and logical way. So a Master's program that is led by research has to be well sighted. We need to do the kind of work that educators and evaluators would see as firmly grounded in the current world—we don't do science fiction, but we might be year or two ahead of what is actually possible. There is no point in any discipline in the academy if it is not looking to the future. We started pretty much on the material logics. That is the founding discipline. I'm always interested

95


TO: What about your research apart from the school?

talented and good people; five years would be better for most of us.

MW: My current ambition in research regards establishing what cultural systems are and their relation to other systems. I just began a book about the culture of the city; about how that idea can be projected forward to more extreme conditions.

TT: Do you see it as a continuation of the work of the Emerging Technologies program? Can you actually carry on the same work?

Toomas Tammis: When I was at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in the mid‐ nineties there was no PhD program, or it was only in history and theory.

TO: What about the themes the students are researching in the Master's program? And what are the possibilities for getting work as architects?

MW: I'm developing a new kind of PhD—a PhD in Design. There's a strong resistance to it and it is a hard fight, because traditionalists think that a PhD is a certain volume of text and would prefer it to be on something like The Difference Between the Italian and Latin versions of Alberti's Treatise—120 000 words about four words! A PhD in Design is more common in engineering and other disciplines; architecture is a little bit shy about it, a little ambivalent—they don't know how to measure it. The course has a text component, which should be about a third, and the rest would be some models, drawings etc. For now it is validated and underway. We have students in their third year; no one has yet completed this PhD. Also the Bartlett is doing it—it is surprising how many architects want to have a PhD in Design. TT: How long would you expect it to take? MW: There's a lot of pressure in Europe that a PhD should be four years. That's very fast, and there's even an idea in some schools to make it three years. The students are accepted only if they have a fully formed proposal. Four years is viable for very

MW: Yes you can extend it.

MW: We have a very good employment record. We have started to attract some students just because of that. In many European practices, in order to gain a position as a design team leader you have to be fluent in most computational systems. We do not take only architects to the MSc level, we also have many engineers, some biologists, jewelry designers, naval architects, product designers etc. Most our students go on to be employed by either small separate 'smart groups' inside big practices like Foster's, or in engineering practices like Bruno Happold. TT: What do you think about the possibility of research in an architectural office? I was recently in Melbourne RMIT reviewing the PhD work, which is a PhD in practice and is based on the work the people are doing in their offices. Interestingly enough, they invite people who have had a practice for more than five or ten years. Often the theoretical or philosophical aspect of the work is cut out of that. Is that enough? MW: This is another new kind of PhD that is going around the world. My tutor Dalibor Veseley said that most architects have one idea in their life and they

96


when they're very close to the collapse. It doesn't mean that humans are all going to die. Generally, what this has meant for civilization is that as human systems collapse, younger people move away, businesses fail, crops fail, the older people can no longer remain where they are, etc. Consider the Hanseatic system, until it developed to its maximum capacity and then it became very sensitive to many ecological changes, economic changes and demographic changes. In that sense, I'm pessimistic that all systems do collapse. However, new orders arise from collapse and the reason why I'm extremely pessimistic about sustainability is that there's only one example in the whole of human history of that kind of agenda working—the eastern half of the Roman Empire.

spend their whole life reworking it in every project they do; and in that sense architects do research in practice. The better ones are pretty consistent in exploring a fairly limited set of ideas. TO: How does the research done on the Architectural Association's Master program connect to the new concept of making architecture —ecologically‐minded architecture, responsive to sustainable development and other so‐called green technologies? MW: I personally do not use the word 'sustainable', partly because I think it is currently a theology rather than either a scientific or artistically conceived way of working. My personal research is in the evolutionary history of architecture and civilization, and it leads me to believe that collapse is a necessary condition from which beneficial changes arrive. I do not believe that humans are sustainable. Collapse has a very precise meaning in complex systems science; it means the moment of disorganization in any system.

TT: What do you mean by that? MW: The Roman Empire existed more or less in the same period as the Chinese Empire. There were about 60 million people in the far north. In the eastern territories, when the climate changed, ecological systems were failing, there were less fruitful crops, and it all caused pressure for people to migrate to the south. This caused progressively greater pressure on the places already occupied, and you got invasions and warfare. The Romans had hugely extended lines of communication, moving grain from Egypt all the way up to northern Europe. They were very effective, gradually more and more people get involved in the movement systems, information systems, regulatory systems etc. When the moment of collapse came—circa 200BC—the eastern half decided that they would gradually concede territory. They abandoned money, disbanded their army, abandoned taxes etc. They became less complex and used less energy. Their agenda was sustainability, and they did last a lot

TT: Your book The Architecture of Emergence: The Evolution of Form in Nature and Civilisation was very pessimistic... MW: I am actually optimistic that humans will survive for a very long time, but history shows that the systems they develop do not last long. The values do. The classic example in complex systems science is a sand dune. The sand dune has a certain kind of shape and it moves. It moves because one phase remained stable right to the moment when one extra grain caused it collapse. The phase will collapse, so the actual moment of collapse can be predicted, but can't say which actual grain will cause it. All natural systems tend to evolve to that point

97


longer than the western part of the Empire. You have to give away everything for civilization to survive. I do not think that sustainability in that sense is the right approach. Adaptation is what animals do. Societies that adapt to the crises produce new things, new energy systems, new information systems, new architecture in the cities. TT: There has been something on my mind while I've been reading The Architecture of Emergence. You see the whole global system as being on the verge of a critical threshold. Among the reasons you give are, on the one hand, density, and on the other, the complexity of global systems. But looking at global systems more precisely, there are all sorts of differences—very big differences—and I think that one different path is the Nordic region, where population density or the complexity of the system has never been high. However, we must still acknowledge that it is part of the whole global system. MW: I think that the problems that will arise here are different. Generally global civilizations have not paid sufficient attention to local and regional differentiation—climates, economies and cultural histories are different. If we are right about climate change, the Nordic region will become equivalent to the present Mediterranean and I do not know where you could accommodate the waves of refugees. Politically, it is difficult to close your borders for a while... TT: It's almost an impossible situation here also demographically, because we are aging here. The population is declining and this has been a huge alarm for industries—Who will do the work? So closing borders would not be the answer.

MW: Historically it has taken three or four generations for the demographic movements to have significant effects on the host countries. TT: Coming back to the example of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire—Would you say that at the moment, when the global systems did not work, the locality acted differently?—which you said was actually sustainable. Do you see now any possibility at all for that [in the future]? MW: We recently published a map in Architectural Design, which we drew with the help of EU statisticians, showing how connected places are by time—how long it takes to get from one place to another. Except for a few regions in central Africa and parts of Mongolia, in general there are very few dark regions in the world that it would take more than a day's travel to reach. The chances of being isolated are very few. The history of biological evolution shows some isolated pockets where species have survived while very advanced ecologies have not survived. I guess that very few countries— maybe China and the US—could close their borders and could survive on the differences between localities as a kind of substitute for the outer world. No one voluntarily gives up their iPhone, TV, etc. It is another reason why sustainability—going backwards—is not really in human nature. TO: Do you see the politics and economics of sustainable architecture—the use of solar energy, etc.—as just a continuation of the so‐called 'old' economic model, i.e. that it does not bring along anything new? MW: It is a false promise. One can say there's always a value in doing something less

98


needn't be any catastrophic shocks cascading from one system to another. In terms of architecture and systems at the scale of the city, there are things that can be done to improve what we have already, but a more interesting area is to rethink what we would do if we had to migrate to areas that are currently considered uninhabitable. We have to recapture some of the lost knowledge of cultures that evolve spatially and materially, to find good solutions to very cold, dry or hot climates. One of our most problematic inheritances from Modernism is its universality—the idea that the same kind of structures and designs can work anywhere in the world, and that if there is a local environmental problem you can simply add more heating or more air‐conditioning.

extravagantly, and that is a core architectural value. The world is big enough. Some architects may design banks in Dubai with bathtubs on their rooftops, but this is the bling or costume of architecture; it is not really what architecture is for. The core value of architecture is always to make things well with minimum expenditure. I think learning to calculate and measure fluxes better is a good thing. In many parts of Europe you see really poor architecture: spatially I mean, with an impoverished palette of materials and tiny, badly‐lit spaces with very high UV‐values—it uses very little energy and is presented as eco‐friendly architecture. TT: These kinds of arguments do not really reduce the complexity of bigger systems... MW: They do not make a significant difference to systems. For example, the heating scheme of a city the size of central Tallinn would make far more difference than any single sustainable low carbon building. It is crucial to work at the level of systems.

November 2012, Tallinn

TT: One of the key problems in the complexity of contemporary global systems is in the global financial markets. There is a huge argument about the possible deregulation of things. Do you see any chance of intelligent regulation that could break that apparent inevitability? MW: The general argument about cultural evolution is that people have choices. There are larger patterns that seem to emerge over longer periods, but they do not particularly have to do with any individual person's choice, or even with that of a small group or particular leader. If we understand our natural systems from the perspective of complexity, there will always be some disturbances and oscillations; and we can prepare ourselves for the better, so there

99


> >

Mirrorcube Tree Hotel in Harads (Sweden) © Tham & Videgård Martin Videgård and Bolle Tham © Reio Avaste

Bolle Tham & Martin Videgård

Tham & Videgård Arkitekter is a progressive and contemporary practice that focuses on architecture and design; from large scale urban planning through to buildings, interiors and objects. The of ce is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and is directed by co-founders and chief architects Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård. The of ce has been awarded prizes and nominations in several open international competitions and has also attracted attention for its experimental and innovative projects. As an integral part of their architectural practice, Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård also teach and lecture at schools of architecture in Sweden and abroad. www.tvark.se


Interview with Bolle Tham from Tham&Videgård by Veronika Valk

Authentic Veronika Valk: With regards to your office's profile, you mention on your website that one of the key objectives for you is 'distinctness', but maybe you can enlarge a bit what this word means for you?

focus on the positive effects of long‐term planning for public and common functions—the tents included as public symbols and functional points of orientation.

Bolle Tham: Concerning the definition of distinct architecture, I think we use this term to underscore the value and importance of a building that is clear and strong enough to contribute to the contemporary discussions we have in society. So a building that is precise in relation to its use, its context, etc., as a response to a specific situation. It also connects to our idea of an authentic architecture.

VV: Since you were a Europan11 jury member in Sweden, would you comment on the results? What is the role or meaning of such a competition as Europan, for the architectural scene?

VV: I find it delightful how you have addressed temporal conditions in habitation—summer houses etc.—and that you did not speak of 'emergency' projects in your talk; so how does your tent project at Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) differ from your other works in temporary housing?

BT: The result of the Swedish sites was successful in the way that it will help to further the discussion on planning and building in these relatively small municipalities. A few proposals could be developed and built straight away, while others will probably be best used as inspiration for the coming planning processes. The Europan competition format is a great way to give younger practices the opportunity to engage with major projects, some of which also take off and produce both new environments and a new generation of practitioners with real work on their curriculum.

BT: In the Emergency Architecture project, our contribution was to propose a new mindset on a strategic level. In short, to consider the camps as cities in the making, rather than 'temporary', and to

VV: The students at the Estonian Academy of Arts Faculty of Architecture—whose work you critiqued while in Tallinn—praised the way you grasped the essence of their projects instantly and gave very

101


good and constructive criticism. What was your overall impression of our school? Were any student projects worthwhile highlighting? And would you have general suggestions in terms of the future of architectural education? BT: I think the students in general were onto ideas that could be developed into relevant architecture, though many are still unclear about their architectural decisions. The most important thing for them, when tackling a small task such as a one family house, is to define a precise conceptual take on the overall situation. This is crucial as a framework to define what the house is all about, so that the subsequent choices can be guided within the 'internal logic' of each house. What I mean by this is figuring out what are the most important or the overruling factors that have to be right before any design work can start—the siting (which does not apply in an in‐fill site), access and distribution of private and common spaces, relation between the interior (private life) and the exterior (also the views and the exposure), a construction concept as a guide for spatial decisions, a clear idea for circulation, etc.

November, 2012

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as "Harilikult eriline, eriliselt harilik" in cultural weekly Sirp on 17.01.2013.

102


> >

Prototype for psychotropic rocking-chair Lulu by Orkan Telhan, tested by infamous William J. Mitchell © Orkan Telhan C2C12 Myoblast cell line forming tissue © Orkan Telhan Orkan Telhan © Orkan Telhan

Orkan Telhan

Orkan Telhan studied media arts at the State University of New York in Buffalo, and theories of media and representation, visual studies and graphic design at Bilkent University, Ankara. Telhan has completed his PhD in Design and Computation at MIT School of Architecture and Planning. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. He is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts—Emerging Design Practices at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. His individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in a number of venues including Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, Architectural League/ NYC, and the MIT Museum. Telhan is part of the sparc collective. orkantelhan.info


Interview with Orkan Telhan by Veronika Valk

Living Veronika Valk: Your work is experimental and hybrid in nature. How do you evolve your ideas? You mentioned 'approximation' in your lecture: What is your method for developing your design concepts? Orkan Telhan: I design approximations. I have borrowed this term from a well‐known synthetic chemical biologist, Luigi Luisi, who considers most research on artificial life—such as human‐made equivalents of DNAs, ribozomes, protocells—to be synthetic 'approximations' of life. By calling something an approximation one often assumes that it is about mimicking what living things 'naturally' do. Biological design is about mimicking the 'real' thing—the synthetic cell tries to mimic the real cell and so on. Some branches of science might be focused on replicating nature, but design can be about imagining what lies beyond the natural life if certain realities are suspended or re‐interpreted. I think of design as a way of knowing. Design for me is a pathway to knowledge—again not to explain how things are but rather how else they can be considered. Many designers pose the question: “What if?” today. “What if we use this and that in a different way?” I rather prefer the question: “What else?” Looking for a good solution or finding an alternative is not satisfying for me—we must move

beyond the solution, go further and investigate what else could be done or imagined with the outcome. Ironically, this is how nature works. It tries new things without any purpose. Some things relate to one another better and stick around, and others just disappear. You can call this thinking biomimicry too, but I am sure that you understand the difference. VV: What is 'space' for you? OT: I see space as an arrangement of relationships—dependencies, nodes, hubs, units, parts, objects; but also as architecture—enclosure, containment, confinement—the context in which life takes place. In that sense, I like to use the word 'biotope', which literally means 'where life lives'. Living things are always confined to a boundary, a semipermeable boundary. It is always an enclosure. There's always the separation between the inside and the outside. We could have the birth of metaphysics there—right there you have the demarcation of the self from the environment—but geometry, the narrator of space, cannot deal with time so well. It is not a very limited vocabulary to discuss things that lie within the bodies of living things, for example, but the living things themselves

105


rely on spatial relationships as much as they rely on temporal relationships. Life is about when things happen, move, flow, grow, and change. It's more of an event‐driven thing. Geometry doesn't know how to deal with that. Geometry also assumes that a very particular description would persist for a long time. It cannot adapt to change over time. Most of the representational methods that we have developed so far are visual—communication has been based on the visual information; but when we talk about the digital, then information theory compresses and translates every representational paradigm into 1s and 0s. This is a method that has been effectively been in use for only the past 50 years. Now we can communicate almost anything very quickly, very efficiently, from one place to another through digital representations. In a way we dropped the supremacy of the visual imperative, but the digital is also missing a lot of other things. It is not capable of dealing with materiality or energy, for example. It's a representational paradigm that can only work if representation is decoupled from physical conditions. But living things are a bit different you know. So in the end we need to come up with different models or representations to be able to deal with living matter in new ways. VV: What about scalability and scale‐free systems? OT: The universe has a very particular configuration and that's why even though we can talk about resolution‐free or scale‐free systems (like fractals) in metaphorical terms, or in terms of knowledge, we cannot talk about scale‐free systems when we are bound to physical and material conditions or energy. Finitude of matter is not a problem that can be solved with metaphors, but we need to deal with infinitude to imagine beyond our limits and constraints and so we use abstractions as tools to

turn the unmanagables into a symbol, model, or system—to deal with them, but not because it is the only way to deal with them. This is as good as we have got after so many years of civilization. I'm allergic to the concept of a 'unit', since things are in constant change. But I still use it. Different systems are more or less flexible towards moving between different abstractions and definitions. We evolve our abstraction methods in our technologies. The same goes for biotech: once we have better design paradigms, we're able to design at different levels, from molecules to genes to proteins etc. VV: You seem to believe in technological advancement? OT: I'm not a positivist. VV: So how do you retain your critical stance? When do those moments occur when you would say: “Wait a minute, let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture of where things are going”? OT: I do 'sanity checks' all the time. I don't believe in absolutes or 'absolutism': absolute criticality, absolute relativity, absolute positivism—all of them happen at the same time. While certain people need to be disobedient, resistive and critical, other people need to be ignorant and keep pushing things forward. Remember nature works that way. You need the engineers to invent cameras so that the photographers take pictures of war crimes [which the politicians manipulate the media with – VV]. If the engineers would become critical of technology then it would limit the possibilities for others to become critical about the content that is created by them. It's a complex set of relationships or dependencies. Criticality depends on the naïve

106


positivists. I cannot also say that engineering a camera is not a critical process. There, criticality is a very different attitude. The evolution of every product is a critique of the previous one and a critique of the society in which things are accepted, consumed and also forgotten. Criticality has different tactics. VV: Is speculation also a form of criticality? OT: Speculations can be opinionated—negative or positive. Thus, we should also think of value judgments embedded with speculations. Some speculations could be evangelist or indoctrinating, they might not be self‐reflective. But when one talks about design, there is always an agenda, an ideolo‐ gy. Criticality has its own agenda, progressivism its own. They all necessarily serve egos—the taste of the dominant class, the educated, or the underserved. VV: Or positivists? OT: Science already embraces post‐positivism and critiques the positivist model in itself. It is not starry‐ eyed as many may think. It is quite known in the scientific circles that the 'truth' is always approximate, contingent, limited by our ways of dealing with knowledge, and it is shaped by our instruments, value judgments, expectations and agendas. I believe in advancement. Yet this 'advancement' doesn't mean that all is turning towards the 'better', but simply that everything changes. Time passes, things happen on different levels. I don't see a reason why we should be pessimistic about things. Evolution does not come with a pre‐packaged value system—it tries whatever comes its way. Relentlessly.

VV: What might be the impact of biotechnology on architecture and urban design tomorrow?—From an anthopocentric point of view, since we know no other? What is desirable? Possible? Achievable? What would we want to integrate from biotechnology? OT: The shift in the way people have started to think about living and the non‐living things continues. People have started to think about the agency of the living things and therefore materials and to see certain abstract processes. The anthropomorphic thinking has advanced, but if architecture and urbanism is disrespectful to the living world then we're not able to go very far. We're now 7 billion people, soon 10 billion people, and we consume resources. If we're not smart enough then the equilibrium will collapse. Maybe we need to disappear for this not to happen. I think architecture and urbanism don't really have a way to deal with this. Acknowledgement of the living systems would allow us to be more aware of ourselves and our relationships with other living things in a larger system around us. That would have a profound impact on the way we construct buildings and relationships. Cities are more about relationships than architecture—they are the highest level of achievement we have in terms of social, economic and political infrastructure. In that respect biology—not just biotechnology, but knowledge about biology—has a role. Our notion of nature has changed, our notion of the environment has changed, and our comprehensive knowledge of ourselves is radically changing as we can also store more information. The major impact will not originate from a single technology. No technology will come to the rescue unless we start to solve the same problems. Trying to engineer organisms to make biofuels is not getting us anywhere. It's a

107


waste of time and energy. It won't make too much difference if we keep being so greedy about exploiting resources. If we want architecture to be relevant in the 21st Century we should demand new things from it. Perhaps not by building enclosures and homes. What else may architecture mean? That is more interesting for me. Looking at biochemical space, is it possible to build within the human body? Think of architecture not only from the exterior as a containment, but as something that can really use the space 'within' to think about other spatial conditions. Urbanisms with microbes in the gut could spawn new fields. This inside space doesn't even have a representation yet. We might have maps of organs or body parts, but we don't really know what's going on in there in the way that we know the surface of the globe. Even our agency over our own body is very limited. You cannot control your kidney or at what rate your heart is beating. We need to build a new literacy to understand our interior—for us and for other living things. That's an interesting architec‐ tural problem that I would demand of architecture and not of biology, because the field has such a history and the experience to deal with space.

more about science's current problems to be able to ask even harder questions. If you can ask the hard questions, then you can advance your thinking. That's the best way to learn about one's limits. We need to invent new fields, since I don't think that the current distinction between mathematics, physics, medicine etc. helps us to find a cure for cancer, or free energy, or help us look beyond what we have already. We need huge paradigm shifts. The neo‐ liberal system destroyed our imagination, but I think one can train oneself to be imaginative, though it takes courage to take risks, and confidence. I'm not a believer in failures, but we must take big risks to take big bites.

December 19, 2012, Tallinn.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Mis veel?” in cultural weekly Sirp on 31.01.2013.

VV: Do the scientists understand what you're after? OT: Sometimes. I try to speak the language of science. I don't believe in the distinction between the different fields. I'm interested in building an organism that is capable of answering the question: “What is the meaning of life?” I'm not optimistic about the current interests of science. They are tied too much with corporate or academic agendas, whereas I have more freedom to think about hard problems while being an outsider. Yet I need to know

108


>

Sami Rintala Š Reio Avaste Seljord Watch Tower (Norway) by Rintala & Eggertsson Š Dag Jenssen

Sami Rintala

Sami Rintala is an architect and an artist, with a long list of achievements after nishing his architect studies in Helsinki, Finland in 1999. His works combine architecture with critical thinking on society, nature and the real tasks of an architect; all within a crossover artistic eld that utilizes space, light, materials and the human body as tools for expression. In 2008, he started Rintala Eggertsson Architects together with Dagur Eggertsson. Rintala Eggertsson Architects, based in Oslo and Bodø, in southern and northern Norway, have been active in experimentation and with building full scale architectonic objects. Awards include the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and the of ce is also a Mies van der Rohe award nominee, a Bauhaus award nominee and EUROPAN 7 runner-up. An important part of Sami's work is his teaching and lecturing in various art and architecture universities. His teaching takes place usually in the form of workshops where students are challenged to participate in shaping the human environment in a realistic 1:1 situation. www.rintalaeggertsson.com


Interview with Sami Rintala by Veronika Valk

Psychophysical Veronika Valk: You've conducted quite a few very specific workshops around the world in order to build 1:1 structures with the aid of students. So, workshops seem to offer you a good framework for making and teaching architecture. How do you plan them? Sami Rintala: I like to build things. It's impossible to communicate architecture with words, drawings or even models. You have to build it to communicate it. Even test it. One doesn't become a good architect just like that. By building things in full scale it's possible to analyze what went right and what didn't. In a way, it is a constant prototyping process. When it comes to students of architecture, this is the only real research they can do—designing and building, and looking into the material properties. Architecture is a really physical form of activity. I find it problematic when things become overly hypothetical and will never be built. It can be valuable but it's not my cup of tea. Things don't become less clever or intellectual when they're done by hand. They can in that way be extremely precise. We are psychophysical creatures. I don't like the division between research and building. It should be one and the same thing. By now we've done 50 to 60 workshops, thus we have some experience in this.

VV: The majority of those 50 to 60 workshops have resulted in a 1:1 built structure. How many of them are in your home territory, either in Norway or Finland? Where else have you taken your students? You just came from Laos. You seem to be searching for foreign contexts. Is that also a test of limits for you? SR: It's happened somewhat automatically that we've been doing things here and there—first in Japan, then in Italy, etc. It was probably for cultural or contextual reasons that the Italians and the Japanese contacted us. We haven't really been looking for these opportunities. The next one will be in South Chile, due to our personal contacts with Maurizio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen who work there. When a workshop lasts for, let's say, 10 days, we use two days for design and the rest of the time for actual construction. So these structures can't be too big. Some of the small things have been very successful; some have stayed on the site permanently. There are students who have stayed with me already for five years. They've been to 3 or 4 of our workshops and it is great to see them working in very nice ways, with a sophisticated approach.

111


VV: You have obviously cultivated the creativity of your students in particular ways. Do you have a definition for creativity? It's such an overused word but perhaps you have your take on it? SR: It's good to put the student in a situation where there's a real site, a real client, materials, tools. That way you can forget the rest of the world for a while, including magazines and other flashy things, and the student is in a situation where he or she is forced to think in very practical terms, developing a different kind of creativity than, for example, when drawing or sampling style‐ or form‐based things. It'd be useless to think of Zaha Hadid's projects when you're in a jungle in Thailand. VV: Speaking of Chile, one of their universities implements a teaching method whereby architecture students must build their graduation project. They are only evaluated upon their built work. Have you met a similar approach anywhere in Norway? SR: Not really, other than what we do. There's a 'Wood Studio' in Helsinki, doing nice work. They push the students to be carpenters from day one. A tribal feeling when working together helps to encourage a positive atmosphere and influences the end result. If people become happy about them‐ selves and about their lives it can't all be wrong. VV: Working in a jungle in Thailand, do you feel completely out of context, or do you and your students fit in? Are you comfortable working in such conditions? SR: We got to know the village and the client pretty well, so yes, we were comfortable in that context. We were among Karen people and our task was to

build an orphanage for 42 kids, aged 3 months to 16 years, who had lost their parents. I was initially worried that it could be emotionally difficult, having kids myself, but it wasn't really so. We stayed there for 2 weeks. That's a good period for keeping the focus of a group of 10‐15 architects and students. We were playing football with them and the students were great in communicating with the local people. Last time in India we had a private client. We had a 3‐day seminar with the locals to learn about the context, followed by a 2‐day design period and 10 days of building. The client wanted to invest in the educational framework, which is rare. VV: Do you think it is fair that architects from Europe or Scandinavia travel to such remote places and work there? Shouldn't this work be available to the locals? SR: In a sense, it is not a fair trade, but the projects we are doing are utilitarian projects, doing something good for a lot of people. In India, we built a prototype for decentralized ecological tourism, which would enable the local people to run the tourism themselves: they could buy a pre‐fabricated cottage and run it in connection with the local agriculture, providing gardens and solar panels, instead of building huge hotels. Another reason is a pragmatic one relating to the academic calendar. We also run workshops in Norway, but my course starts in January so if I want to build outdoors then it must happen in the Southern hemisphere. My teaching starts with actual building. After that we come back with the students to design something bigger, with another program on the same site but with the same materials and based on the knowledge we gained about the local context. We then deliver those

112


drawings to the client. Usually it's agreed before‐ hand that the client needs those drawings. In Chile we are working in a socially‐problematic area with industrial waste. There's a nice nature reserve nearby. Thus, again, we first do something small and then afterwards try to provide a solution to the bigger problems. The client is the municipality. Our funding from the school—my fee, all our travel expenses, the tools and so forth—are of help to the locals. There wouldn't be another Chilean architect doing all that work. I got the Chilean wood industry to sponsor all the materials this time, for example. For me, it's about collecting a group of actors together and making everyone a winner. It can happen in Norway, but we don't face the same kind of limitations. Additionally, we can push the students a bit further when we put them out of their comfort zone, although flying 20 people around the globe is not the most ecological thing to do. VV: Speaking of ecological thinking: Do you think your project for a dispersed hotel in India indicates a direction in architecture whereby households are becoming autonomous in dealing with energy issues, waste etc. Is architecture becoming autotrophic? SR: That would be positive. When there are problems with infrastructure, architecture becomes a shelter just as it was in the beginning. My own house is a bit like that. By doing some adjustments it's possible to become autonomous. VV: There's also the opposite trend of exponential urbanization. I guess it was in 2001 or 2002 that we crossed the line of more than 50% of the world population living cities rather than in the countryside. Even official European Union urban policies now guide us towards making cities more

compact, towards densification, utilizing the benefits that come with urbanization. SR: As systems become smarter, the problem is not the energy but the waste. But we must also remember that there is still half of the population living in the countryside and that is where the valuable resources are. Therefore, overall, I'm much more interested in the rural areas. 99.9% of discourses in architecture are about cities. There's enough consultation about the city. And anyway in many cases global capitalism will decide how things are going to be. Thus, there are good discussions that only seldom lead to tangible solutions. Furthermore, there are so many different types of urbanism! In South India we saw cities of 100 000 people that don't really resemble a city at all, but something between a jungle and housing with gardens in between. You could almost call these recycling gardens. In big cities like Tokyo and New York the latest trend is also about gardening. VV: Occasionally the desire to be close to nature can feel synthetic—for example, when New Yorkers start hatching eggs and incubating chickens just to feel closer to nature. One could say it speaks of objectifying nature. SR: At the same time it's a very honest picture, no matter how perverse it sometimes appears. These urbanites are alienated from nature. I've had some interesting discussions in nature with people from big cities. For example, when I start making a fire they will begin to object that I shouldn't take those branches from nature. So this is their experience with nature: that you shouldn't do anything with it. Without realizing that all of their food comes from nature, all their clothes come from nature, everything they live in comes from nature. This is

113


nature and it has to be used. The question is how we go about gardening it. At the Alvar Aalto Symposium we had an interesting keynote speech from environmentalist Yrjö Haila about building and gardening. We, architects, should be doing more 'micro‐climatizing': allowing things to grow and planning and designing gardens better. VV: Some scientists are saying that microclimates are travelling faster and faster. Should people adapt to a changing local microclimate or travel with the microclimate? SR: These changes are quite small, slow and incremental. Nonetheless it has been proven that historically civilizations have moved due to changes in climate—200m a year in a North‐South direction and 200km in an East‐West direction. That's one of the reasons why the Eurasian continent was better connected compared to the American continent: people had to be constantly learning and adapting to the new plants and animals they confronted. People will follow their climate if they feel comfortable with it, but today people are so disconnected from their climate because of the artificial world we have built that this no longer necessary. In northern Norway, architecture helps to create a microclimate that is less windy and more sunny—otherwise you won't want to go outside. VV: You have emphasized your interest in rural areas—discussing waste management as recycling, gardening, etc. Do you see related movements in architecture, or other organizations thinking along similar lines—not just thinking or talking about it, but also doing it, like yourself. Who are your peers? 'Architecture for Humanity'?

SR: I don't think we are humanitarian architects at all. Our primary goal is to make good architecture. When doing fieldwork with students I don't try to dig into the social problems. I just try to make good architecture, which might sometimes also solve a few problems. My empathy is for the client. I make the building and then I go home. I don't fall in love with poverty. I see the students sometimes struggling with emotional engagement and I remind them of the fact that we are actually architects. Doing such workshops is not a good business idea. It shouldn't be recommended at all. It's a completely crazy thing to do, and yet we learn so much from it. VV: But that was not the case in Laos? SR: The Laos project was not about a student workshop. Me and my office partner Dagur Eggertsson live in different cities, so our working pattern is to meet on site for 3‐4 days and have a workshop for our own purposes. We meet with the client and familiarize ourselves with the site in order to produce a sketch project by the end of those 3‐4 days. It's good for the client since they get quick results and their voices are properly heard, and they receive continuous feedback from us since we can quickly make mockups at 1:1 scale, with ropes, sticks and so forth. Thus in Laos we are building the 'Butterfly House' and the 'Orchid House'. We will probably return once the main steel structure is done, built by local people who need the work. We will need to make sure there's proper airflow in the buildings. The client is a former art curator from Holland who has worked in Paris and also in New York. In essence, being qualified to discuss conceptual ideas with architects and working with artists are not so different, so he sometimes gives us extraordinarily precise feedback, occasionally in funny ways, such

114


as: “The design is good, but could be 10% wilder.” We know immediately what he means. He wanted a Nordic architect who could do the job. I guess we represent a good balance as a fairly young practice that needs work, is quite flexible to travel, and which is not so expensive. VV: Your work is quite conceptual. You seem to like narratives. Do you think your clients always follow your ideas? Have you had any bad experiences with clients? SR: Very rarely, but it has happened. It's down to an individual understanding about what is architecture or who the architect is. It's about how people see the project and what their underlying strategy is. When it's about the money then we're just used, thus we're a bit careful with the investors these days. On the other hand, I'm happy to have met such a variety of people in my work. I have had a state job for a couple of years now where I help local farmers in Norway to renovate their barns for new purposes. It's been great to meet with real farmers and try to convince them to do something contemporary.

that lack all the ingredients necessary for a happy life since they are no more than quick and easy solutions for sleeping. At the same time, there's beauty in the densification of some wooden areas in northern Norway. I recently found an analogy in Newfoundland with a dense wooden setting and a nice microclimate. VV: How long is the lifespan of a building? SR: I built my house so that it would stand for 100 years, but I also payed twice as much as one would pay for a normal house—but what is normal anyways…? My garden will be an arctic one.

January 24, 2013

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Üks ühele arhitektuur, 10% metsikum” in cultural weekly Sirp on 7.02.2013.

VV: It touches on the psychospatial sense of architecture that people have? SR: People grow up in architecture. Some dream of a house throughout their whole life. Their subconscious lives in that house. Sometimes it's their grandmother's house. The house is very important to the child—it structures their universe, makes them feel safe. Houses represent values: today one could argue that a lot of 'dream homes' are more about flat screen TVs than anything of substance. In that sense we do occasionally feel like humanitarian architects—helping Westerners to get their lives back—especially in suburban situations

115


>

>

Jaanika Peerna

Live Drawing Dance Performance by Jaanika Peerna Light installation in 2012 Š Jaanika Peerna

Jaanika Peerna is an Estonian-born artist living and working in New York since 1998. Her work encompasses drawings, videos and light installations, and often deals with the theme of transitions in light, air, water and other natural phenomena. She has been involved in collaborative projects with designers, dancers and musicians, and has exhibited her work extensively in the entire New York metropolitan area as well as in Paris, Tallinn, Lisbon, So a, Dubai, Honolulu, Novosibirsk and Rome. Her work is in numerous private collections in the US and Europe and was recently acquired by Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Paris. Her work is represented in the United States by Masters & Pelavin Gallery in New York, in ARC Fine Art in Connecticut and in Europe by Haus Galerii in Tallinn, Estonia. www.jaanikapeerna.net


Interview with Jaanika Peerna by Veronika Valk

Experiential Veronika Valk: What is creativity? It's such an out‐ worn word, but nevertheless—what does it mean? Jaanika Peerna: It's easier to talk about creativity in general terms. As soon as you capture and relate it to your own person and artistic work, it's already much more complex. I have never consciously attempted to develop my creativity, neither was it considerably supported by my education, even while studying art. I went to school during the Soviet era and the transitional years following it. While studying in Finland and in the US, I was already more experienced and the school provided a place and opportunity to do something that I had always wanted to do—to give my perception of the world the form of visual art. There seemed to be no need for any invention or creative stimulation. All I needed was time and a place where to express the visions circling inside. In the New York State University I studied in the MFA programme in the department of cross‐disciplinary arts where the transition from drawing to light installations was a natural course of events.1 I interwove them with video, then washed the digital photo prints: a digital photo is printed and then the image is washed from it. This was one of my author's techniques at the time. Creative works have the ability to reflect and enlighten new ideas and techniques that will take shape in the next works. By

implementing the vision in material I give myself a chance to become fully aware of it, study it and let it continue to the (sub)consciousness from where it will one day re‐emerge as a new vision (an idea). So, creativity seems to be the contact you have with your inner flow which is always there although it may not be immediately accessible. VV: Your installations seem to be playing with some primeval and fundamental spatial experience. How do you do it? Do you have some specific questions that your works seek to answer or is it more like an aimless journey guided by intuition and giving priority to the creative process rather than the product? JP: You have captured something essential here: I am looking for a chance to convey a particular spatial experience with my works. I'm certainly more interested in the experiential rather than rational effect on the audience. I'm inspired by the feel of the atmosphere and the occupation of both tiny and huge spaces. Looking back, I focused on the experiential already during my digital prints stage in mid‐noughties, but now of course it has become a clear object in my video and light installations. I have always felt closer to intuitive work but you cannot only rely on it. The participation of the physical body

117


at the creation is highly important: when I'm drawing, I draw with my whole body. The line is borne somewhere deep in the core and the fact that it becomes a trail on paper through a crayon between your fingers may be of secondary importance.² In the video installation “Smoke Free Fall” the creative process or the development of the idea was not really any different: the aim was to create a work where the matter moving downwards by the force of gravity would defy earthly rules.³ This installation was greatly influenced by my physical jumping in the studio: I first tried to create in my own body the same kind of experience I was looking for in the installation. Since then I've gradually moved from the works evoking spatial experiences to directly working with the space. When talking about the works in Estonia, I should mention the site‐specific drawing installation “Silent fluctuation” in Viinistu Chapel which was completed largely thanks to Margot Kask and Loit Jõekalda. I was inspired by the particular location, both the interior and the surroundings by the sea.4 The interior architecture (by Toivo Raidmets and Emil Urbel) called for the use of a lean line of drawings positioned along the horizon at the sea seen from the window opposite the entrance. The space and rhythm of the line of drawings fluctuated with the light in the hall and the surroundings which in turn reflected from the graphite pictures with the eternal dynamics of the movement of the sea. I've also worked with dancers. They map the physical space directly with their bodies and thus also shape it psychologically. I used to be an ardent figure skater as a child, I suppose there is still a remembrance of smooth movement in a beautiful winter landscape somewhere at the back of my mind. VV: The cross‐disciplinary part of your works, such as the videos “Quiet Storm”, “Smoke Free Fall”,

“Weather Channelled”, “Water Veins” and many cooperation projects with dancers, choreograp‐ hers, sound artists and others appeal to the audience's spatial experience, affecting our senses. Do you think you have crossed all the borders or are there some essentials still without an answer? In other words—where do you go from here? JP: Fortunately, there is no end in sight. What if there was? I would have to find another job! (Laughs.) I don't know about any new directions or new questions. They all emerge in the course of action. At present I'm preparing a solo exhibition in a historic castle 70 kilometres north of New York overlooking the River Hudson. There will be videos, light installations and also drawings. The selection and arrangement of the exhibits are largely conditioned by the space. My largest drawing so far —a 4,5‐metre graphite drawing on tracing paper— was made for one particular wall between two large doors in the castle. VV: How do you choose your cooperation partners? Whose works have had such an effect on you that there's a natural creative harmony and unity on a whole new level? Also, have you had any truly dis‐ appointing cooperation projects that you'd like to warn the searching souls of young artists against? JP: The prerequisite for the selection of cooperation partners is that you need to have an earlier common resonance with your future partner's works. Sometimes I deliberately choose a partner I don't know and I'm prepared for unexpected vibrations that are also more than welcome. So far I haven't had any absolute disappointments. Also poor cooperation has given impetus to new works. I think that an artist's practice is much more solitary than that of an architect. Stepping out of the silence and

118


solitude of the studio into the live drawing perfor‐ mance is a big step forward for me. Especially if it is a cooperation project. Before taking up cooperation projects, I suppose young people should first think about a few questions: what can I achieve better in cooperation than alone, what would the cooperation give to my work? VV: It's commonly believed that New York as a living environment triggers creativity. What influence has the proximity of the metropolis had on your works? Are there any other places in the world where you've felt—yes, I want to work here as an artist? Are you stimulated by the urban density of thought?

February, 2013 This interview was originally published in an Estonian translation as “Eemal ja kohal” in cultural weekly Sirp on 28.02.2013. 1 Master of Fine Arts

² http://www.jaanikapeerna.net/#!maelstrom‐series‐ 25/zoom/ca8l/image1jn3. ³ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg8sk1_‐ GRk&list=UUeokgarWR_UQ4OC4JTNnS8Q&index=5. 4

JP: I am using the colour space and awareness of light which I acquired while still living in Estonia in my work now far away from Estonia—perhaps the fact that I am away has triggered its use. The direct influence on my palette and sense of space is reflected in the poor choice of colour and sensitivity to light. New York is brimming with immensely talented artists and here each of them has the chance to find his own circle, people speaking the same language. This is important to me in terms of company and exchange of ideas. But when talking about the actual creative process, then I prefer to work somewhat farther away from New York but at the same time retain the awareness of the city's proximity. Before getting down to work at the studio, I prefer to let myself free from thoughts and sounds. Despite knowing that there is no silence without noise. Thus, I enjoy living in between such two worlds—the intense city and the silent studio by the River Hudson. We plan to move our family to Berlin for a year in autumn. We'll see whether that environment will also influence my work.

119

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151165336624863.46 5159.31631189862&type=3.


>

>

Kivi Sotamaa

Kivi Sotamaa © Reio Avaste Sirocco installation in Helsinki (Finland) by Kivi & Tuuli Sotamaa © Sotamaa ADD LAB interior © Veronika Valk

Kivi Sotamaa is an award-winning international designer based in Helsinki and Los Angeles. Together with sister Tuuli Sotamaa, they run Sotamaa Design which focuses on design innovation in, and between, the elds of art, architecture and design. The of ce's works range in scale from bridges and buildings to furniture, sculpture and industrial products. Additionally, Kivi is the Director of ADD LAB Aalto Digital Design Laboratory at Aalto University and an Associate Professor at UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Previously, he has held positions at the Ohio State University, the Universität für Angewandte Kunst and the Institut für Architektur in Vienna. He holds a Masters degree from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki [TAIK] and has studied at Helsinki University of Technology and the Royal College of Art in London. Kivi Sotamaa's creative work is widely published and exhibited. www.sotamaa.net www.addlab.aalto.


Interview with Kivi Sotamaa by Veronika Valk

Speculative Veronika Valk: Where's Finland headed these days? And what's in it for a designer? Kivi Sotamaa: It's about the magic combination of design and materials sciences. Even though Finland also exports quite a lot of raw materials such as wood, there's now focus on developing nanocellu‐ lose and other new materials for new products. The design will save technology and the new materials will save the paper and wood industry. Thus, any‐ thing that combines materials and design wins the funding argument. For us at ADDLab, one of our tasks is to work with the materials scientists and to figure out what to make of the materials they invent. Otherwise it'd all stay in a petri dish, be published in Nature magazine, and would never reach an archi‐ tectural scale. It's vital to rethink how the scientific and the biological, as well as technological, are related to the cultural. Biomimetics might simply imply that we learn from the wisdom or logic of other species or creatures in nature. In material sciences, biomimetics means that, additionally, you actually look at the structures by which nature ope‐ rates. That's where the nanomaterial sciences come in. Hybridizing nanocellulose and, for example, silk, on a molecular level, means that we are working with biomolecules but looking at it from the pers‐

pective of how to manufacture something out of these research results. Models of thought, ideas, travel from one discipline to the other. In architec‐ ture, especially, this happens all the time because we've been freely interpreting scientific ideas such as emergence, self‐assembly etc. The cross‐fertilisa‐ tion thus occurs in transferring the thought‐models. VV: Where else do you see an opportunity for architects and designers to collaborate with scientists in a mutually beneficial way? KS: One example would be to work together on the problem of how to handle and depict complex sets of data in a metabolic relationship. It has to do with the more generic problems that are inherent in a variety of disciplines. It'd be interesting if someone did a research project on an alternative mapping system, using the digital tools used in urban design together with weather forecasting. We use diagrams in design and architecture—these are all a particular kind of mapping systems, layered. When you work with things that are material‐specific and tangible, you develop an intuitive sense of design. There's an intuition that arises from designing things at a certain scale—say a scientific scale—and an engineer might not have it.

121


VV: Aalto campus in Otaniemi, in Helsinki, seems to be strengthening the cross‐fertilisation between the different fields? Or is there still too little interaction happening? Does the proximity help? What else is needed? KS: The art, architecture and design school hasn't moved there (to the campus). We'd need that. It's going to take a few years. The physical proximity will change things. VV: Comparing your activities in Helsinki—your practice, the ADDLab etc.—to Los Angeles, where you have been teaching, I wonder about the contextual elements which might influence your work. Does the surrounding cultural environment make you operate differently? How does the context catalyze your ways of working? KS: Finland does not have contemporary architectural discourse, research and creative work the way LA does. We don't have Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry, Neil Denari etc. Peter Cook told me that they started at the UCLA. SCI‐arc is there. In other words, LA has a particularly strong practice‐based experimental architectural culture. Ohio is another hub, with Peter Eisenman and Jeffrey Kipnis, but it's like an island—I call Ohio the 'goof‐camp' of the Americas. Ohio State University has had a very good eye for people. They've created opportunities for very good people over a long period. The school there acts not only as an educational institution producing good professional architects, but also as a place to push the boundaries of the discipline, and that doesn't really exist in Europe. In Finland especially, there's a very high‐level professional education, for acquiring professional skills, but it's not about the kind of attitude whereby the school would actively participate in a discourse or support

speculative work. It's just about passing on professional expertise and tradition. The speculative work has to be framed differently in Finland. One of those frames has to do with technology. That aspect is not so relevant in the US, whereas in Finland you would explain new ideas, possibilities, and the project itself through technology rather than through culture—people find it less threatening. The architectural discourse in the US is so evolved that it becomes self‐referential. In order to participate in that discourse you have to be in the know. In Finland it's the other way around. It's about making architecture that's meaningful to the broader community, regardless of the discourse. Finland is a tougher environment as people are skeptical, forcing you to explain the ideas and to develop your audience. Like a reality‐check, it's a good exercise in testing out what's relevant. The US is more about exploration—even of the nonsensical. It's good to be moving between these two worlds. VV: Do you see your colleagues in Finland following your pattern—moving around to stay fresh? KS: There's a new generation of people coming up who travel and study more abroad. However, architecture is still to a large extent a homegrown discipline—the local education is considered to be at a high level so there's not so much reason to leave. I think this hasn't been entirely healthy, but you can look at countries like Argentina, Iceland or China, where everybody goes abroad and yet whole generations still come back. VV: Can you point out certain features from either of those contexts—Helsinki and Los Angeles— which catalyze students', teachers' and professio‐ nals' imaginations? What inspires people? What

122


stimulates them to explore or to produce? Is it to pursue particular goals? What are the elements that help to nurture and cultivate the specific culture? KS: The difference in the American school system is that the criteria to get a professorship is to contribute something new to the field—you have to know your position in the field and where you're going. An individual's design research is the top priority. That's how the American schools differentiate from one another—they get different people with different profiles. They're all in conver‐ sation with one another and yet they are forced to formulate their own position. In contrast, in Finland you're expected to have a practice. As Peter Eisenman said: the project and the practice are two different things. An American professor who inspires students is expected to have a project. In Finland you're not expected to have a project. You're expected to be part of the collective neo‐modernist style—a particular style—and to have a professional practice. VV: What about social critique and critical thinking. Is there a possibility for an architect within either of those worlds to self‐commission him or herself? In other words, is there a possibility for inventing one's own commissions, of entering the community or even the political sphere and building a practice from there? KS: When there isn't a lot of work, the self‐ commissioning increases. It also happens when a school begins developing people who want to become something other than service professionals—who instead want to become cultural actors and to intervene in the cultural processes in society and to push the discipline forward by

challenging the existing structures. By definition, architecture is a difficult discipline since the architect is a servant of money, the client, or both. That is why architects are rarely interested in challenging existing power structures—because of the resources that architecture involves. Schools can instigate the necessity and culture that support that kind of activity. In some ways our entire architectural career‐path has always been like that: creating a new kind of practice, figuring out what makes a difference and bringing it into focus—be it a scientific discovery, some new economic logic that underlines the digital fabrication, or empowering new manufacturing techniques, etc. In that sense, it's another kind of activism that one finds in Finland, although the majority of architects consider what they do to be 'a job'—a noble service profession—and this service profession of course offers a steady job. It is a fundamentally different attitude compared to one where you consider yourself to be a researcher, finding your own opportunities, audiences etc. In the US, the latter has built its own economy with its own private support system of galleries, private collectors, etc., in addition to the few American and the European architecture schools which have the resources—the technology, the people and the funding—for the more speculative work that pushes the boundaries of the field. I hope that ADDLab will develop into one of them, in terms of having the necessary resources and also the applications for inventions. I see that it will be made possible by creating a specific, collaborative, interdisciplinary atmosphere, to build things in a new way together with the material scientists and the manufacturing people (who also need us). This will come through projects, and the design process itself is an excellent tool to coordinate collaborative efforts.

123


VV: You have something that has normally been considered to be a significant asset of top universities in the US—unusually good access to the engineering sciences? KS: Yes, as well as to businesses. But it takes time for things to mature. In my experience, it can take 20 years for new ideas, technology, materials etc. to become culturally viable and begin to make sense economically. VV: How do you choose your collaborators? KS: People that you'd want to start a 'band' with, as was the case with Ocean—people who just produce interesting work. In that sense, it has to be a 'love affair'. It has to be fun. On the other hand, these days I work with my sister—our family tolerates everything. VV: Where are you headed? Do you think you will find yourself tomorrow in‐between art, design and architecture, as you state on your office's web page?

KS: Now that you say it, we might change the phrasing on our web page. It might very well be defined by scale. We've done quite a few urban design projects and had discussions around it. The first ideas that fueled our early work came from urban design: How do you, as a designer, architect and urbanist, design for cities that are changing so fast? How would you design something specific, for specific use, in the context of such unpredictability. VV: What might be the role of an architect tomorrow? KS: Collaboration requires coordination— conducting the band—and architects by their very nature manage such conducting very well.

February 8, 2013, Tallinn.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Kas väljasuremisohus?” in cultural weekly Sirp on 09.11.2012.

KS: We consider everything to be architecture, but we do it with the attitude of an artist. Research through buildings is rare. The discursive context we belong to is architecture, but the applications range from furniture to interiors to competition entries etc. We exist in the context of contemporary architecture. In that respect, we are artistically oriented compared to others who might be scientifically or technologically oriented. Architecture for us is an art form. Yet in making this art, we do so in the world of architecture. VV: Would it also be fair to say that your work is between 1:1 and 1:1000?

124


>

The Para-Building by Winka Dubbeldam Š Winka Dubbeldam Winka Dubbeldam Š Reio Avaste

Winka Dubbeldam

Winka Dubbeldam is Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design. Her degrees include M.Arch., Institute of Higher Professional Architectural Education, Rotterdam (1990) and M.Arch.AAD, Columbia University (1992). She has previously taught at Columbia University and Harvard University. Archi-Tectonics' work ranges from residential to commercial, from real to virtual and is realized in urban design, architecture and installations. She received the 'Emerging Voice' award in 2001, and won the IIDA/Metropolis Smart Environments Award (2006). Her of ce, Archi-Tectonics, won the Staten Island Proposal for an Eco Landscape and Housing scheme. www.archi-tectonics.com www.blog.archi-tectonics.com


Interview with Winka Dubbeldam by Veronika Valk

(New) Normal Veronika Valk: You have a dual role as the Chair and Professor of Architecture at PennDesign and as a practitioner and director of your office Archi‐ Tectonics Architecture. Do you see the two as merged somehow? Winka Dubbeldam: I have always taught while having an office. It has been the basis of both my practice and my teaching to merge academic thinking with the practice. I think both have benefitted. The editor of Japan Architecture, Senhiko Nakata, once said that mine was the perfect mix between the American academic and the European pragmatic thinking. Over the last year, as Chair at the Architecture Department at Penn I have continued on the same path, which until now has been a little harder but greatly inspirational. VV: Where is PennDesign headed under your leadership?—you have been leading the school's array of architecture programs—including the Master of Architecture, the Master of Architecture in Environmental Building Design, the Post‐ Professional Program at PennDesign, and the PhD in architecture as well as instruction of undergraduate students majoring in architecture— since March 2013? Do you see the challenges as

being in advancing the curriculum, engaging in critical discourse or in improving the school's visibility at an international level? WD: I started with five 'innovations' in Spring, which we elaborated on in Fall. The first initiative is called 'Inside Out', which will involve a number of initiatives and dialogues to help showcase the extraordinary activities already going on and recently initiated at the Department of Architecture. I started with a new concept for a Penn publication called 'Pressing Matters II', a more integral overview of the last two years of research activities, student and faculty work, and events at PennDesign Architecture. Printed on recycled materials and produced by local printing houses, it exemplifies how the Department of Architecture will refocus its attention towards a more sustainable environment. The second initiative extended our lecture series to include even more internationally acclaimed architects, such as Peter Eisenman, Neil Denari, Toshiko Mori, Ben van Berkel, and Wolf Prix, to name a few, and to further promote an ongoing architectural dialogue. With the third initiative we looked closely at the curriculum, decided to extend our one year post‐ professional program [PPD] to include a third

127


semester in New York. It integrates a completely reconfigured first semester with a dedicated studio and seminars, introducing our post‐grad students even better to the 3rd year M Arch program. The fourth initiative continues the curricular innovation; we decided to place the 3D printers directly in the studios, and also to extend our 3D printing lab drastically, thus allowing our students to further experiment and immediately test designs in real form. The fifth initiative reorganized the first year curriculum and Visual Studies, which are now closely linked and coordinated. A lot of this thinking was further investigated this fall in a two‐day conference 'The New Normal, Experiments in Contemporary Generative Design', on November 14 and 15, with keynote lectures by Neil Denari and Ben van Berkel. Since its emergence roughly twenty years ago, generative digital design has fundamentally altered the way in which we conceptualize, design, and fabricate architecture. Virtually every aspect of our profession, including education, has been radically transformed, and new forms of practice have emerged. The New Normal was established. For the conference, we gathered some of the most innovative of these new forms of practices, and asked that they present their speculation on radical and innovative forms of that practice. It resulted in three panels moderated by Ferda Kolatan, Roland Snooks and myself, with intense discussions and surprising outcomes. A book will be published to record the results. Challenges are good and always there. As Plato already said: one can move forward and learn only through dialogues, not through mere monologues…. I try to follow that model.

WD: Risktaker? Interesting… I am not sure what that means, except that great works of architecture and all innovations ask us to move forward decisively and that probably involves not being afraid of failure and taking some 'risks'! How else would we ever innovate architecture? VV: Speaking of your private practice, Archi‐ Tectonics, then what is your office working on currently? WD: We have recently worked on a bottom‐up proposal for Downtown Bogota,1 which resulted in my TED talk in Ted Global last summer and an Exhibit in AEDES Berlin, also this summer, and we are now slowly implementing this with our client, a private investor. Furthermore, we are working on a large cultural area in Yulin, China, with a 6‐star Hotel, shopping mall, museum‐opera hall and office and housing where we are in the construction documents phase. In NYC we just got the '17 John' project—a design for an extension of a skyscraper in Downtown Manhattan. Lastly, we are working on a large housing project in Moscow. VV: Working in multiple locations around the globe, how do you sustain the integrity of your designs? WD: By doing the design in our office in NYC and having great local architects who we work closely with to execute it all precisely according to the design concepts!

December, 2013

VV: You have been described occasionally as an 'ardent risk‐taker'. What does it mean to take risks in teaching architecture and leading research?

1 http://www.archdaily.com/455983/winka‐dubbeldam‐my‐ideal‐city‐ of‐the‐future/

128


Tom Wiscombe

As an architect and professor living in Los Angeles, he is founder and principal of Tom Wiscombe Architecture, internationally recognized for its synthesis of form, pattern, color, and technology into singular, irreducible constructions. Wiscombe has developed an international reputation through winning competition entries, exhibitions of work at major cultural institutions, and publications worldwide. His work is part of the permanent collection of the FRAC Centre Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA San Francisco, and MoMA New York. ICON Magazine, in its May 2009 issue, named Wiscombe one of the top 20 architects in the world who are making the future and transforming the way we work . Wiscombe is a senior faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, he also currently teaches at PennDesign. Previously, Wiscombe worked for Coop Himmelb(l)au, where he was the right hand of Principal Wolf Prix for over 10 years. www.tomwiscombe.com


Interview with Tom Wiscombe by Veronika Valk

Object Veronika Valk: Can you reflect upon areas—other fields of culture or expertise—where knowledge of current architectural thinking and training as architects may be valuable? Could it be that your criticism of former hierarchical ways thinking about architecture—as a system of systems or of part‐to‐ whole relations—is relevant also in terms of our cultural terrain generally? What could we bring from the emergent architecture discourse to the broader debate on the development of contemporary culture? Tom Wiscombe: Yes, I am consciously avoiding so‐ me of the discourse on correlated systems and part‐ to‐whole relations, which have both become dogma, especially in light of wide acceptance of certain digi‐ tal techniques in the last decade. It's that moment, which of course happens every so often, that things which seem solid melt into air, as Marx noted. It is actually funny how a theoretical frame‐work—let's say, for the sake of discussion, a Deleuzian framework—which is ostensibly about intensive forces, affiliations, and relations can become so entrenched and inflexible. Deleuzian thinking is by no means exhausted, to be clear, but the minute we start believing that any theory from outside architecture can fully describe the complex web of

aesthetics, materiality, technology, and politics that constitutes architecture, we have a problem. Actually I'm not even sure that correlating every‐ thing into giant 'super‐unities' (also known as ecolo‐ gy) is a productive pursuit in any discipline. It puts the focus on abstractions rather than the specificity of objects and their relations. Manuel DeLanda notes this when he talks about the importance of the individual over the genius or phylum. For me, it comes down to the problem of the act of categoriza‐ tion. This is a human instinct—to construct a series of categories and then put everything in it neatly. What a strange concept! Anyway, I find that one way of veering away from these problems is to move towards objects and object‐relations and away from fields and flows. I prefer cities that are heterogeneous and messy, the aesthetics of patchiness over smooth linear gradients, and buildings which are closer to terminals (e.g. nodes) than concourses (e.g. regions, especially 'tube buildings' made from diagrams of force‐lines). In the end it's an intuition that is driving an explicit theoretical exploration. To answer your question, yes, these issues are absolutely applicable to contemporary culture in general. We see on TV commercials about how it's all about 'your network', or 'the world' or 'nature' or 'sustainability', which are all super‐unities. The reality

131


of life though is total focus on the object of the smart phone. The phone is an intricate, magical, aesthetically precise object. We will take our phone any day over our network! That is just one example, but it says a lot about the conflicted state of the contemporary mind. VV: Looking at the urban condition or the built environment as a stage for human action, a stage for creativity, how do we as designers generate such creativity‐enhancing environments? Are there some key elements that we tend to use as our tools? Are we missing out on something? TW: In my own work I try to make buildings which do not set up a separation between the city and the interior. We have been doing this by peeling skins away from masses to make a loose or blurry territo‐ rial boundary, or by slicing huge apertures into volu‐ mes to reveal interior worlds like an aquarium. I am not advocating that buildings are open and demo‐ cratic as if invisible to the difference between city and building. I am in fact not interested in dissolving objects but in emphasizing object‐hood. Buildings are treated in terms of their strong exterior silhouet‐ te but also their strong interior silhouettes—which I am calling objects in objects. Another angle into this is the treatment of the ground. I avoid at all costs fusing buildings with the ground, as if a building is a landscape, which was a very attractive concept to architects in the 1990s. I prefer to either pull away from the ground or actually objectify the ground, as in the case of objects in objects on objects. I think that the staging of events that you are talking about has to do with the precise opening and closing up of the architectural object, as well as the staging the complex relation between architectural object and ground. This puts our focus directly on aesthetics and specificity of objects and relations

rather than on 'events', which I think architecture is miserable at catalyzing. If you think about the list of projects—also, by the way, from the 1990s—which focus on events over form, the outcome was often an anemic late‐modern minimalism decked out with a few video projections to signal where events should occur. I think architecture is more powerful than that, that it can do a lot more, and that a video projection inherently signals a lack in architecture that doesn't exist. VV: What do you think of current (societal) orien‐ tation towards user‐centeredness—e.g. the archi‐ tect as services‐designer rather than constructor— in regards to debates over the resilience of our living environment? If we are moving towards—or have already entered—the post‐human condition, then perhaps today's emphasis on the end‐user as we know it is misleading? To what extent are we deceiving ourselves as architects designing for human habitation? TW: I think you can be interested in post‐human theory and still design for humans! I was just reading Ian Bogost's book 'Alien Phenomenology', which lays out something to that end. He describes that the point of post‐humanism is not to kill or denigrate the human being, but rather to create a horizontal plane so that all objects can be different but exist equally. This simply means that we shift our attention to things that exist outside the human mind. Does this mean that animals, plants, inanimate objects, robots, and so on gain a new status? Yes it does. But it doesn't mean that we should design buildings for goats. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by “architect as services designer” but that sounds limiting to me. There has been a huge deflation of architecture in terms of pulling back from construc‐

132


tion and liability, moving towards interdisciplinary models, and so on. I think that is a problem. People in finance succeed by engaging in risk—I'm not sure why many architects think they can avoid risk but still succeed. I am probably old‐fashioned, but I think architects should control a lot more than they do now in terms of controlling the front and back end of a project. Another thing we should be doing is creating desire and new markets in the construction industry, for instance by doing research into new materials and applications and sharing that work with builders. If we don't do it who will? You can't have Le Corbusier's five points without the attendant advancements in reinforced concrete… VV: Looking back at what you've achieved (eg at SCI‐Arc)—what do you consider the most significant outcome or development in architecture that has emerged from your approach, efforts and collaborations with people in robotics? Looking back and projecting forwards, where to next? TW: I am not a robotics expert by any means, but I have recently been collaborating with others on the subject, yes. We are using the robots to create a body of work I call SQUISHED!. We are working on new kinds of building skin based on polymers and sedimenting materials rather than conventional hie‐ rarchical assemblies based on mineral materials. The robots specifically are being used to press, mash, and glue layers of composite material together, as well as to cut, engrave, and deposit wet material. Because of the multiple control axis, we are able to create strange squished effects as well as fine‐ grained architectural articulation in a fully three‐ dimensional fabrication environment. For me the critical thing is not the robots themselves, but rather the point of view that one brings to the table. I started SQUISHED! before I started with the robots.

We can argue all day about the ontological status of robots vs. humans, but we all know that a robot is not yet capable of promoting a paradigm shift! VV: Did anything surprise you in Estonia? TW: My students and I were charmed by Tallinn, certainly. There is something about the density and scale of medieval cities in general that we can learn from, although how it can be expressed in contemporary terms is unclear. I think that with the waning of the large automobile and the deployment of shared transportation systems and even personal transportation technology, we can maybe revisit the idea of the pedestrian city. It's as if we have to go back to go forward. Whatever the case, what is happening in China now in terms of out‐of‐control, out‐of‐scale urban development cannot be the answer. One other thing that I think was interesting about Tallinn is the way in which it is part of a cross‐cultural regional zone that includes Helsinki and St. Petersburg. I think this is a global trend, to have economic and cultural zones that defy sovereign borders. It is a new kind of object. VV: Do you have any suggestions for our school of architecture? What should we keep in mind or pay attention to? What should the current or upcoming generation watch out for and where should we improve ourselves as teachers? TW: I think the key is to create an architectural culture, and avoid imagining it first as a school…

April, 2013

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as "Rüsin ja mäsu, tätöveering ja kamuflaaž" in monthly KesKus in May 2013.

133


>

Bart Lootsma Š Reio Avaste Theodor Adorno by Erwin Wurm

Bart Lootsma

Professor Bart Lootsma is a renowned historian, critic and curator in the elds of architecture, design and the visual arts. Currently at the Leopold-Franzens University in Innsbruck, he has held numerous professorships, given seminars, lectured at different academies for architecture and art in the Netherlands and abroad, and has also published extensively and internationally (among them SuperDutch in 2000). His new book 'Reality Bytes' selected essays from 1995-2010 was published in English and German editions by Springer in spring 2013. Bart Lootsma is co-author of 'Faces & Spaces: EUROPAN 4', a book on the architecture and urbanplanning competition EUROPAN in 2007. Bart Lootsma was guest curator of ArchiLab 2004 in OrlĂŠans and he has been an editor of de Architect, ARCHIS, ARCH+, l'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, Daidalos and DOMUS. He is reserve member of the Council for Architectural Culture at the Cabinet of the Austrian Prime Minister in Vienna and consultant to the German Ministry for Building and Planning. www.architekturtheorie.eu


Interview with Bart Lootsma by Veronika Valk

Balance Veronika Valk: What, in your opinion, is happening to the European architecture scene?—both in the broader sense of architecture as a profession and for the end‐user expecting certain qualities from the living environment. How does this compare with the situation in the US, Asia or Latin America? Bart Lootsma: During the past few decades, Europe went through processes of privatization and deregulation. This applies to both eastern and western Europe. Architecture lost its privileged and protected position close to everyday politics, particularly where housing and urban planning are concerned. In the European Union today, architects are considered entrepreneurs like in any other business, who have to compete on a market both in terms of quality and in terms of bid. This completely changes their cultural status, which is now completely in the service of presenting themselves in the right market, niche, lifestyle or whatever. Books on living architects are largely paid for and produced by the architects themselves to position themselves in that field. For the end‐user, privatization and deregulation mean that rents and housing prices went up, public housing is less and less an architectural issue in contrast to up‐market housing, and urban planning has lost control in many ways.

Europe has become much more like the United States, although as long as there are almost as many architects in Germany as in the United States, architects and architecture will have a stronger position. More and more, architecture is becoming something fancy for a rich elite instead of something that would have a meaning for a broad public. In Asia, there is the need to build enormous quantities. They are largely realized according to commercial interests, but the long communitarian tradition in Asian countries—a tradition much older than socialism—still enables them to plan. The cultural meaning of architecture is a completely different one from that in Europe, and I am not sure if one can really compare. Lifestyle and market niches are becoming increasingly important as well. Particularly in Brazil and Colombia, politicians seems to be rediscovering the benefits of architecture and urbanism as professions that can organize a city, play a role in the social engineering that politics necessitates if it wants to change things in society, and can make people proud of their collective effort by means of aesthetic and cultural statements. VV: What is the way ahead for architectural education? Do we need so many architects? Should the schools shrink? Or should we train for other continents, for foreign countries? Is this a ticking

135


bomb, in the sense that a deeper understanding of context may begin to disappear? BL: At the moment, I think it is safe to say that there are too many architects in most parts of Europe. I think there are too many architects trained in the classical profile of the man or woman who can do everything, from detailing to urban planning. I think there is more demand for specialization. Architects today are not only designing buildings and cities but also websites and software, they work in banks and real estate agencies, for cites and for governments. In trying to defend the traditional model of the architect the European professional organizations made architecture lose a lot of its power over the past few decades without opening any new perspec‐ tives. In principle, under Bologna, it is possible to initiate various kinds of Masters programs; only in architecture this is almost impossible because the specific European accreditation rules reduce mobility and make specialization very difficult. Specialization might enable programs for specific regional contexts too, focusing on building in the mountains or in very cold climates or whatever. However, I think internationalization cannot be stopped and we will have to find ways to deal with it. Already the EU market‐driven approach expects that all architects can compete all over Europe. Even if one focused on a specific region, one would have to compete with practices from abroad. In order to survive, one has to widen one's own horizon as well. Training to other continents in European schools does not make much sense, as there are universities offering good architectural training almost everywhere. I discovered that in many cases we can learn more from what is going on there than the other way round; from slum clearance to sustainable urbanism. Maybe we have to change our idea of

what a context is. It is certainly no longer something that can defined as a territory, but includes all kinds of mediated values. The question is how we can turn those into lasting social and cultural qualities. Let us not forget, however, that there are two competing theories of the effects of globalization: one claiming that everything is becoming the same and the other that globalization provokes the (const‐ ructed or enhanced) proliferation of specificities. I think both tendencies take place at the same time. VV: Since you have been involved with the Europan architecture competition—e.g. your book on the winners—do you consider the Europan format successful, and in what ways? What is the general lesson to be learned from this experience? Would it be beneficial to have more architecture competitions like Europan? BL: Europan is still an organization largely based on national branches. I was always invited by non‐Dutch Europan members like those of Croatia, by the late Jorgos Simeoforides, and by Europan France and Austria. So, I have never been involved structurally. I think it is a great format though, an interesting combination of design, discourse, politics and building. Europan is of course also suffering from the broader loss of position that architecture is suffering in Europe generally. Therefore, I think it would be important to keep this expertise and power concentrated with Europan for now and not weaken it with other initiatives. The hundreds of prizes and awards that exist in Europe have weakened the status of the few more important ones. VV: Why did you decide to leave the Netherlands, and how is your output different in Austria? How does the cultural context influence your creativity? The Dutch architecture/design scene has enjoyed a

136


huge wave of success in recent decades, having been so widely published around the globe... BL: I left the Netherlands for various reasons, both personal and professional. Professionally, I had already been making more than two thirds of my income outside the Netherlands for five years without any real support from within the Netherlands. I had a professorship at the Angewandte in Vienna when, with the coming of Alejandro Zaera as dean, my involvement with the Berlage ended. Also, I had been so strongly associated with Dutch architecture that people thought that was the only thing I was doing. For us it was already clear around 2000 that the situation in the Netherlands would dramatically change for the worse in the years to come. I hoped being based in another place would enable me to develop a position that would be more independent and I think it did. After the Angewandte I had positions in Vienna, Nürnberg, at the ETH Zürich, again in Vienna, in Luxembourg and in Innsbruck. What I miss is the opportunity to be politically involved as I was in the Netherlands; in different committees and eventually in the Culture Council. I can vote here in Austria for the city government, but when I really want to involve myself the natives always come first.

things that one cannot generalize. In general, as your questions suggest, it is nowadays indeed about finding a balance between being locally rooted, being involved in grassroots politics, and having an international orientation. Where the balance should lie is as much a personal and moral question as a pragmatic one.

March 2013

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Ülev kinnisvara” in Kes‐Kus in April, 2013.

VV: What would be your recommendation in terms of developing one's architecture practice in Estonia? And your recommendation for a critic, curator, publisher or producer in the field of architecture and urbanism in Estonia—i.e. as a border/buffer zone somewhere between Europe and Russia, on the periphery? BL: Those are questions that are very difficult to answer, as I know very little of Estonia. That is one of the reasons I am so happy you invited me. These are

137 133


Gert Wingårdh © Reio Avaste Emporia Shopping Centre in Malmö (Sweden) © Wingårdhs

>

Gert Wingårdh

Professor Gert Wingårdh is one of Sweden's most renowned and acclaimed architects. Gert Wingårdh received a PhD at Chalmers University of Technology where he is currently also Artistic Professor of Architecture since 2007. He is the recipient of the Gustaf Dalén Medal and the Prince Eugen Medal. He is a member of The Royal Academy of Engineering and Science, IVA and was Chairman of the board of directors at Arkitekturmuseet, the Swedish Museum of Architecture from 1997 to 2005. Gert Wingårdh was EUROPAN 5 jury member for Estonia and Finland in 1999. His architecture of ce Wingårdhs, founded in 1977 in Göteborg, is committed to the artistic and poetic dimensions of architecture, employing 120 people, and he has been awarded the prestigious Kasper Salin Prize no less than four times. Among Gert Wingårdh's best known creations are the Chalmers Student Union Building, the science center Universeum in Göteborg and the Swedish embassies in Washington and Berlin. www.wingardhs.se


Interview with Gert Wingårdh by Veronika Valk

Commercial Veronika Valk: How big is your office? Gert Wingårdh: In 2000, we were about 40 people. We've cut down a couple of times, but been lucky to survive the oppressions, the booms and the current recession. Today we operate in three locations: in Göteborg with approximately 120 people, and smaller offices in Malmö (50 people) and in Stockholm (10 people). The three branches differ greatly from one another. VV: The majority of your work is in Sweden? GW: In general, yes. We worked with AstraZeneca and did their Boston facilities—I think that was our first commission abroad. Then we did the Swedish embassies in Berlin and in Washington. We worked with Ericsson and did their headquarters when they moved to London, together with Allies and Morrison architects. We've also done their Beijing headquarters, which are quite big, and are now doing their headquarters in Shanghai. For Volvo Truck Corporation we're doing their headquarters in Tokyo. Now we're in competition for a shopping mall remake in downtown Lyon, close to the TGV station, which means that this mall will be visited by half a million people per day.

VV: There's a certain social dimension to some of your projects, a public aspect, although many of your projects are built for corporations in the private sector and could be considered commercial. How would you define the 'commercial' in architecture? GW: Everything that pays is commercial, isn't it? Doing a shopping mall is something people tend not to like—it's looked upon as a third‐grade commission. Yet when you look closer at a shopping mall then it's a place where people meet—especially young people. About 20% of the population of Sweden was not born there, but has come from abroad; and often a shopping mall is also a good meeting place for them. Thus, one must rethink how a 15‐year old could feel comfortable in a shopping mall without [feeling the need to] buy things all the time—just being a part of things. That goes for amusement parks too: politicians have observed that the amusement park in Göteborg is one of the best places for integration. So it's about creating a good common meeting ground. When we did the Göteborg Universeum Science Centre in 1998‐2001, and later on when the World Culture Museum [the "Ice‐Cube" by London architects Cecile Brisac and Edgar Gonzalez] was built, it was decided that both

139


these new facilities should have a very good connection to the adjacent amusement park so that it would serve as a neutral meeting ground. Such 'commercial' work influences a lot of people, which is why it is important and valid to do it well. In a way, the same goes for the Ericsson facilities. When you're building for 15000 people, the question is: what is a good working environment for them to interact in, to have their breaks in, and so on? It's all worthwhile. VV: Another overexploited word is 'sustainability'. We tend to have so many different definitions and ideas about what is 'sustainable architecture'. What is yours? GW: A building must be a generic structure so that it can be used and reused. It's humbling to think about Damascus, a city that has been inhabited for 4000 years. There still exist structures and foundations that are 4000 years old. These 3x4 or 4x4 meter foundations can be covered with a vault and used as living space, as storage space, as a garage, an office and so on. Creating that kind of shape, needing very little technical assistance, is the most ecologically‐ sustainable way of building. I'm suspicious of the very low‐energy consumption projects that depend on being airtight—air‐sealed with a thin plastic film, etc. I'm reluctant to use fans, as they do not have a very long life span. In Sweden we see a lot of the office buildings that were constructed in the 1980s being torn down. A law passed in the 1980s, which responded to crises in the 1970s, stated that there should not be too many windows—but nobody likes that! That's one example of an unsustainable way of building. VV: In Britain and Ireland there was a similar situation in the 18th and the 19th century when

property was not taxed by floor area but by the area of the windows. That's why even today one can see buildings with bricked‐up windows. GW: Speaking of taxes, there's currently a 'bedroom tax' being introduced in the UK. If you have one more bedroom than the number of household family members, you are required to pay tax on it. It's outrageous. How can you suddenly cut an unused room from a building in order to avoid paying the tax on it? But politicians love taxes. VV: Moreover—talking of spare unused spaces—in Brussels there is a new trend of 'anti‐squatting' agencies that rent out spaces to prevent squatters moving in. GW: It rains quite a bit in Göteborg, which is on the 'West Coast'. There was once a plan to have arched roofs over all the sidewalks. It led to a law that prevented the owner of a property from building on the ground floor [facing the street]. In essence, the owner lost some of their property. The initiators of the plan referred to Bologna as a great example of such archways, but in Bologna it had the opposite effect in relation to the owner: since the plots were small, the owner gained an opportunity to add upper floors on top of the archway at the front of the plot. That's why everybody built those archways in Bologna. VV: Perhaps when buildings are constructed following public competition that kind of scheme could be made part of the brief. But what in your view is the role of architecture competitions in our field, in Sweden for example? GW: There are very few open competitions in Sweden nowadays. It used to be very easy to enter a

140


competition before—you hardly needed to prove anything, just offer a brilliant proposal. The last open competition I can remember was in 2006, for the annex of Stockholm Public Library. They had 1000 entries. Everybody thought it was too difficult to judge 1000 entries, so now they are very reluctant to do it again. As for the outcome of the competition, they gave prizes to ten entries, of which six went to the second stage. From those six only one really corresponded to the program. Eventually, to everyone's surprise, the competition was won by a German woman [Haike Hanada – VV] who was not well‐known, but the project was never built—not because of the office that won, or because the architect was unknown, but because of a change in political climate [in 2009, when the project was put on hold – VV]. Many things went wrong with that particular open competition. What we have are pre‐qualified competitions where only the established offices are invited (and invited, and invited…) to participate over and over again. It has therefore been impossible for a newcomer to enter these invited competitions. Fortunately we are now going forward with a rule that at each of those invited competitions a 'rookie' gets invited. Now, for the first time, there has been a competition for an annex of an art gallery in Stockholm, called Liljevalchs.1 Five firms entered, of which four were very well known—Kengo Kuma for example; and one invitation was given to a young woman who has not yet built very much. In a sense, I see a new start here. Otherwise, we do competitions all the time; the majority of our work originates with competitions. VV: But you're also involved with teaching at Chalmers University of Technology. Architecture schools in Europe are probably all facing very similar questions. For example: Are we producing too many

architects? And when the demographic is shrinking, what are all those professionals going to do? Where are you headed in Chalmers? GW: In Sweden most architects do find employment, often by big construction firms such as Skanska. The unemployment rate for architects in Sweden has been at its lowest ever last year. There are 10 000 architects per 9 000 000 of our population. In Chalmers we have a new line of curricula, which combines architecture and engineering and has attracted some very good students. It will be interesting to see how they will be absorbed by the building industry. In general, studying architecture is not very lucrative: the time spent studying does not have a good ratio with the payroll. The value put on what architects are doing is too low in Sweden and the wages are tied to regulations initiated by the unions. VV: So are you also saying that the position of architects in Swedish society is not very strong? GW: It's getting stronger because more and more people understand that the buildings which they like have been done by architects. They see that there's knowledge in operation that they don't have themselves—like going to the dentist. People want things to be spectacular and well‐designed. People also travel a lot more, thus they are able to make comparisons. We're also inviting more and more architects from all over the world to build in Sweden. For example: while there was a recession in Denmark, a lot of Danish architects were winning competitions in Sweden, winning by quality. Good collegial competition is good for everyone. It drives us all to be better at what we do. We're much less aware of what's happening in Finland and know nothing of Estonia.

141


April 4, 2013, Tallinn.

VV: Returning to the subject of architectural edu‐ cation: Do you think there's good chemistry between the different departments at Chalmers, for example? GW: Architecture students tend to work too much in a bubble—they are busy doing their own thing. Architecture students tend to be overly dedicated to architecture, thus they don't have the time to be influenced by what is around them. A lot of the education is in English, which is both good and bad since many students don't speak English very well.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Arhitektuur, suhtluse tulem” in cultural weekly Sirp on 11.04.2013.

VV: How do you choose your staff? GW: It's about fitting into the group as well as producing good design work. VV: When I visited Jean Nouvel's office in Paris I was surprised that his interns pay him to work there—not the other way around. He has teams competing against one another within the office. GW: We do neither of those. VV: You've never had a partner in your office? GW: No, never, but there are people that I have collaborated with closely during the past 20 years. They should have become partners if I hadn't been so mean. VV: I asked this because architecture rarely emerges from solitude—it can't be done alone. GW: No, absolutely not! Everything is done in a group. Architecture is a result of communication.

1 http://www.liljevalchs.se/l/english/

142


Villa 62 at "Ordos 100" project in Inner Mongolia, China @ Normal Architecture Of ce "Blur", a prize winning entry at the 2G Competition for Mies van der Rohe Foundation in Barcelona in 1998 @ Normal Architecture Of ce Srdjan Weiss @ Normal

>

Srdjan Weiss

Srdjan Weiss is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell University AAP, Department of Architecture in New York City. He was educated at Harvard University studying with Rem Koolhaas, Jacques Herzog and Richard Gluckman. He has design experience with Herzog & de Meuron Architects in Basel, Gluckman Mayner Architects in New York and has collaborated with artists Jenny Holzer, Robert Wilson and Marjetica Potrc. Previously, he taught at Harvard GSD, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Parsons School of Design, the Pratt Institute and the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Today, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss is chief designer at his practice NAO (Normal Architecture Of ce), which is a think tank and collaborative of ce for architecture, curating and urbanism. www.thenao.net


Interview with Srdjan Jovanović Weiss by Veronika Valk

Narrative Veronika Valk: What is your background outside architecture? How did that take you, as a Serbian Jew, to the US? Srdjan Jovanović Weiss: I was very young when I entered an advanced school for mathematics, thus I have a degree in descriptive geometry from 1986. I had no idea what I was doing, yet ended up playing in a band and doing some work in ballistic measures for the army—for the artillery—on a 1kb computer. We all had to serve in the military at the age of 18, but I figured that if were skilled in something specific I might be able to avoid military service. I was the only person in my class who decided to study architecture. As I started, my country started to collapse. The professors disappeared and all of a sudden I was confronted with a 'free zone' for doing different things. I got a free studio space in an abandoned restaurant in the bohemian part of Belgrade, and we began with DIY education for ourselves. The internet started to come in and we made an online magazine in 1993 called 'Accelerator' (Akcelerator). I started to travel, since the country was closing down and Serbians, being the bad guys, were not allowed to go anywhere except Brazil and Argentina. When I returned, the magazine became a reason in itself to do things. When the situation got really bad in Serbia and people were drafted—I

didn't want to go to war, it was not my war—we went into hiding, and then at one point it was necessary for me to leave the country. I found my‐ self in France, completely without papers, doing the 'dirty work' in architecture offices. So, in the middle of the war, I returned to Belgrade to finish my studies. Those were incredible times, like Berlin in the 1930s. The underground scene was very vibrant. My fellow students were applying to other universi‐ ties, usually the Berlage Institute, while I was loo‐ king at the American universities. But the strange thing is that the mail didn't really work because of the war. I sent my portfolio, done very cheaply, to four universities that had been recommended to me, as a way of getting out of the country. They never reached their destination. A friend of mine was traveling to New York and I had one extra portfolio, so I told him to please send it to Harvard University. He did. After three months, there's a phone call. Luckily I answered the phone. “Oh, we are very curious why are you not responding to our offer?” I said that I never received it, but they were rather surprised since they don't accept 'everyone'. Two weeks later I was at Harvard, in another world, surrounded by amazing people. After being through all this I'm sitting across from Rem Koolhaas and Jacques Herzog, who are very critical of you, humiliating you. That was my training. It was a

145


heavy, intense, confrontational dream. I got an offer to do a project in New York, and so this was my entry into the US. When people ask me when I will go back home (as in: 'back to Serbia'), I answer that I never go back, only forward. VV: What happened to your generation?—to your fellows in Serbia? SW: We were a generation with a very dispersed drive. Our magazine focused on architecture vis‐à‐ vis the emerging democracy, during the autocracy of the time. Simultaneously, the cities were always in opposition to the state. The city governments were always more liberal even than in the US. Being against the oppression, the cities were the places to do something amazing. We had no money but there were other resources—ideas. A city is a place for ideas, generated from the bottom up. In Belgrade, everybody knows everybody. Theo‐ retically there are a couple of very strong practitio‐ ners, yet Serbia is still in a political conundrum while Slovenia and Croatia have gone well ahead. So, professionally, I think it's still not possible, even today, to really implement one's ideas in Serbia. Most of the politicians in power today appear to think only in economic terms. If I can convince a politician about a scheme, then it's quite certain that I can convince whomever. Nonetheless, the ambition is huge even though the political conditions are not yet there. For example, the land grab is still going on. Quite a lot of famous architects have projects there. In order to pursue the cause, star‐architects have been called in. The situation is opening up. Belgrade has 1.8 million inhabitants, the whole country is a market of 10 million. It's a multinational place, with 6 different languages spoken. The danger is that very few local designers will benefit from it, but I'm full of hope for

the architecture students there who are in fact already studying in various schools around the globe. A nation‐state neither needs to keep, nor can keep, intelligence to itself. VV: You've collaborated a lot with artists. What has that experience been like? SW: In New York I started to work with Richard Lot‐ man, who did all the installations for the minima‐ lists—Robert WIlson, Dan Graham, Dan Flavin, Ric‐ hard Serra… I started to understand what it means to be working with an artist, or for an artist. Their decisions are not the same as those of an architect. I understood that architecture is always behind and that in many ways artists actually hate architects. Yet they need to use the architectural means. VV: Your office is called NAO or 'Normal Architecture Office'. How did that occur? SW: It was basically an accident, since I won a competition in Belgrade just a few months before the NATO bombing of Serbia. It was a super artistic project—to build a hotel for a 'multinational busi‐ ness'. Imagine that, under the threat of bombing! We thought it was completely crazy. We came up with a proposal for a 'normal hotel' with no signage, no promotion, just pure organization. The weirdest part is that we won the competition. The word 'normal' in ideological terms in the US belongs to very right‐wing rhetoric. I consciously used it to subvert that, to reclaim that word. It was to point out to the rest of the world that in the former Eastern Europe, where a tough Marxist ideology had collapsed, things were changing—the semiology was changing, the meaning of the words was chan‐ ging, and it had become 'normal' to use this word. After that, we won another competition in Barce‐

146


lona for the extension of the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion. It was a big shock to be selected from 1500 entries. But museum of modern art complained that Barcelona was damaging the icon, so the whole project collapsed. I started my PhD at Goldsmiths, and in 2006‐ 2007 got an offer from Jacques Herzog to work on part of their research so I took some time out to go to Basel. It was a fantastic experience! VV: Do you have a partner at the office? SW: Luckily no, I'm on my own for now. But I have many collaborators—my students, sometimes even my neighbors. VV: So the office could be renamed as 'Neighborhood Architecture Office'? SW: We do have jokes at the office about the name, like 'Not Architecture Office', 'Nobody's Architecture Office', 'Nuclear Architecture Office'. It works like a think tank. I sometimes I wish that it would be more formal occasionally, but this kind of informality means that people have fun doing what they do— they inscribe themselves into the work. We share credits. It's not about a brand. New York is a place where everything is nearby. My ideal is to have an office which has nothing. I'm not talking about a nomadic office, but an office that is lean in terms of the conceptual part of the work. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have a huge affinity towards the arts, but they don't want to be artists. This is something that I've learned from them: that the work starts with the concept, which needs time for thought, study, serious consideration, to come up with one idea that distinguishes the project from others, clarifying it to the end, pushing it as far as possible. It's a risky way of working, but worth it.

VV: Do you have a 'dream commission'? SW: I would love to design a school. In the US schools often resemble prisons. But it would probably be easier to build that school in Europe. VV: Even though New York is full of amazing initiatives? SW: There are indeed lots of pop‐up cafes and neighborhood initiatives around. But the second thing I would like to do is a library. The most difficult things to do are hospitals and schools, especially now with all these tragedies that have taken place at schools. I also have an engagement with a group called 'A School of Missing Studies'. It started in 2003 as an art and architecture project. It has become a platform for research, to look at cities going through abrupt transitions—cities in Eastern Europe, but also Rotterdam and of course New York. We started in Switzerland, but so far we've also done projects in Belgrade and Munich. For example, the largest project—'The Lost Highway Expedition'—was a one‐ month expedition visiting nine capitals in the Western Balkans in the former Yugoslavia. It was looking for the positive aspects of 'Balkanization'. We used to have only two capitals—the extrovert Belgrade and introvert Tirana. But today we have eight competing capitals, each one wanting to be different from the others, which in essence is an interesting situation with every city developing itself in a very distinct way. The project trajectory, the highway itself, is still not finished. It was not a project about connecting everybody. Everything is already connecting; people have been collaborating all along, throughout the war and so on. Thus, it's been purely about studying urban distinction. We had 350 participants in total, and the visual mapping

147


gathered around 24 000 photos from them. The book of the project contains 500 selected photos. They show the gradual distinction between self‐ organizations. I hope this model of independent research is contagious. VV: How have you managed, as an architect from Eastern Europe operating in the West, to re‐invent yourself so many times over and over again? SW: We have to be exceptional or extraordinary in order to be integrated along with the Western architects, who all know that they are well‐ educated, well‐skilled and well‐licensed. We cannot compete with them on the same terms for the same projects. We rely on the conceptual practice. VV: You've fitted in very well, positioning yourself clearly. SW: At the same time, 'The West' is itself is conti‐ nuously re‐inventing itself as something we are looking for. I was taught that it was a constant confirmation and re‐confirmation of how things are done and how things should be done. There's a rumor that the 'architect lives long'—of course, since we must re‐invent ourselves. We are continuously searching for new grounds. New York has been in continuous re‐invention forever. There was a DIY education event at CUNY recently, with 20 groups participating, including our 'School of Missing Stu‐ dies'—as if an 'Occupy University' was popping up…

April 18, 2013, Tallinn.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Õppetööta kool, parveloogika ja pikaealisuse saladus” in cultural weekly Sirp on 10.05.2013.

148


> >

Thibault Schwartz Graduate Architectural Design workshop results at the Bartlett School of Architecture Š Thibault Schwartz

Thibault Schwartz

Thibault Schwartz is an architect based in Paris. He explores the evolution of architectural design practices in relation to generative algorithms and automated fabrication processes. Working in close collaboration with EZCT Architecture & Design Research, he is currently developing several hardware and software tools for robot-assisted construction and design. The HAL plugin for ABB robots programming via Grasshopper is among these tools. Paying particular attention to the development of industrial manufacturing strategies applied to architectural projects, he is attached to a systematic prototyping exercise aiming to complete and evaluate digital experiments. As a teacher, he has been sharing the knowledge gained from these experiments in numerous pedagogical events in several European schools of architecture and design such as TU Wien, the Berlage Institute, the Ecole nationale supĂŠrieure d'architecture Paris-Malaquais and the ENSCI (Paris). www.thibaultschwartz.com


Interview with Thibault Schwartz by Veronika Valk

Industry Veronika Valk: What are you working on currently? Thibault Schwartz: We are preparing a workshop for the seminar we are conducting together with Philippe Morel at University College London. We are teaching at the Bartlett Graduate Architectural Design program, where a lot of students are interested in robotics. Among other things, we teach them how to make their own tools, and we try to show them the abilities of such machines for construction processes. VV: How would you position yourself in terms of, let's say, what Peter Testa and Devyn Weiser are doing at SCI‐Arc or what Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler are doing at the ETH in Zürich? TS: First of all, it is necessary to say that we unfortu‐ nately don't have the same budget as those institu‐ tions. In SCI‐Arc, they have a place called the 'Robot House', with multiple robots, where they can focus with numerous students on the intensive use of the‐ se machines and with adequate support. The pro‐ duction of this experimental place is strongly linked to the school itself: they are outputting graphically‐ powerful results. The software they use to work with the machines is a plugin for Maya developed by Brandon Kruysman and Jonathan Proto, so from the

beginning their approach is really based on graphics (Maya being primarily developed for graphics in‐ dustries). It is their signature. I see these works—and this is not a negative judgment—as a prolongation of typical architecture school productions. Concerning ETH, the budgets are truly unlimited compared to ours, yet the material stacking logics that they are known for are fairly simple to produce. We have students at UCL doing similar things after a couple of days on the robot. I am much more interes‐ ted in thinking of ETH as a whole, as a place where everything can happen materially. The collaboration with Raffaello d'Andrea is a good example of this. I think they are also aware of it, and they now explore other processes, they try to think about the robots as something other than specialized machines as they seem to have done until now. A common point between our approaches is that they are also pushing the students to play with matter, and to transform this raw matter, which has potentially not‐so‐good characteristics, into architecturally powerful systems. The method differs though: we have no engineering support, so our students have to learn with a lot of material experiments and using very cheap and transportable solutions, since we only have a 59cm robot arm and almost no extra budget for the equipment. Of course the materials don't usually behave exactly as simulated by the computer,

151


leading the students to work with this unpredictable aspect in their design project. In that sense we have quite a difficult set of constraints, which can only lead to the creation of low‐tech processes: the more we can solve using passive methods (i.e. gravity) or software solutions, the better… VV: Achim Menges is also playing with materials… TS: Yes it is true, but the scale of the team of specialists they have in Stuttgart is also much bigger than what we have at UCL at the moment. One of the characteristics of their production is their aptitude to compensate the material behavior in order to control the production of their prototypes, which is only possible if you have good engineers, which they have by the way. They are also really taking advantage of the fact that they share the campus with biologists, that Frei Otto's legacy is still extremely present, etc. On this aspect (related to structural morphology), I feel much more connected to what they do than the production proposed by SCI‐Arc and ETH Zurich. Let's say that, for now, what distinguishes our research from these other institutions is our expertise in programming (on geometry and machines) and our focus on the production of structural applications based on low‐tech and mobile processes. At some point, I suppose that all these different approaches will merge, but this will take time. And it will also depend very much on the industrial support that architecture schools can get. VV: Are the robot manufacturers themselves interested in what you're doing and developing? — To adjust the design of robots to better meet your needs? Have they approached you?

TS: The robot manufacturers are interested in the programming part of my work: the HAL Robot Programming & Control plugin for Grasshopper. I have developed all these tools from scratch, following a path that manufacturers are not exactly supporting all the time (they prefer people who customize their existing commercial platform for obvious reasons). Since it is based on this popular visual programming platform (Grasshopper), architects and designers can use it to script quite advanced things like mobile interfaces for real‐time robot control without the need to know how to code a single line. And the combination with the Grasshopper data‐management logic works quite well, you can do a three‐day programming job in ten minutes in a fully parametric way. When you have a structure made of a thousand unique elements to be produced individually by the machine, it is an optimal software solution, and no similar product existed on the market before that. VV: What are your near future plans, what would you like to work on? TS: I would like to continue my work on lightweight structures, especially in concrete, by synthesizing the knowledge I have gained so far. I will probably need to be closer to the building industry to do so. VV: Is the building industry interested in your research? TS: That's tricky, because the building industry is re‐ luctant to change overnight something that they've established during the past 60‐70 years. Yet some material manufacturers seem to be interested: designers and engineers still don't know how to fully take advantage of the potential of the latest

152


innovations in material technologies, but they understand that it's something that could change if we start to use robots to manipulate these materials. I'm interested in how we could use concrete in new ways, free from the limits of traditional construction techniques. This is where robots can be very useful. VV: If you had unlimited funds, what would you do? TS: I would build a factory. [laughs] VV: A mobile one? TS: Yes. I admit it can sound a bit utopian at the moment, since everybody is still struggling to fully use one material and one robot at the same time. Any application developed nowadays needs to be considered not only on the technical level but also on its capacity to create an evolution of our design culture—and this takes time. Thus, to come back to the earlier question concerning the 'unlimited funds', I'm not certain that it would significantly change the quality of the output on an architectural design level. It would probably mean that we would have the possibility to increase the scale and robustness of the production, which is necessary if we want to have a chance to share our knowledge and needs with the construction industry, but for the moment I think it is most important to invent new applications instead of simply mechanizing what has been done manually during the past centuries. Imagine a big, messy, complex building site: I am convinced it is not a viable goal to replace the work‐force by robots—at least with our current building technology—since it would only be the automation of traditional construction processes. In fact there are good chances that it would make

worse what is already bad. We can always automate and automate and automate, with a better precision etc., but it will probably be the death of design since the goals that we currently have as architects and that leads us to do this type of research will not be shared by the construction industry. When I see architects working on the automation of their design processes—which is something that I also do —I can't help thinking that we are just preparing of the suicide of our profession. We know how to stack bricks. The real question is: why do we (have to) stack bricks? The necessities that created the need for humanity to engage with construction techniques and architecture became traditions a long time ago, before being replaced/ prolonged by industry, leading to our current architectural design context: we don't design anymore, we play with combinatorics. As architects, I think we must return to the research and the design of the components of this combinatorial system, as Jean Prouvé, Wachsmann, Fuller and numerous other architects did, when they saw the evolution of the building industry. To do this, we need the same equipment and the same language as industry. VV: The shape and weight of a brick is tightly connected to the human parameters—what one could repeatedly lift with one hand… TS: And now, we have robots: the brick doesn't need to be the same size any more once it's in the 'hands' of a robot. The research on the brick would be to figure out what would be the brick for the robot. Is the brick prefabricated? Or, is the robot making the brick? Robots can take half a car and move it at a 7 m/s velocity with a precision of a hundredth of millimeter. Do we need to use big bricks with these machines? Or extremely small

153


ones? We cannot only rely on the mechanical constraints of our fabrication equipment to help us to design, as we did before. These are too generic. We could potentially reinvent all our techniques, and the related design methods as well. VV: It can thus easily become a kind of a 'chicken and egg' problem. Is it the robot innovation first and then the material, or the material innovation first, followed by the robot? TS: A specific material will always behave in a certain way. There will be tolerances in terms of construction precision, but the material will always win. It's important to know how to work with it, not against it.

March 3, 2013, Paris.

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Robot ja tema arhitekt” in cultural monthly Müürileht, 4‐2013.

154


>

<< Claudia Pasquero < MetaFollies Š ecoLogicStudio Underwater museum Š ecoLogicStudio

Claudia Pasquero

Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto co-founded ecoLogic Studio in 2004. There, ecology is seen both as a conceptual and as a material paradigm; it is a generative force capable of re-describing the current paradigms of inhabitation and manipulation of the environment, methodologically thriving to develop a new design equation where technological progress equals an intensi ed symbiotic engagement with natural forces, processes and ecosystems. The innovative nature of ecoLogic's work has allowed the of ce to practice internationally and to cooperate within a multidisciplinary network of highly regarded teams. Their clients include a variety of actors from art critics and curators, to academic institutions, to the private and public sector, both in the construction industry and the design realm. Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto teach 'Intermediate Unit 10' at the Architectural Association in London. www.ecologicstudio.com


Interview with Claudia Pasquero by Veronika Valk

Symbiotic Veronika Valk: What is 'creativity'? What is your angle on this? Your work crosses borders between disciplines. How can we cultivate a muscular affluence of creativity in architectural education? Claudia Pasquero: Creativity is the urge to question assumptions, the rigor to conceptually reframe common problems and the passion to develop alternative solutions. As Buckminster Fuller used to claim, the best way to change the system is to invent a better one. I think that is what truly creative people always try to accomplish. If you think about ecoLogicStudio's research into Urban Algae Farming, this is not a project about infrastructure or design per se, but it's an attempt to totally redefine the role of infrastructure versus architecture versus human interaction in contempo‐ rary society; where the single individual, in his/her everyday life, is at the center of the production cycle rather then being a passive consumer. Students often are not allowed to be creative since the education system requires them to simply complete predefined tasks and forces them to compete for credits. The best way to bring true creative force into schools is to realize that students are one of the best assets our society has to actually tackle real issues and develop new ways of

approaching them. Students need to be exposed to real issues and supported by tutors that really believe they can work with their students to uncover issues and contribute to the international debate about their solution. This will force them to take a position, to be critical about common sense, to research about new techniques and technologies, to develop frameworks for cross‐disciplinary collaboration and to define their role within these frameworks. VV: In your opinion, what could or should be called 'visionary' in our contemporary culture of architecture and urbanism? Who are the peers, colleagues, collaborators—the visionaries—who inspire you and your work? Who should we watch out for? CP: Being visionary is difficult today, because there is so much 'noise' around that it is difficult to recognize what is good form or what is bad even if you are a trained specialist. The work of ecoLogicStudio is mainly inspired by the observation of natural and social systems. Marco and myself, in our last book 'Systemic Architecture', describe our research as the effort to incorporate into the design and planning of

157


contemporary cities the bottom‐up mechanisms found in nature as well as in the functioning of rural villages and post‐industrial communities. Having said that, I do believe that there are various inspiring colleagues in the architectural realm; for instance the ones who can produce attractive visions or narratives and are able to inspire others to push their boundaries. These are good communicators like Francois Roche, Rachael Armstrong, Usman Haque or Carlo Ratti for instance. Other people possess a great energy to imagine new formats or new kinds of self‐initiated projects, and that is their strength; I am thinking of Terreform1, Vicente Guallart, Cloud9 or Urban Think Tank for instance. There are innovative digital craftsmen that do use their beautiful and detailed creations to make statements; look at Mark Fornes, Achim Menges, Alisa Andrašek or AMID and others. They are all inspiring in one way or another, even though probably the great visions of 1970s radical architecture remain the most fascinating... VV: I imagine that your office's proposals might often be referred to as 'futuristic', but what is 'futuristic' for you? I see how your studio's perspective of an alternative future is much needed and valid today. Yet, where are the difficulties in pushing the practice? CP: I'm not sure if we are futuristic or not, but clearly we think the future is about a creative reinvention of the past. There is so much knowledge that is lost as a consequence of 'progress', while new technologies and innovation are often driven mainly by corporate investments and commercial interests [see the American model of the LAB]. We are not interested in new gadgets, but we think we can reload traditions and pre‐industrial 'know‐how' through the synthesis of new digital practices,

fabrication ecologies and behavioral architectures. Architecture can be an interface, a spatial medium to breed new material systems, to enable a new degree of cooperation among specialists and local communities. VV: EcoLogicStudio is a venturous practice, with courage to go where others don't dare. How did you become so bold and what kind of advice would you have for young experimental practitioners, looking up to you, to follow your example? What is 'courage'? CP: The real issue with architecture is that as a practice it has completely lost relevance in the last 30‐40 years, so being venturous is a necessity for the future. It is necessary to re‐invent the role of architecture in our society. I'm Italian and Italy is the country with more architects per‐capita than anywhere else in the world. Public opinion seems to be that architects are either spoiled upper middle‐ class individuals who do not need to earn a living and spend their time drawing useless things for fun, or are involved in a mechanism of speculative development that has as its main objective profit and causes the destruction of the natural landscape. To rebuild the reputation of architecture we need to start from research, but not a purely theoretical and academic one; I mean an applied design research, where conceptual rigor is supported and stimulated by design innovation and the engagement with real world briefs and scenarios.

May, 2013

This interview was originally published in an abbreviated Estonian translation as “Tuleviku arhitekt – kirglik, kriitiline, süsteemne?” in cultural weekly Sirp on 06.06.2013.

158


SNUD. PROTOCOLS: THE ESTONIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE GUEST SPEAKER SERIES 2012-2013  

TOIMETAJA: Veronika Valk KUJUNDAJA: Katri Karing „Protokollid” koondavad Eesti Kunstiakadeemia arhitektuuriteaduskonna avatud loengute s...

SNUD. PROTOCOLS: THE ESTONIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE GUEST SPEAKER SERIES 2012-2013  

TOIMETAJA: Veronika Valk KUJUNDAJA: Katri Karing „Protokollid” koondavad Eesti Kunstiakadeemia arhitektuuriteaduskonna avatud loengute s...

Advertisement