The AE was founded in 2011 to generate a public discussion about architecture and the architect’s role in shaping the discipline. We have since gone on to explore a variety of topics in an attempt to make sense of the recent past and current preoccupations. Themes are advanced but not adhered to dogmatically. This website is an archive of our activities. 


AboutPosters

BOARD 
Samuel Penn
Dr. Penny R Lewis

Prof. Neil Gillespie OBE
Dr. Cameron McEwan
Rowan Mackinnon-Pryde
Dr. Neil Burford

CONTACT
AE Foundation
33 Portland Street
Edinburgh EH6 4BB
United Kingdom
︎ mail@aefoundation.co.uk


QUOTE OF THE WEEK “I’m not impressed by the way people classify postmodern architects, or not. I can understand that it’s possible to put me in the same group for instance with Stirling or Rossi and with other kinds of postmodernists, but I think it’s too quick to classify things like that. For me, in my mind what happened was continuity in the evolution of architecture that goes back centuries, not from modern or postmodern. And in Postmodernism, the thing I don’t like, the thing I don’t consider good, was not to say no to Modernism, or to say no to history, which is very contradictory, because they use architectonic elements taken from history, but to break the continuity which I recognise in the evolution of architecture through the centuries.” Álvaro Siza - Subversives, 2014 



INDEX



ANGELA DEUBER
PASCAL FLAMMER
OLIVER LÜTJENS
THOMAS PADMANABHAN
︎︎︎Samuel Penn
ACCOUNTABILITY


SP

Thomas, what aspect of your work do you take most seriously?

TP
When we work on projects sometimes it’s not obvious where the attention goes. So when we start on a project we are first very serious about the inner workings of the project, all the serious work of legislation, programme and structure and so on. But this is only scaffolding, a kind of stepping stone for the real thing, to get to a final form where the things that we are exploring finally take shape, and where the difficulties and the contradictions that we encounter in the process take shape and are expressed. So it’s very funny that the end result is really very often something we discover in the end. The outer skin of a building, its expression is the very last thing we work on and the very first thing that you see. And sometimes it comes from a moment or a need that is almost ephemeral and almost spontaneous, but that builds on a body of serious work. So there’s a kind of functional seriousness of a core project with a result that can sometimes seem more complex and more contradictory. But in the end, our perception of the work is just the opposite; the end result, the outer shell, we take seriously. Because the next day, after the project is finished or built, you forget the programme, you forget the constraints, you forget the jury, you forget all these things. And also the programme or the jury won’t be important in ten years time, but the end result will be. So there’s a strange reversal of seriousness and playfulness in our work, from the process to the result.

SP
So, what would you consider to be the core?

OL
Form.

TP
Yes, form, expression and language.

SP
And does this have a social dimension?

TP
Yes, we celebrate the contradictions that we encounter. We try to integrate them. If there are sixty people in this room, all with different views of life, then we try to make an architecture that acknowledges these differences, an architecture that welcomes rather than excludes them. I’m saying this because I want to throw a stone in one of your windows—laughs.

PF
Who has the biggest windows? I mean, when we talk about being ‘serious’ it would be interesting to know what we consider ‘not serious’. And I think you kind of made a first proposal, which was playfulness?

TP
Yes.

PF
I try to answer this holistically, or as holistically as I can. Playfulness doesn’t stipulate if it is serious or not serious; playful can be serious. I wouldn’t necessarily consider playfulness as being un-holistic or ‘un-as-good-as-I-can’. So in a way the idea of serious or playful is not really a parameter.

SP
I don’t think the discussion is about the distinction between ‘playful’ or ‘serious’. The question I’m asking is more about the social dimension of your work, if you give credence to the idea of the common, or the common good? Architects in the relatively recent past considered the social dimension an important aspect of their work. What I’m asking is if you consider this in your work?

PF
Yes, I think every part of my work does it principally. But the big difference is that in the past the topics that were a common problem, which people were working on, were more clearly defined. That’s the biggest difference. Yes, I would say that everything I do in that sense is serious. I try to understand things as broadly and as holistically as possible. And the idea, just to say, do I continue a formal repertoire of the past, versus ‘am I a modernist’ that doesn’t care about form; I don’t see that my work makes a differentiation between modernism, post-modernism, or formal versus pragmatic, or programme, or something. So I find this idea of separating our profession into ‘formal’ versus ‘programme’ very old. I think we should forget it altogether. For me it doesn’t exist actually.

TP
Pascal, you just said that we don’t have the big problems that link us as a profession at the moment, and I kind of disagree when you see the four of us at this table. My perception is that our work is very different, each of us, but the questions we work on are very similar. I would for example say, and please contradict me if I’m wrong, the vulgarity of consumer culture and how we deal with it is a question we all have in common, of mass society, placeless-ness, loss of the individual. I think we all deal with this. And I would say that there’s a completely different answer that Angela is giving, or you are giving, or we are giving to that question. But the question that’s in the room, that everybody deals with is, ‘what’s your local individual reality?’ versus the homogenisation of culture, of lives, the fact that everybody can be replaced, the sense that you’re just a ‘bit’ in a trillion, that everything gets thrown away in a short time. And I think Ollie and I have an answer that’s more saying, ‘ok, we should go along with all that, the flat screen, the plastic toilet’, that all that should always be there in the project, and you said the word holistic, and holistic means, of course, ‘integrated’?

PF
Yes.

TP
But integrating many things into a project where the ‘one-ness’ of the project is still a scope. And for us the ‘one-ness’ of the project is constantly questioned, as is the one-ness of the world for that matter. I think we differ in the answer rather than the question, at the moment.

AD
I have a broken window. For me there are four aspects. First: I do not play. For example, during teaching we have a blackboard with words written on it that we don’t use. One word is 'play'. Architecture is too serious to play. But you have to have some kind of excitement to move ahead, to be fascinated. It has to be sincere; but also relaxed at the same time. To answer your question: all parts have to be serious. There is no difference between something more or less serious. Number two. To take everything seriously, you should go further than just taking something seriously. And in addition, there should be no contradiction. There are no contradictions in my work. That's a big difference to what was said earlier. Once I have a contradiction, there is a mistake, the thought is not clear. Number three. We should re-question everything. That is what we do. We question the programme, we question the world, we question the writings, the history of architecture. In the end we have to question everything. And that's more than just to take something seriously. Number four. What is also very important for me is to put the world in parentheses. To put brackets around what we do every day allows us to think something from scratch, from the beginning. For me everything is serious, but it has to go further.

SP
I want to draw out the social dimension a bit more. Pascal?

PF
I think in my case it’s what I would call empathy; empathy toward people and society, and the things that I have to work with. I think it’s a love and admiration for the thing that I’m in relation to, or have to look at. And in empathy is also the idea that I give my best or most holistic answer to it. But I would never think, for example, that it could be full of contradiction. Because I think the world is full of contradiction, but also charming and loving. I found it interesting that you, Angela, kind of don’t want to have contradiction.

AD
They don’t exist.

PF
I like contradictions.

AD
I think, if you see a contradiction then you didn’t think about it in a clear way.

OL
But does it mean that you establish a hierarchy in a project that everything derives from, or that comes from a specific logic? Because if you and I have a discussion, every now and again we might have a difference of opinion where we contradict each other. But for the people listening to the discussion it might be quite interesting to hear these contradictions, much more interesting than if we always agreed. And architectural elements, they can claim this kind of autonomy in a project, so you might have a column in a certain configuration and a wall in another, and which can contradict each other, but that create energy and tension. Michelangelo’s work is full of examples like that.

AD
There is a big difference between the term ‘contradiction’ and ‘opposite’. The opposite is a very nice theme, spatially.

OL
Yes.

AD
So, for me this is semantics. Of course the idea of opposites is a nice theme.

PF
So what would be a contradiction that you might like?

AD
A contradiction doesn’t exist for me. I don’t want to think it.

PF
No, just to understand. I’m not really sure what you mean? When you say you don’t want any contradictions. Just so I can begin to understand your position; what would be a bad contradiction where you would have to think more to correct it?

AD
You are doing the contradictions. You should answer.

SP
Thomas, you first raised it. What do you mean by contradiction?

TP
I remember, Angela, when you were our guest in Munich, and we had students that were working on the contradiction between being able to design an urban façade and being able to organise an apartment behind the facade. There were a hell of a lot of contradictions, because there was neither a clear typology they could follow in terms of a contemporary apartment, because we have no idea what that should be, and there was no clear idea what the expression of a clear urban building should be today. While they were looking at these two things they persistently didn’t match up. I think this was a contradiction that you enjoyed discussing with the students, while being a bit troubled by it. That was the point where we probably departed?

AD
I am not two architects; one doing the façade, one doing the interior.

TP
Yes, or even one architect working consciously against themselves in one project, as a conscious operation. We just encounter so many inconsistencies, the desires, wishes and goals in society that we want to bring into the work, that if they are absorbed into the work that it becomes richer and stronger. We never think about origin. It’s really interesting that you brought up origin, Angela. You brought up origin as a thought where architecture is looking for its own foundations. We rather take ‘stuff’ and work with it, with material that’s somehow already available. 

SP
Oliver, do you want to add something?

OL
I’m just worried that Thomas is taking us on to very slippery ground here—laughs.

TP
You want to play it safe Ollie—laughs.

OL
Thomas said that we take ‘stuff’ and I was worried that you could interpret from that that we look at images and make collages out of buildings, making shortcuts, taking finished elements and making something new, like Miroslav Šik’s Analogue Architecture does for instance. And even though we sometimes quote, and then we definitely take a piece from someone else, we more often pay homage. We think that architecture is like a language and that every element that you see is a puzzle, like words in a sentence to create something bigger that in the end has meaning. Therefore the ‘stuff’ that we take is rather very very small fragments wouldn’t you say Thomas? It’s a hard and a long process.

TP
Yes. What I meant with ‘stuff’ is like when we start with a typology of a building, the plan at the beginning, then we usually start in a very conventional way, we start in the most normal way possible. We are not original. We almost try to work in an impersonal way in the beginning. That’s what I mean by ‘stuff’. It’s the opposite of an idea where you start with basic elements. When we develop a floor plan we start with a very simple scheme that’s almost non-artistic. And it’s also not fundamental but rather conventional, it’s taken. Not taken from something specific but taken from a general expression of housing or of an office building or of a school. We take that and then we transform it in the process.

SP
Why do you start from convention?

OL
Because we don’t think we need to start with a very good idea. We believe that you discover things when you begin things from a very banal foundation, and that then, as the project continues, ideas are found in the process. And we don’t stop finding those ideas. That’s the great thing about architecture. It takes a long time. And if you work five years on a building, you’d maybe better have space for a few more ideas, and maybe also in the last year while you’re working on the construction details, ideas that completely change the perception of the building. 

SP
But your buildings are full of original ideas as well. I know this.

OL
But we also steal—laughs.

TP
But our starting point is usually quite stupid.

SP
But what’s the point of this stupidity?

TP
The point is that it’s a non-architectural rationale that’s at the base of a project.

SP
Do you do it to make it to make the work more inclusive?

TP
No, it’s because it’s more practical. It’s super pragmatic on the most stupid, lowest level possible. We are trying to think of the most stupid project that we can possibly manage. By stupid, I mean the most basic, the most conventional, the most generic. We believe that a generic structure is like a beautiful sponge that can absorb many different ingredients, and then it can become richer and richer. But the starting point doesn’t have to be complicated.

PF
It’s a kind of programmatic fulfilment of needs or something?

TP
Yes, but in the most generic sense.

PF
Siza called that ‘the ugly model’ or something. I heard this story, I don’t know if it’s true. He would say that he would ask his staff to produce the most simple and clear answer, how to structure a school or whatever, to produce a project that is kind of the most normal and well working without any crazy things in it. And that he would also ask this in a physical model, which he would refer to as like being ‘sculptures in the past’; that in a studio those studying under a master would make a model which the master would then rework. He says that he sees it in a similar way. So the basis is the thing that works, and that he then reconfigures it from that basis. I understand what you’re saying as something like this.

OL
But can I ask Pascal, because we rarely have the chance to talk. You come from a school of thought where the initial idea is the key to everything. I want to ask how this is in your daily life, do you work like this, because when I look at your work I’m not sure. I mean it could be but it also doesn’t need to be.

PF
I used to work like that. I don’t work like this anymore. Let’s say, the best state to be in is one where I feel curiosity. I think that’s the best state we can have in life, for food, for other people, for architecture, that’s when I feel the most awake, or that’s my best feeling. The worst is when I feel nothing, when I walk through cities and feel nothing. So basically what I would like to do, and what all us here want to do, is make stuff that produces curiosity. When I look back at my time at architecture school I was quite traumatised by my teachers because I disliked almost all of them, and the reason was that they wanted to tell me what I should do and like. They tried to teach me how I should feel or what should excite me, and I realised that there are three people in my life that I was really fascinated with, and I think the key with them was that they were not imposing on me what I should feel or think, and I think that this in a certain way is also our role. We are like a movie director. We have to think how to make a building, to manipulate it so that the future user feels attracted. We should not imply too much, not tell them already what they should like, we should actually seduce the person without the future user feeling that they have been actively seduced. That’s also the reason why I don’t do projects with the main idea anymore, because that’s exactly the problem of it. It’s very dogmatic, you say, ‘look this is interesting’. Now I think the important work of the architect is to find this very complicated balanced construction between doing something while the visitor doesn’t feel something is happening, but being aware what the future user will feel. In a negative way we would call this a manipulation. In a positive way I would call it a seduction.

TP
This is a compliment. Don’t your buildings invite the visitor, the user, the people that experience, to also critically analyse, raise their perception or artistic sensibility, to question and also to be introspective, all things that are not just emotional, not manipulated but very conscious? I think I see your work more on an experiential level as having intellectual content that takes the visitor and user very seriously.

PF
Of course.

TP
I was a bit critical of this idea of manipulation because I think your buildings are more open.

PF
With that word ‘manipulation’, I just want to say that I’m aware that when I do something it will be perceived in a certain way. And this I have to steer. But of course I would like that somebody goes into a space and feels attracted, and in the best way they wouldn’t know why. They think, ‘this is a crazy structure’, and then, ‘actually this is not a structure’, ‘is it that form’, and at the same time ‘something else is opening here’.

SP
But why all these acrobatics?

PF
In order to produce and unanswered curiosity. I think it’s very important that you should not get to an answer, that you should not get to the final ‘why’.

OL
Yes.

PF
The best building is one that’s circling, like a story where you bite your tail.

TP
Like any work of art, when a work is open it can attract so many wishes, feelings and projections with the changing times.

SP
Do you build for an ideal reader of your buildings? And do you equate that audience with society?

OL
No. I can’t influence what people really think about our buildings. I can present a building if visitors come, then they always like it much better than before—laughs.

TP
Laughs—but Ollie we wouldn’t invest so much love and detail into the building if we didn’t think somebody would appreciate it.

OL
It will of course be appreciated by somebody, but by very few. The things that you and I care about Thomas very few will appreciate or care about.

PF
I don’t think that you feel very different to the way I do. I really think that we are extremely similar, all of us. I’m not saying we’re exactly the same, but I think to a large extent we’re very similar.

TP
You said that you have times when you walk through a city and you don’t feel anything.

PF
Because of the bad buildings—laughs.

TP
Laughs—architecture is so funny. You can’t ignore it, and you can be perceptive about it, and you can be really open about it. It depends on you. So it can be between people but also within the same person. I can’t just walk through the world without seeing anything.

SP
My next question is about the teaching of history to architects. Angela, do you think it’s important to teach students about history in a way that is not just about inspiring them in their design process?

AD
Of course. In the end I am taking about masterpieces. Thinking about history is your counterpart. It’s like a person you talk to. This is one point. And then to be inspired is a lot. To be inspired is already the highest you can reach. So, I don’t agree with your word ‘just to be inspired’. For me it’s the main thing holding everything together, the inspiration.

OL
I would absolutely agree with that. It was also you that said that you have to be critical about architectural history, yes of course, but it’s also much more important for everybody to love architecture and to understand what you love, to fully engage with something. It’s the same as what Pascal says about not understanding or being curious about things, because it’s always fresh, the same but new, but different, not getting behind it because there’s depth, so there’s a full engagement from your side with it. And then you can also be critical about it because some architects that you love, they also made some crap work, and then you understand why this other piece is so much better. Then you can also discover that some people that have written about it have said wrong things that they didn’t understand. So history has this much more scientific side, and yet as mankind it’s our common history of culture. You don’t need to know about anything, you just have to engage with it. 

AD
This is interesting because when we were in the library of Luca Ortelli in Lausanne, you had this Plečnik book in your hand. Around the same time I reduced my library to a hundred books so that when took a book from the shelf I would feel only joy. My goal is just to have books with masterpieces where I don’t have weak parts. I am now thinking of world architecture, for example from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greek City Planning. It’s the question of clarifying and to value.

SP
There’s a great difference between learning from history and studying historic buildings. Just learning about the rules of a building is formalistic; it’s not history is it?

TP
No, but history is the only way we can expand our imagination beyond the present moment. It’s another dimension of space. We have three-dimensional space and then we have time, and because we can’t see the future we can expand our imagination into the past, and the only thing we have from the past are artefacts; memories, texts, images, buildings, objects. So these are the sources. They’re not the ‘mere’ sources; they are ‘the’ sources.

SP
They’re not the ‘mere’ sources, but they are a chosen and then curated collection. And they’re brought together for a specific reason, which makes it instrumental. There is agency in their choosing. It’s very rarely talked about. If you’re just choosing examples from the past willy-nilly then I’m afraid you’re a shit architect. But you’re not a shit architect, so you must be compiling these examples or artefacts in the here-and-now for a reason.

TP
It’s like falling in love. You’re attracted to something, and only after you get to know it you find our, later, the reason why you were attracted to it. It’s not an analytical process; it’s one of affection.

OL
I want to go back to what Angela said because I thought that was great and tough at the same time. You said that you want to exclude everything that’s weak, right?

AD
Yes.

OL
And in principle I understand, but for instance, I looked at a Robert Venturi book yesterday and I’ve loved his work for a long time, and he made a garage for somebody outside of Philadelphia. It’s really quite a bad project, it’s very early, and it’s very touching because you can see all this ambition and you can see that he kind of fails, and it doesn’t matter to anyone, it’s just a garage for two cars. But there’s an arch, you know, and it’s very thin. I love that project because of what’s coming after, because you can see he’s trying. Don’t you have that feeling with the architects that you love, that you also like the weak parts, or where you feel this unrealised ambition?

AD
I don’t want to waste my time to find out these weak parts. I like to take a book out of my shelf and open it and not be disappointed. I’d like to take out a Gothic book and open it and see for example Palazzo Ducale in Venice just to discover great things. Because my time is, like all of us, we have a certain amount of time, so I try to make it as successful or positive as possible. And then there is another point. By reducing there are also many books which are not written yet and which are missing. So, I’d like to spend more energy in finding them and including them in my library. And not always taking the same and talking about the same. We are so limited in our way of thinking. It’s just one perspective how we were taught history.

OL
But don’t you think the history of mankind is also about ambition and about failure? I mean that makes us human, that we fail in the things we do. And in this failure there is also something very moving, that’s a humanistic idea, that mankind is not perfect.

AD
I also appreciate that mankind is not perfect. You take Mies van der Rohe, House Tugendhat, and it is full of mistakes. It’s conscious.

SP
But the ambition is not mistakes.

TP
It’s interesting. We had a chance to visit Stockholm a few weeks ago, and we had the chance to visit some of the works of Lewerentz and Asplund, and then we saw some of the minor masters, Celsing, who we admire a lot but who doesn’t have the importance and the fame of these other two masters. And I felt extremely the openness and the incompleteness of his work; lot’s of loose ends. That really inspired us, to visit those, while the other works were almost encapsulated in their perfection.

OL
I know what you mean, but Asplund and Lewerentz were also amazing.

TP
Yes they were amazing. But for me it’s like a can that’s closed, it’s almost impossible to open.

SP
Since we determined that looking at historic artefact is a suitable venture, for the benefit of students in the audience or recent graduates who have gone through the system here, where they were probably taught by professors who had their particular set of reference points, their chosen artefacts. And of course the students can try to make a whole out of all these parts. But are you trying to pass something on through these choices. When I said earlier about being ‘just’ inspired by buildings for instrumental purposes I meant rather that if that’s the case, then do these choices contain something deeper that you want to pass on as a lesson in architecture?

TP
You know, I think you keep going back to the same point, which is completely useless. You’re going back to the point where you want to talk about principles. Ollie and I, we never talk about principles, because we don’t think there’s a principle core, we don’t think there’s an abstract world of ideas that floats above the forms.

SP
I don’t think so either as it happens.

OL
But Thomas, when we argue we do.

TP
Yes, but we are completely sceptical of the idea of the origin, of German idealism, where the world of ideas floats as a kind of cloud above the worthless form of reality.

SP
But then why do talk about ‘type’ if you don’t believe in it?

TP
I use the word type because it doesn’t work, because I know it’s a fragment.

SP
But it’s a formal principle that exists in the abstract.

TP
Yes, but which doesn’t work. It’s dysfunctional. We encounter the dysfunctional type every day. We are completely sceptical of any basic principle that is a kind of fundamentalism.

SP
I’m not talking about fundamentals, but rather the understanding that what you do has motivation and therefore can have meaning attached to it, especially if you’re teaching. 

TP
Yes, but a painter finds his truth in the painting, in the act of painting. Not in the act of thinking about the fundamentals of painting. An architect finds the truth of his work within the means of an architect.

SP
It’s not about the artist thinking about the fundamentals of painting as he’s painting but rather about having the skills and sense of intention and then to communicate it, if not during then after the process.

TP
In our teaching it’s quite simple. We are for the public role and responsibility in architecture and we think that the language of architecture and its public role is completely underdeveloped.

OL
But that’s kind of a principle that you’re talking about, because in the end you sit on desk crits with your students and you discuss the work, and every week there’s another step and you discover the next step, and every week you discover the next step with them together. You know the feedback from the stu-dents is always, yes yes, their ideology is all fine, but we enjoyed the process, there was a lot of energy and we got really far with the project. Architecture is also about making things, and that’s what you pass on when you’re teaching, it’s how to explore, how to be curious as Pascal said, how to have empathy, how to like things.

SP
But if you don’t know what you’re passing on, how can you teach? Are you ‘just’ great inspirers?

PF
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have history; I’m just not very good at it, so I don’t teach it. What I try to do is foster curiosity and empathy, and the student decides what to bring in as a topic, where they have a feeling for something. And I try to discuss with the student and eventually help to develop and analyse, to eventually produce form with it, or connect it. So I try in the best way possible to have zero dogma, no dogma. And every book is as good as the next one, or no book, or whatever. I think it doesn’t matter. Then you find out during the discourse what is interesting. One could say it’s like psychoanalysis but somehow in architecture. But there is no dogma and no better or less good, everything is principally accepted, and everything is worth thinking through if an individual says it’s valuable. 

TP
Philosophically I agree with you, only in our teaching we do the opposite. We are more on Angela’s side in our teaching because we basically open our collection of one hundred books, which doesn’t exist literally speaking, and we take out the best things that we think, we take out the best stuff because we want the students only to get the best. And we’re not waiting for them to bring a mediocre house from the Internet, because it’s a waste of time —laughs.

OL
I’m also with Angela here—laughs.

PF
But then is teaching not a waste of time? Because then you already basically know what you’re going to talk to them about, since you decided already that this is a good building. Why do you need to talk if you know already?

TP
No, the good building is so rich that it can lead to anything. In the student’s work it can lead to anything because it’s so complex and rich and it can absorb so many projections from the student’s side that anything can happen. Because I’m also against second rate inspiration. I never experienced the teaching of Miroslav Šik, but the idea of being inspired by the ordinary I find really terrible. Why would you want to set your ambitions lower than they can be? I find that really depressing.

SP
Do you know why he proposes this? I mean he’s not here, but do you have an idea? He’s influenced almost two generations of students here in Zürich, and now teachers too of course. You see these buildings springing up everywhere. I’m sorry if some of you in the audience have designed them. Maybe they’re really good.

TP
My understanding is that he was in the tradition of Aldo Rossi and that the intellectual idea of the historic type got replaced by a less intellectual version based on the ordinary.

PF
Yes, the ordinary does not make you afraid. What you know makes you feel good.

TP
For me it’s terrible.

PF
Yes for you, but let’s say when a thing does not disturb your understanding of something it can give you a sense of happiness. I mean psychologically this is proven. Where you don’t have disruption you feel good. If you see something that you understand, you feel good. I principally understand this idea that you try to make people happy by giving them no disruption.

SP
He might even argue that this is the ‘social dimension’ in his work, even if we disagree. 

PF
Yes of course.

TP
I think it’s populist rather than social.

PF
But it’s really interesting to think of what he says by doing this and a bit less interesting to experience the buildings.

SP
I’d like to turn to the audience for the final questions. You’ve all been standing very patiently.

AUDIENCE
I’d like to talk about the role of emotion in your work, because it was a common theme among all of you in this discussion, and something I feel very closely to in my personality and in my architecture. To feel a space is much more than to just see a space. I would like to hear your opinion.

PF
I think it’s key. The emotional is the trigger to then go and analyse it. I think it’s almost the only thing we have to do as architects. As a starting point it’s the key to make us curious. You feel triggered to do and to develop by being emotionally connected.

OL
We had this point already when you talked about manipulating or seducing people, and I’m really much less confident that I can trigger emotion within you. I know what makes Thomas hot—laughs.

PF
Laughs—what makes him hot?

OL
You know we’ve been working together for over twelve years, and I know what he likes and I know what I like. But I’m also surprised by the stuff that I don’t know, the triggers in me. I think the work we do, we can only do as good as we can, and then hopefully somebody will feel the same, or more interestingly will feel something else, and that there will be a discussion about that at some point if you’re lucky. But I also trust that our sense of proportion is good so you would also feel that. But maybe you would feel that it’s not comfortable. I don’t know, I don’t have a solution, and you know, a lot of the things I find ugly I find interesting ten years later and then have a deep affection for them. So I don’t know. Of course there are standards like dark to bright and things like that, but in the end emotion is extremely complex and very specific and also has a lot of cultural baggage.

TP
I personally would like to replace the word ‘emotion’ with a sense of value, with density, and with human dignity. If I see a building that has been done with incredible care, intelligence and sensibility, any of you will feel that, a building that is this dense as an artefact, even if it’s from another time, or if you don’t know the author, or if you disagree with the philosophy of the author. It doesn’t matter.

PF
I disagree.

TP
Really?

PF
Yes. Didn’t it happen to you that you made a work that you put all the best you could into, and you were suffering, and it was just a piece of shit, you know, just bad? So this idea to put all your energy, all your ability, is not enough, because I think it’s only enough if it triggers this magic thing that makes you want to continue. The word in German would be ‘streben’, ‘das streben arbeit’ (aspirational work). It’s of no relevance I find

TP
I thought it’s just that we’re working against the background of a lot of architects that are not trying hard enough, and that that is already a value in itself.

OL
But you are talking about two different things. If the thing is achieved, then as Thomas says there’s that feeling of energy. But yes of course we also experience that you work and work on a competition and you think it’s great and then you loose it, or you even win it, and later you say, ‘shit, it’s not so great after all’. Or you just can’t do it. You just fail during the attempt, a productive failure, but kind of a sad failure, and you put it in the drawer.

AD
I would just have a very simple answer to your question, for me being inspired is the moment of feeling happy emotion. And this is what drives the work.

SP
Another question.

AUDIENCE
Yes. The idea of not being dogmatic is already dogmatic, is already a principle. Looking at the work of all of you one could say that you all believe in autonomous architecture. What makes architecture autonomous is the first question? We heard about meaningful architecture, we heard about balance, that you want to get inspired. But what is there beside language, beside autonomy. What makes a building architecture is the second question?

TP
When we finish a building we don’t know if it’s good or not, because time will tell, and the perception of it will change anyway within a few years, and then after ten years again and then again. Then buildings will either turn out to be architecture or they will just fall back into being buildings, you know, just a house or a garage or a shop. That’s kind of a beautiful thing isn’t it? We always have a safety net. We can also still have a functional house when the greatness fails.

AUDIENCE
I just wonder if there are other tools other than the tools of autonomy, the tools of language and history that we can access to make architecture?

PF
Yes, the use, society, the guys that will go in. The way that they feel, the way they interact, the way they perceive eventually the piece, the piece in relation to history or in relation to the contemporary.

TP
And the way we build today. The building industry provides materials that you can afford.

AD
But he asked what makes a building architecture, not what makes a building.

TP
No, but it’s a factor. When you take an idea, then the present state of the user, the present state of the building technology will transform that idea. It will feel and look different than you expected because it will materialise through the technology of today. And that’s the wonderful thing also about the relationship to history, that you can take things from history and when you use them today they are immediately detached from history, and they automatically get a certain sense of autonomy and originality because you’re using the technology of today not of hundreds of years ago. We experienced that at some point and we got more and more relaxed about just taking things, because in the end we know they will feel and look different.

PF
I think everything is architecture as long as it doesn’t rain on your head—laughs.

SP
Final question.

AUDIENCE
There’s a beautiful movie by Lars von Trier, The Five Obstructions, where this other director, I forgot his name, made a movie about the perfect human being, and I think this movie somehow applies to this conversation because you all work with the same, like you take other conventions than you do or you do, but you all take these little conventions really seriously and transform them a little bit to make ‘curious’. And I think this movie, where this other director gets these restrictions, makes for a way more interesting movie than he made in the first part, because he had to make this perfect human being movie, and then he had to have these restrictions and he had to make it again. Twelve frames instead of twenty-four. My question is, where in the work of each other do you get the curiosity? What qualities do you see in the work of the others? I just want to make it a little less polite.

OL
What I love about Angela’s work is the toughness.

AD
He wanted to make it uncomfortable. Laughs—what do you hate about my work? 

OL
I actually haven’t visited any of your buildings, but I’d love to do that.

SP
This isn’t a dating agency—laughs.

OL
Laughs—what I love about Angela’s work is the toughness, the sharpness, and I have a feeling there’s a sense of fragility there, which is maybe just a projection that I bring, but I’d be curious to see and to find out. And it’s this contradiction actually between something being sharp and tough but also fragile that interests me.

AD
But without the contradiction—laughs.

OL
But that is a contradiction. I don’t have a problem with both at the same time—laughs.

PF
This is kind of funny, we just have to bash on each other?

AUDIENCE
No, it’s more what makes you curious about the other’s work.

PF
Well. I like your use of green for example.

OL
Thanks—laughs. We named the green in the office. It’s called Klohstein.

TP
I’m curious about this very precise slow expansion of vocabulary. And I’m always imagining what the motivation behind each step is. We have so much stuff in our projects you can’t even follow. But in your projects Pascal, you can more closely follow a language. You talk about film. I try to imagine what the film director was doing behind these projects when he introduced a new element that wasn’t there before, because I feel an incredible discipline and reluctance to be too free and too fast with your elements. And that’s probably for both of you. So I’m following it like a very slow growing plant in this garden and I’m interested where the plant will grow next.

PF
Well I think because I didn’t publish at all in the last few years, I think you might be thinking about projects that I did quite a long time ago. What I do today, for me is very clean; I imagine how it is to walk around the space and how to always produce this feeling of being triggered by something but not getting to an end, not getting the full satisfaction in a certain way.

SP
You’re a tease. 

PF
Yes I try to tease.

SP
These conversations never reach a totally adequate conclusion. I’m getting used to it. Thank you all for coming and special thanks to our guests.

︎︎︎