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A10

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Yes, unfortunately, this year’s scholarly life and my increasing committments with real publishing (aaahhh… money…) and its dreadful deadlines (ahhh…. my weekends…) has resulted in an almost total neglection of the blog. So, in order to catch up a little, let’s move on with the series of illustrations I’ve been doing for A10 magazine (@A10magazine) this past year. All of them were done to illustrate a still ongoing series of interviews with ‘young’ architects or architectural teams (because if you’re an architect under 40, you’re still young, you know? -suck that up, engineers!) conducted by A10’s editor, Indira van ‘t Klooster (@IndiraS). This one, from December 2014, featured NY-based firm SO-IL, run by Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, and an old colleague from my Cambridge days, Ilias Papageorgoulias Papageorgiou. Dang, has it been so long already??

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Unlike most architects in Europe, you mainly work for private clients. Why is that?

In Europe, one thinks that governments take care of public space, but outside Europe it’s usually different. (…) It’s very usual for an architect there to be part of the funding efforts for his own design. To arrange for your own fee calls for a different mentality. (…) Personal contact with your client is more important, mutual appreciation is crucial. Also, with public funding, the most important thing is to deliver a building on time and within budget. Once those demands are secured, there is little debate about the design any longer. 

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What do you think would have happened if you had stayed in Europe?

My career would have been entirely different. It would have been harder, I believe, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned the most by leaving the Netherlands, but I never intended to ‘escape’. We seek commissions in Europe (…).As an office, we are much more European than an average American practice, for example, when it comes to our attitude toward public space.

What would be your advice for young architects?

We are six years old now and have set the office on a track that currently allows us to work on a range of exciting projects around the world that engage culture and the public realm. The path of an architecture firm is inherently rocky. The people in our office are even younger than us. The new generation is much more flexible; it’s a more fluid generation. Traditional buildings will always be needed, but I think architects will find a wide range of new fields in which to work. Their skill set is ultimately suited for the demands of our time. Americans are unbeatable in their knowledge of computer coding, which is essential if you want to remain in control of your design. That’s something European architects should be concerned about—they know how to make a model, but very few have a clue about writing computer scripts.

Excerpts* from: Indira van ‘t Klooster: Reflections from overseas An Interview with SO-IL. A10 MAgazine #61. Jan-Feb 2015

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(*) For the rest you’ll have to buy the magazine. That’s the way it works. Toughen up.

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a10- 60 - Julien de Smedt

JDS Plotting

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In your view, how do design and architecture relate?

It starts with architecture; that’s what I have been involved in the longest. MWA [Makers With Agendas] is an extension of that, but in some ways it goes further. It is easier distributed and available for more people. A building is a single event and is eventually only used by a few. It has a given set of users. MWA has extended our reach and our ideas to a larger population.

Ideas like obesity, education, areas of conflict… huge and complicated stuff.

If the issues are bigger, the products are smaller and more pervasive. We’re not trying to be freaks, but the reverse creation process we’re setting up is like an anomaly, if compared to the big brands. As we develop and extend our resources, we can make more complex products that need more research and thus more money, but are also more influential. The issues at stake sometimes lead to the conclusion that a real resolution would be a change in the law, but as far as our capacity goes now, it’s though the ingenuity of our designs that we aim to make life better. […] MWA derives from an urge to understand other forces that drive the world. My architecture goes in the same direction, but to really address societal issues one needs to utilize other tools and cover other topics.

Have you implemented ideas from MWA back into your architecture?

We have a project, a new mobile home. William Ravn asked me to design his summer house. So we discussed it as a general issue first. Consumption of land is becoming problematic. Small retreats are a big burden on the planet, and they are hardly used, they pollute the landscape and eventually contribute to the financial stress of a country. I wanted to challenge that typology and the mobile home typology. […] I would definitely apply MWA knowledge back into architecture when it makes sense. Before MWA, in 2005, we did the GANG School in Copenhagen, where we implemented a few ideas. It was a school for expelled kids, to keep them off the streets. It was a complete hybrid in that sense. […]

Excerpts* from: Indira van ‘t Klooster: On a scale of hybrid – An Interview with Julien de Smedt. A10 MAgazine #60. Nov-Dec 2014

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(*) Yes, you’ll have to buy the magazine if you want to read the rest.

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[…] The Polish pavilion in Shanghai is probably the most famous and also most evocative project of WWAA. How would you describe it? How does it relate to your other work?

I came through several different phases with this project; first is was like with your first newborn, a strange feeling of being in some movie, with a complete stranger sucking life from you 🙂 Afterwards, I was briefly in love, proud that it had grown into such big and strong being. Then, I was for a few years a little bit ashamed of it, before finally, not long ago, being able to embrace this project fully, as a not perfect but most important achievement. I think also that it might be our big luck, that this very first project was temporary and does not have to stand the test of time – in terms of functionality and durability, because the aesthetics where meant to work in this very moment.

Expo Pavilion was no doubt very defining for the profile of our practice; many investors where expecting copy-cats of this project. I hope we managed to find a cross of what was expected of us and what felt genuine and inspired at the moment. I would like to say that our approach to each project is completely different, but obviously that would be completely false and naive; we do follow some well recognized paths and use shortcuts. (…)

What do you think about the position and attitude of young practices at the moment?

When we where at the starting point, there where many practices having nice websites with many impressive projects – but only in renderings. It felt somehow phony/artificial, and now I’m really happy to see that many young architects start with small scale projects, having them realized, thus showing through their work some special skills, such as being socially sensitive or having nice touch with materials, details, or any other. Of course I’m not opposed to doing competitions or study projects, but just feel that in our job it is so important to have frequent reality checks.

Indira van ‘t Klooster: Freedom of Flexibility – An Interview with Natalia Paszkowska, from WWAA Architects. A10 MAgazine #59. Sept-Oct 2014

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WWAA stands for Warsaw Architects, but a lot of their work currently takes place in Qatar. The office itself is located in KOMIN 73 (‘Factory Chimney 73’), a revitalized post-industrial complex, where activities ranging from design, graphic art, photography and fashion, to web and parametric design, 3D mapping and animation also reside. In the summer, an outdoor terrace hosts informal events. For a glimpse of what WWAA are producing, take a look at their website.

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“Andrés Jaque (*1971, Madrid) is not a typical architect. His radical stance breaking the traditional boundaries of architecture makes of him is one of the most relevant figures in the contemporary European architecture scene. Talking with Andrés is always inspiring and his words are a gust of fresh air to any preconceived statement about what contemporary architecture means nowadays. His firm Andrés Jaque Architects founded in 2000 and its spin-off Office for Political Innovation started three years later are a continuous stimulating source of inspiration for a whole new generation of young and not that young architects all around Europe that claim a change in the discipline. From his very first projects he showed an interest in working with conventional domestic realities that had been omitted by the architects and the political and corporative realm.

Gonzalo Herrero Delicado – Your work has always been charged with a very critical political load. What is the relevancy of politics into architecture?

Andrés Jaque – Architecture makes possible to coexist different agents in the city that won’t be able to live together without its presence. From this point of view, the architecture is always a political action itself and its challenges are simultaneously discussed in the urban and domestic arenas. The conventional descriptions of a city are out of phase and are now more and more complex. Nowadays also the politics are not as easy to be defined and are described by spatial structures simultaneously connecting different countries. The politic sphere is not just defined by a single government or society but by many imperceptible spatial structures and networks. […]

GHD – Another main focus of the core of your work is the connection between architecture and the society as it happened with the acclaimed performance IKEA Disobedients but at the same time this project was also widely criticised because it didn’t provide an architectural solution, what do you think about it?

AJ – After we made the first performance of IKEA Disobedients in Madrid, Candela, one of the characters featured in the project, was menaced to be evicted and because she was part of this project, there was many spontaneous protests in the streets of Madrid to support her. Also thanks to the massive media impact created around the project after being acquired by the MoMA, she was not finally evicted from her house. There you have the solution. In fact this is probably the most architectural project we have ever done in the office. […]”

Gonzalo Herrero Delicado: The Daily Politics of Architecture – An Interview with Andrés Jaque. A10 MAgazine #58. July-August 2014 

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For a quick look at the IKEA disobedients project/performance/exhibition, check this video at MoMA’s site. For an overview of Jaque’s work, check the Office for Political innovation webpage. Gonzalo Herrero’s multiple activities can also be checked in his own site.

A10 Piano Player Number Two - Joost Moolhuijzen

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Something a little bit different this time. A couple months ago, Indira van ‘t Klooster, editor-in-chief of A10 magazine contacted me asking if I would be interested in making some cartoons for a series of interviews with different architects they were featuring this year. Yes, A10 is that magazine founded a decade ago by Arjan Groot and Hans Ibelings, the man who not only wrote Supermodernism, but also a series of articles on comics and architecture back in the 90s), so, how could I say no?. It was a little thight for me to get to the first one, with Jürgen Mayer H (been there already, in any case), so we skipped ahead directly to Joost Moolhuijzen, the partner at Renzo Oiano’s workshop who was in charge of the Shard (yes, Piano and the Shard have also been guest stars here , thanks to Uncube . For those of you who want to check on the real thing, here’s a video of Joost himself speaking about the Shard at the BBC. Below, you have a taste of the interview itself. For the rest, you’ll have to buy the magazine (what are you waiting for?).

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It’s rare that an architect gets to explain his own project on CNN, but just that happened to Joost Moolhuijzen in 2012. You may not remember his name, but the name of his latest project is certainly familiar: The Shard. As senior partner at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), Moolhuijzen was responsible for this remarkable London skyscraper. Despite not having his own practice, it seems his being willing to pay the price of never becoming well known publicly has its benefits.

While many young architects dream of creating famous buildings the world over following graduation, some of them actually do it. Joost Moolhuijzen joined RPBW at the age of 30 and became partner at the age of 37, after he had successfully headed the Debis Building, part of the Daimler-Benz project at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. We meet in a café on a rainy day in Amsterdam. He and his wife, who also works at RPBW, are in town for a short family visit. Moolhuijzen begins explaining how the ideas of Piano have gradually become his own. Also, we’re talking different scales than are usually seen in A10. ‘Once we were 150 people, but our natural size is 100, like we are now,’ says Moolhuijzen. ‘That means we’re still small enough to be picky in the projects we accept, and big enough to deal with the larger projects.’

So RPBW is critical in which projects to take on, or not?

‘Definitely,’ assures Moolhuijzen, ‘we do not simply follow the money in Dubai, China or Korea. We seek jobs that contribute to urban sustainability. We once had a job just outside Paris, but gradually it became clear that the project had too little in terms of urban capacity. New buildings should improve the existing situation with regard to public transport, housing and public space.’The Shard, sometimes criticized as an autistic high-rise funded by sheikhs from Qatar, he actually finds to be an improvement for the district. ‘The underlying station was rebuilt, while more and varied functions appeared on the ground floor. People have benefited from it. We preferably build on brownfields rather than greenfields. That is ultimately more sustainable.’ […]

Joost Moolhuijzen :  ‘The Piano Player’,  A10 magazine #57. May-June 2014.

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