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A collection of prints of past cartoons from Arquine, A10, Uncube, as well as a few others published in the last 10 years, en route to Santiago de Chile, where I’ll spend next week. I’ll keep reporting. (In the pic, ‘¿Qué tienen las casas de hoy en día que las hace tan iguales, tan aburridas?’, my take on Hamilton’s famous collage published in Arquine #83: The Limits of Design, Spring 2018)

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Another blast from the past. As I was going through a checklist of my cartoons for Uncube, I found out I hadn’t posted this one, either. Some backstory: back in January 2016, Uncube was planning to put together an entire issue on Zvi Hecker (and more: check AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN – ZVI HECKER’S HOUSING DREAM), one of those visionaries who toyed with non-Cartesian geometries back in the ’60s, and actually got to build his designs (along with fellow Israeli architect Moshe Safdie and a few others). Being the sucker I am for all things 1960s/70s, I was glad to contribute a piece. Also, December 2015 was the time where Star Wars was (somehow) brought back to life, via the incredibly mediocre The Force Awakens. Being the sucker I am for all things science fiction, I couldn’t let the opportunity to throw in lots of Star Wars references in. Bjarke Ingels then came in to add the necessary starchitectural element. Enjoy!

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #41: Zvi Hecker edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Ron Wilson and Elvia Wilk et al. I’d check it right now, if I were you. Honest.

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I thought I had already uploaded all the cartoons I had done for Indira van’t Kloosteer’s section ‘Interchange: Architects in Action’. ‘Interchange’ ran from March 2014 through April 2016 in the pages of A10: New European Architecture (issues #56-68), and all its entries featured a full-page cartoon in every issue (I might make a post soon with all of them as they appeared in the magazine), except for the first one, which, unfortunately, was too close to the deadline when I was approached. I thought it was a shame, at the time, because I had already come up with an idea for Jurgen Mayer H. when Indira contacted me that I thought was quite funny. However, I could scratch that particular itch a couple years later, when I could finally produce it for the compilation Indira put together in 2016.

However, it seems I had missed this one, featuring Brussels-Based Rotor Group. At the time of this interview, Rotor had recently completed their Deconstruction: An exhibition on salvaging and reusing building components Expo, where they exhibited the results of their work of selective deconstruction on a few buildings. Here, some excerpts of the conversation:

Last year, Rotor decided to take their commitment to reuse one step further. Since then, they have deconstructed about fifteen buildings, stripping them down to the base structure and reworking the matter amassed in the process into reusable materials that meet commercial demands. It has become a huge success. ‘The turnover of this business already equals our regular work,’ says founder Maarten Gielen as we spend the day at Rotor.

Visitors to the Vilvoorde office first see the showpieces: the doors, floors, chairs by Jules Wabbes, and ’90s postmodern kitsch. Their gaze is then drawn to the smart spinoffs, including upcycled old coat hooks sold per running metre and banisters offered in custom-length modules. Then there’s the yard, filled with dozens of toilet bowls, cupboards, chairs, benches, and textiles. Employees process a new load of products. Maarten Gielen smokes a cigarette at the picnic table in the meantime.

How do you find a suitable building?

Most of our clients are major players in the Brussels property market, and own hundreds of thousands of square meters of office space. When new tenants lease the building, which happens every ten to fifteen years, the interiors undergo top-to-bottom refurbishment. We take stock of the old interiors, such as the ceilings and walls, which we then offer to our 200-strong network of dealers, contractors, and architects. Then we start deconstruction, and transform the building into a showroom for clients to assess the quality. Most items are sold on-site. The top-quality features are taken to our depot, restored, and sold via our website.

Do you see this as architects’ work?

Of course. What we do here is similar to what an architect does on a construction site: coordinating activities, drafting demolition specifications, checking quality, and finalizing. Subcontractors take care of easy jobs, such as tiling, while our own staff takes on the more complex tasks. We must preserve the knowledge gained during demolition, so that the buyer knows its history.

Why do you focus on wholesalers, not private individuals?

While retail trade is more lucrative, given the much larger margins on materials, our goal is to professionalize wholesalers.

So you don’t work with the design potential of reuse, as other architects do with reclaimed objects?

No. We offer a standardized package at a competitive price. Working with second-hand material should be no harder than working with new, but you do need someone to create that bridge. We can take care of the logistics and the technicalities, so that for an architect it becomes more or less as easy as ordering newly produced materials.

Is it possible to reuse everything?

The ideological definition of reusable is ‘everything that can be dismantled’. However, these changes once translated into business logic, which dictates that a reusable material can be dismantled and resold at a lower price than the market value. All our material must contend either with cheap materials from China, or with products of new quality. Naturally, second-hand material competes better when it is of high quality, because then it can make a positive economic difference.

So it’s not cheaper for companies?

On the contrary, it’s never more expensive. We have different types of clients. The easiest ones are those who look for unique vintage design, whatever the cost. The second type is more pragmatic: they look for standard objects like urinals or floorboards. It would cost them €250 to buy it new, but €40 when they buy from us. If you need bucket sinks or urinals on six floors, and you can buy them from us and save €200 per item, this makes quite the difference.

(…)

Have you increased your knowledge of materials and regulations over the years?

Our projects have always had an experimental side, and we’ve learned that the materials hold much of a building’s intelligent design. Once aware of the economic logic behind the products and their origins, one sees that the architect is at the helm of a huge construction machine, yet possesses little substantial knowledge about it.

(…)

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Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Creative Deconstruction – An Interview with Rotor.  A10 Magazine #64. Jan/Feb 2016

 

 

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A few months ago, not long after coming back from my US Tour, I traveled to Mexico for the first time in my life (shame on me, I know), in order to open an exhibition (Arquinoir by Klaus at the CCEMex), speak at the Mextropoli Festival, and even teach a little. Of course, all this undeserved attention was made possible by the guys from Arquine, who kindly invited me over and invested quite some time in organizing everything. I still have to write about that one at length, so before that time comes (hopefully before 2018 ends), I thought I could fill in the void with yet another kind invitation from the Facultad de Arquitectura de la Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (Morelia, Mexico),. There, I’ll be taking part in the ‘Ensayos sobre el Espacio Público’ course (Sept 19-21). See you there, if you’re around!

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Old visitors of this blog (are there any?) will remember that at some point before we changed the layout, there used to be a header image with the name of the site. Truth is, that image was a crude collage using a (very crude) 3×3 ink sketch done on one of my notebooks while listening to a lecture by Giuliana Bruno at the Carpenter Center. So, almost ten years later, and impulsed by an upcoming event organized in Mexico by Arquine magazine, I finally felt obliged to make an upgrade. Creative bankruptcy, I know.

I’m old.

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New version vs. old logo side-by-side comparison , because what the heck.

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Thank you all for coming yesterday to the Chicago Design Museum, and attend the event ‘Envisioning New Spatial Organizations’, organized by Iker Gil, editor in Chief of Chicago Architecture & Culture Journal MAS Context, within the 2018 Spring Talk Series. It was great to speak side by side with Stewart Hicks, from Design With Company, and game developer William Chyr, whose work (both of them’s) I’ve been a big fan for a long time. Thanks also to the Chicago Design Museum for kindly hosting us. A transcription of the talks is coming soon, so keep an eye on MAS context’s website for this and future events.

Ok, leaving for Ann Arbor now. I’ll keep informing.

Update: MAS Context uploaded a transcription of the whole event (with images!) Click the image below to get there.

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US Tour

Le Voyageur Luggage Trolley Bags (Not real merchandise, sorry)

So, after two short visits to Newcastle (thanks, Steve!), and Glasgow (Thanks, Jonathan!), tomorrow I start the US leg of my 2017-18 Tour, while I still ponder what I’ll do next year for Klaustoon’s 10th anniversary (where did all those years go?!).

For those interested, on February 14th, I’ll be in the Chicago Design Museum, together  with Stewart Hicks, from Design With Company, and game developer William Chyr, in the event ‘Envisioning New Spatial Organizations’, organized by editor Iker Hill for his MAS Context 2018 Spring Talk Series.

On February 15th and February 19th, I’ll be (in disguise) at Taubman College, in Michigan. And, finally, on the 21st, I’ll be lecturing in the School of Architecture of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, closing the Hyde Lecture Series 2017-18. 

So, don’t take it personally if I’m a little unresponsive these upcoming weeks.

Next stop: Mexico! (Coming soon).

 

 

 

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Recently (meaning yesterday), Barozzi and Veiga were in the news due to the inclusion of one of their non-built designs, the Neanderthal Museum in Piloña, Spain (2010), in Blade Runner 2049. In a way. Somehow. Being the hardcore fan of the original film since I first watched it, a Friday night in September 1988, I’m going to avoid commentary on the new film. The inclusion is a big deal for them, anyway, and, since I’m partially responsible for bringing the news to the foreground, I thought it might be worth dusting off this interview (by Indira Van’t Klooster) and cartoon (by me) published in A10 exactly two years ago. Both the interview and the cartoon were published in the Forty and Famous book.

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Since they founded Barozzi/Veiga in 2004 Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga have finished two spectacular projects. Both the Headquarters of Ribera de Duero (2010) in Spain, and the Mies van der Rohe Award winning Philharmonic in Szczecin (2014) in Poland show a remarkable contextual originality and strength. With the Tanzhaus in Zürich (CH) and the School of Music in Brunico (IT) coming up we are eager to learn more about working in different European contexts. Alberto Veiga is on the phone but he also speaks for Fabrizio: “When designing we are basically the same persons, we fulfill the same role. We don’t work like where the technical one completes the conceptual one or that type of nonsense. We are full grown designing personalities that happen to be able to work very well together. We didn’t start out as friends either: we worked at the same office (which one?) and were winning a lot of competitions separately. That’s when we decided that we might start an office on our own. We have been discovering each other during the competitions we did together and still we are learning. What kind of architect is he? What type of person? The basic goal of doing competitions is to win them, obviously, but they are a good method to learn more about yourself and the other.”

Alberto Veiga and Fabrizio Barozzi were not student pals. They were not even friends when they started working together. ‘We worked at the same office, at Vázquez  Consuegra, and after a competition win we decided to start an office on our own. The basic goal of doing competitions is to win them, obviously, but they are a good method for learning more about yourself and the other.’… ‘We don’t like work where the technical one completes the conceptual one or that type of nonsense. We are fully grown designing personalities that happen to be able to work very well together.’ So much for debunking a few myths on the romanticism of starting an office.

Almost all of your projects are from winning competitions. What’s the secret?

There are no secrets, we just try to do the competition the best we can. Even before asking ourselves about the brief, we think about the basic mainframe. Do we like the
country, the location, its food, etc.? It may sound banal, but when you win a competition, you have to be there very often for a very long time, so you’d better be sure you’re going to like it there. Then, it’s really important that you like the idea of working there, and this includes food. Polish food is far better than you would expect. In Switzerland, we… prefer the landscape [laughs].

Your office only does competitions, and you win one in every six. How do you proceed?

Select, find concept, develop concept, discover potential, introduce experts, criticize, manipulate, improve. In that particular order. But to win, I can give three tips. First: Dreams come first; you can sacrifice later. Second: Ask yourself, sincerely, ‘Can I be good? Can I be the best?’ We never pick hospitals, and we stopped doing housing. We mostly participate in competitions abroad. Then, you have to be really good and outsmart the local architects. Third: Check the small factors. Who is on the jury? How likely is it that it will get built? Is the process well-organized in time? Money? Procedures?

Your clients are municipalities, and almost all your works are public and cultural. Do you specifically aim to get such clients and buildings?

At first, we didn’t specifically choose cultural projects, but those happened to be the projects we won. The sad side is that we lost an awful lot of housing competitions and schools, but by winning – and building – the cultural projects, we gained a lot of experience in this typology. So now we are more picky. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that schools and social housing demand more in-depth knowledge of the location, the local regulations and laws, so those are easier for local architects to understand. Cultural buildings, in that sense, are a bit more free. Clients demand that they stand out in their surroundings, so for us as foreign architects, they are easier to tackle. (…)

Have you discovered differences in (building) culture between Poland, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland?

Yes, in regulations, procedures, mentality. In Switzerland, an architect is a person that manages a project from beginning to end, like in Spain. But in Switzerland there is always a contractor in between that has incredible control over the building process. In Spain, you are completely free, also to fail, and then you’re on your own. In Italy, the building process is much more controlled by politicians. The more South you go, the more local politicians take over. In the north of Europe, the separation between public and private is more strict. In Poland, it’s no disadvantage to be young – everybody is young there! The mayor of Szczecin is the same age as we are; you can’t believe how important that is for the process. To have a common ground, to go to the same concerts or festivals and to be done with the argument, ‘When I was your age’, or ‘When you’re as old as me, you’ll understand’. In Italy, mayors are usually older, and this is much more difficult to work with. 

You have accomplished so much already. What are your ambitions for the future? 

No plans. Every step so far has been the result of a desire or a feeling, but never of a plan. We try to find work and to have fun while trying to make a living of it. We meet new people all the time, which enriches our lives in a tremendous way. We want to go on like this for the next ten years.

Indira van ‘t Klooster: Barozzi / Veiga: Vagabond Architects. Interchange, A10 Magazine #65 September-October 2015, 18-19

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Barozzi / Veiga was founded in Barcelona in 2004 by Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga. The office has won numerous competitions, among them the refurbishment of the Palacio de Santa Clara in Úbeda, the Auditorium of Águilas, Musée de Beaux-arts in Lausanne, and the Bündner Kunstmuseum extension in Chur. Their work has gained wide international recognition for design excellence. In 2014, the studio was selected as one of ten firms in that year’s Design Vanguard by Architectural Record. You can check their website here.

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The whole issue can be read at the A10 Coop Website, and downloaded in .pdf here.

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You can also get a copy of Forty and Famous: 10 Interviews with Successful Young European Architects in A10’s website. 

 

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So, after some waiting, finally my book with Indira Van’t Klooster is out! As  you’ll remember, if you’ve been around for a while, back in 2014 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. This evolved into a series, published monthly in the magazine, which has now been (partially) compiled in the book Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects.

The book features interviews with a series of relatively young practices comprising ALA (Finland), KOKO (Estonia), Barozzi / Veiga (Spain), SO – IL (USA), WWAA (Poland), ZUS, (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) and JDS (The Netherlands) Chartier Dalix (France), Jürgen Mayer H (Germany), and Assemble (England). Previews of all those can be found in the links above, or by clicking the A10 tag in this very blog.  Some of these images might be familiar for the usual visitors here, but there are still a few unseen ones, such as Jurgen Mayer’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cartoon, or the cover featuring the whole line-up.

The official launch in this year’s Biennale will take place at the Polish Pavilion, Giardini, Venice on May 27 between 11.00 and 11.30 am. A second event will take place in June 8, 20.00 pm, at Pakhuis De Zwijger, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Amilcar editions is putting out a limited print of the book, so if you’re interested in ordering a copy before they run out, or want any other information, please contact Indira van ‘t Klooster, via email or through her twitter account (@IndiraS)

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Presented in this book are 10 young European architecture practices. They all found, in the midst of the financial crisis, a new attitude, a hands-on practice, with great commitment and an eagerness to get things done, thinking large-scale against all odds. How did they succeed? By winning competitions (ALA, KOKO, Barozzi / Veiga), by finding new clients outside Europe (SO – IL, WWAA), by raising new issues (ZUS, JDS), by innovating typologies (Chartier Dalix, Jürgen Mayer H.) and by new types of organization (Assemble) – usually by mixing all of the above, after having been educated abroad for some time.

This selection also shows the different circumstances in which they blossom, through clients in America, Asia and Georgia, post-communist courage in Central Europe and Estonia, bottom-up strategies in The Netherlands and England, an international Erasmus generation flowering in Spain, new traditionalists in France, the benefits of young-architect-friendly Finland, and cross-over markets in Belgium.

-Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects. Indira van’t Klooster. Illustrations by Klaus. Additional texts by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado. Amilcar Publishers, 2016.

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