The interview is realized in New Delhi, India, 2011 for Archi Design magazine kindly sponsored by UPM Kymmene and ANIKA.
1. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO STUDY AND PRACTICE ARCHITECTURE? WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
Creativity is highly encouraged in my family and I grew up inside of a serious mix of storytelling, circus and fantasies. My childhood in Lapland was busy wintertime digging snow cave systems and summertime building tree houses. Basically as an architect I have just extended my childhood.
I am inspired by nature - including human nature. Child-me is also interesting.
2. PLEASE DESCRIBE AN EVOLUTION IN YOUR WORK, FROM YOUR FIRST PROJECTS TO THE PRESENT DAY.
Actually at first I was concentrated on purely commercial architecture, but this changed very fast and I became somehow my own client building narrative architecture commenting on ecological and social questions. Very fast the works seized to have any style anymore, but started to look more inside towards the core of architecture. My first real work is the Land(e)scape in Savonlinna, Finland 1999. I am mirroring all the rest of the works with this, how close to the core of architecture and art am I still able to enter. Evolution is not necessary, but it is important constantly to feel this core and negotiate with it.
3. WHICH OF YOUR PROJECTS HAS BEEN THE MOST FAVORITE AND WHY?
- Architectural Review’s Emerging Architecture prize.
- First real project with its own character and quality.
- First project mixing architecture with other disciplines of art and science.
60 Minute Man
- First time in Venice Biennale.
- First time to co-operate with students, the start of academic work.
- First international work.
- World Architecture Community Award 2010.
- Floating, weak and naked work.
- Some archaic beauty being exposed to the deep elements of nature.
- Intense co-operation with the Local Knowledge of the Kuramata village people.
- Big international workshop for our friends from all around the world.
- A constructive dialog between the industrial hardness and the organic growth...a ruin and an organic machine.
- Socially most straight forward work legitimizing an illegal settlement of urban farmers.
- Deep communication with Local Knowledge and the start of the thinking of Urban Acupuncture.
- Resulting in the professorship in Tamkang University and line or works in Taiwan.
- A designed ruin with normal architectural function.
- Weak architecture with bioclimatic conscious.
- A fine, soft and organic design-build process. Happy clients with happy nature in a happy house.
- Independent multidisciplinary research centre moving freely in-between architecture, social sciences, environmental sciences and art.
- Development on the theory of the Third Generation City.
- A pulsating and free nucleolus to think on the future Taipei and the ruining process of the industrial city.
4. CAN YOU GIVE A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE?
Dictatorship of sensitivity. We support each other. Who Cares Wins.
5. COULD YOU ALSO TALK ABOUT THE INCREASING ROLE OF RESEARCH IN DESIGN? DO YOU ALSO RESEARCH BEFORE IMPLEMENTING A DESIGN?
Architecture is the dream of research and the research is started all over again with each project since the site is different. Research is the understanding of the site specific conditions. One must be present to understand the Local Knowledge. Communication with the site is knowledge building.
6. DO YOU THINK THAT ARCHITECTURE TENDS TO BE TRENDY TODAY?
True architectural quality is outside any trends. Normal people can do great things, trendy architects are design clowns. Design should not replace reality. What is real is valuable. Nature is the only reality.
7. HOW DO YOU THINK THE ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT WILL CHANGE OVER THE NEXT TWENTY-FIVE YEARS?
Nothing much will change. Architects will always follow money and compete with each others. In the future and even today real architecture will be designed by somebody else than architects, maybe children and insects. If we learn to be children and insects – even industrial insects, a new step will be taken, and this step is not necessarily forward.
8. WHAT ARE THE KEY INFLUENCES IN YOUR WORK TODAY?
Re-calibrating the industrial city with nature. Bringing more focus into Local Knowledge and real community reactions. Natural river restoration in urban conditions. Beauty.
9. PROJECT “60 MINUTE MAN” IS ONE OF YOUR BEST PROJECTS. PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
It is an oak forest inside an abandoned barge planted on top of 60 minutes worth of human waste produced by the city of Venice. It is a temporary collage and meeting point of organic and industrial streams produced by a modern city. The director of the Venice Biennale Architect Massimilliano Fuksas nominated the work for the Golden Lion of the Biennale, but the rest of the jury insisted to give the prize to Jean Nouvel. At that time I was rather disappointed.
We worked 7 weeks with our mobile working crew in the port of Chioggia, some 50 km south of Venice making the boat ready and then sailed with our forest to Venice. All the process was lovely and very rewarding. Achieving something like this gives power for the rest of your career. You will clearly experience that architecture is much bigger than you and that the work itself will take over and that you are just a servant and some sort of a security guy to bodyguard the spirit.
10. TELL US ABOUT YOUR THEORY OF THIRD GENERATION CITY.
The Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city. A machine ruined by nature including human nature – an organic machine. The roots of the 3G city is the Local Knowledge penetrating through the hard industrial layers of the modern urbanism and reaching the original ground. The Local Knowledge penetrations are a form of Urban Acupuncture tuning the urban Qi towards the organic.
Our urban case study isTaipei City and there the seeds of the Third Generation Taipei are:
- Grandmother dominated community gardens and urban farms overtaking the sleeping capitalism spots of Taipei – Organic Anarchy.
- Flexible movement to change location according to the development cycles of the city. Breaking the surface of the city and reaching the original ground.
- At some points continuing ancient farm rights and land owning inside the city.
- Often spontaneous activation of idle urban areas such as the river flood banks or land-fill areas.
- The Anarchist Gardener element has been researched in co-operation with the National Taiwan University Department of Sociology.
Urban Nomad / Instant Taipei
- The urban nomads are using the official city as a stage or a landscape to launch independent and un-official activities for business, recreational or even religious activities.
- Unofficial night-markets, street vendors, under-bridge activities, karaoke spots, gambling, abandoned gods refugee centres, beetle-nut booths, Taiwanese opera, puppet theatre, tai-chi etc.
- Harvesting the city and being faster to move than the official control.
- Instant Taipei will pop up in different locations of the city in different times and is related to the energy flows of the collective mind of Taipei. People are very sensitive to feel the impulses on the shared conscious. "There is this thing going on…" a whole city can be designed by rumours.
- Sensitivity to understand the energy flows of the collective "chi" beneath the visual city and reacting on the hot-spots of this chi. People feel where the city is hot, or where things are going on – what is the feeling of the city.
- Architecture is in the position to produce the acupuncture needles for the urban chi.
- On a commercial level Urban Acu¬puncture is practiced in Taipei by for example the highest level of 7-Eleven convenient stores in the world..
- Taipei is constantly being composted. On official circles the composting is done by developers, who are the true urban editors and on un-official level by illegal communities and the above mentioned anarchist grandmothers.
- In some level the hard to talk areas such as the sneak street, the red light districts and temple dominated areas are also urban compost, but somehow on the darker gangster/religious dominated side while as the collective gardens and the spontaneous independent communities are presenting a higher level of constructive anarchy in the city.
- There is a 10 high reinforced concrete flood-wall separating the Taipei human built environment from the river. This wall needs to go.
- Ruin Academy will redesign Taipei based on free flooding and straight connection between the modern man and nature. The urban river will be naturally restored and the city ecologically rehabilitated.
- The River Urbanism is developed together with the Aalto University's SGT Sustainable Global Technologies centre.
Local Knowledge is theme pushing through all the elements of the 3G City and tying the citizens to the 3G development.
Each of the elements is studied through a workshop, being presents in the situation and trying to interpret the findings. These fragments are then treated as the design seeds for the 3G Taipei itself.
11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PRESENT SCENE IN INDIAN ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN?
India is always interesting – present, past and future. It appears that you have at least two very distant circles of architecture – the developer dominated and the one linked with Local Knowledge. There is a lot of some deep power soaked into the grounds of India. I would LOVE to work with this ground. Maybe I should move into a slum; they seem to be full of life and pollution. I would like to deal with the pollution. It would also be nice to design a mix of a shopping centre and jungle.
I have the privilege to have been working closely with two young and talented Indian architects Miss Shreya Nagratha and Mr. Arijit Sen from Mumbai. They survived the extremely cold and dark winter in Finland and managed to maintain high creativity and good humour. These guys never have to prove their courage in any other way.
Louis Kahn is an architectural sage and his spirit had a dialogue with India and the results are sparkling with eternity. I guess India can do that to you. The Indian young architects should shock the world – not by some modern tricks, but by reflecting the essence of your sub-continent of mysteries.
12. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PROJECT? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT TODAY?
Land(e)scape (Casagrande & Rintala, 1999) was my first true projects as an architect. When I look back to that, I do have to respect the work a lot. It was a result of a big personal sacrifice and a huge process of learning. One has to die a bit to be reborn.
13. WHAT DO YOU SEE ARE THE BARRIERS TO ACHIEVE TRULY SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS?
One has to be weak and exposed to the elements of nature. Industrial strength is death’s companion. Bio-climatic architecture is nothing new. Big answers are to be found from Local Knowledge, we are not the first people surviving on this site. Maybe first ones with air-conditioning, yes, and therapy.
Architectural control must give up in order to let nature to step in. At some point the modern box must be broken. Industrial man is too lazy to be sustainable, same goes for the city which is mostly just a fictive mix of an amusement park and therapy. Some new combinations of a modern city mixed with urban farming and uncontrolled nature could be a good step towards the organic machine. Anyhow: Local Knowledge has the answers. It is time for architects to start communicating and get out of the office. Forced labour on an urban farm.
14. WHAT ASPECT OF ARCHITECTURE DO YOU FIND MOST IMPORTANT? WHAT IS FUNDAMENTAL TO YOUR PRACTICE AND YOUR DESIGN PROCESS?
It is fundamental to be real.
15. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DESIGN PROJECT?
I don’t know that yet. The works are leading to the next works. This is some sort of a path that I am walking. I have to stay focused enough to stay on that path. Maybe the path is the ultimate? Anyhow, I find mysterious things, but so do children.
I would really like to design some nice works in India – houses for Indian families, wooden apartment buildings in the cities and I would like to work with the slums.
16. WHAT OTHER INTERESTS DO YOU HAVE? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY AND WHY?
I like to watch movies with my wife, who is also a great inspiration for me, and I am proud to be able to read. On the other hand I am very shy to dance and sing publicly, although I sing very beautifully alone in the car.
All day is good.