As architects, we design in the knowledge that adding beauty to a context is always primarily to adding presence to the context. In such a way that beauty in architectural terms is part of a process and presence stresses out temporality.By saying very little it is possible to highlight the underlying potential of a contextual structure. It is like planting seeds that will add value over time. Slowly evolving, making new friends. Seeking new companionship with the past as well as the future and in this way rooting its use and value in time.To build in this way, the belief in observation is crucial, and more important than the image or the result. It is crucial to build further in the knowledge that is already there and to treat this knowledge as a friend who has the right to take the lead into the relevance of research. A basis to rely on as an unmistakable respect for evolution. We believe that if an architect understands the aspect of time, he is ready to reveal his contribution in time.
In his book ‘never trust in Italian skinny chef’ Massimo Bottura writes about his believe that traditions should be examined and be changed or adapted to survive. In architecture we also don’t copy buildings, we make new buildings. We create new settings, nevertheless we look at the traditions of building and of its historic appearance and evolution to be able to understand what we are creating and what we can add to tell a new chapter. If we manage to re-interpret traditions we are also able to let them survive. By this process they will in time become new traditions that can go through the same process to all together tell the richness of a city and become a part of evolution and history. An architects recipe is to use fragments layers and context as knowledge to create a new dish. And as a good chef might acknowledge, you start with an idea or a concept, but it takes a lot of effort to get it to it’s purest form. It takes time to imbed it as a new recipe to be re-interpreted by others.
In our quest and search to understand genuine beauty and atmosphere we find associations with all kind of things. For example, when listening carefully to Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, one can understand how re-arrangement can reveal other involvements and different emotions. By carefully analysing an existing work and adding certain tones, highlighting different instruments at different moments, we rediscover the pure beauty of a musical masterpiece. For us, perception through listening has a stronger effect on the emotional interpretation than perception through sight. Nevertheless, we believe that there is a strong alliance between the process of making music and the process of designing buildings. Simply the fact that it is a matter of introducing order on several levels, seeking a balance between just the right amount and understanding when it is too much, wondering about atmosphere and creating it by experience and research. The best compliment for a musician is that the work is genuine. As for the long process of architecture, we must never forget to strive for this true sincerity, as it will generate genuine beauty in time.
Sustainability – Empathy
We are convinced that it is an architect’s duty to study sustainability, since it is the most important challenge for the future. When we read the city, we understand that it is in a constant process of change. Therefore it is important that we realise the impact of the buildings we introduce. Looking at the relevance of sustainability, we believe that it is measured not only in solar panels and insulation, but also in kindness, attachment and empathy. Based on social and historical research, it is possible to define margins, programme and context. Starting from a well thought-out project definition, we are able to achieve sustainability on several levels. We try to understand and honour the specific character people experience in a place where their daily life transpires and seek ways to introduce elements that are missing and upgrade what is already good. With this attitude, we believe that empathy becomes part of our process of design-based research and will be framed as a sustainable value in time.
In ‘Landscapes. Photographs’, Wim Wenders describes “his enthusiasm for reality” in a very precise manner. “If a photo no longer tells of something else, from the realm of truth, but prefers to only account itself, if it ceases therefore to bother about what there is, then we have come to the end of photography.” This is an interdisciplinary lesson that also has ramifications into the discipline of architecture. As soon as the image does not embrace the reality and its context but endeavours to seek its added value by misusing the context purely for the presence and imagery, we have arrived at the decline of the architectural intervention.Manipulation takes priority over giving real thought to continuing what is already in place. At that moment, we no longer see reality as an environment with its own needs and wishes and with a background history. We have forgotten to be grateful for what exists, and we fail to earn our presence.
Reality and Coincidence
We acknowledge that coincidence can harbor intrinsic beauty. It cannot be planned or orchestrated. Coincidence engenders the moment in which we question the given reality. Given the context, if we look at the photographs Wim Wenders took in Fukushima. A Geiger counter of alertness or perhaps even in overdrive, after they were developed, all of the photos seemed to display a sine wave caused by the radiation constantly being emitted into the environment. This was photographed purely by accident. This was a presence that would normally go unnoticed, but by coincidence it was captured on camera. Coincidence and reality hand in hand, as if it were a dream of a wedding. As if a photo suddenly became indispensable. An added value that was caused by the moment and not by any prior knowledge. In architecture, there are two types of coincidence. On the one hand there is coincidence as part of a building process, while on the other there is the accidental form. The form that arises by accident and has no connection whatsoever to its surroundings.
Like Grassi in his logical construction of architecture: it’s about the form that is released, not the form that’s being sought. This means that the form must be derived from examples of similar assignments performed over time. Herein resides the actual freedom of architecture. A freedom that is derived from attachment. Freedom is always linked to that which we are already, i.e. that which we can already say.
In his existentialist philosophy, Kierkegaard describes human beings as a synthesis between finity and infinity. For us, a synthesis like a relationship between two also seems to apply to building. The present being the synthesis between the past and the future. We would no longer be able to talk in terms of a synthesis as soon as the link between the two, between the existing and the new, disappears. If, in architecture (here meaning formalism), coincidence with prior knowledge were posited as the final outcome instead of being raised as a question in design-based research, we would lose the above-mentioned synthesis between the two. The past and the present lose their affinity once and for all, and the future becomes irrelevant.
In essence, architecture creates space. It creates space in which the daily life of its residents becomes possible. Architecture brings boundaries to security and intimacy. It delineates emptiness so that space becomes a necessary place in which living can unfold, a place that can be made its own. The appropriation of a place is essential for being a person. A place that offers the possibility to be filled with memories and future plans of life. It is from this urge that housing arises. It gives the space identity, a personal story whose architecture creates the stage for personal development and from which cultural development can result on a larger scale. We see Architecture and building as a mean of living. With this in mind, architecture takes place on the modest background, as the setting for life and as a method for staging. It ignores the stacking of stones or trying to answer a functional question. For us this is an essential attitude to design spaces. Modesty at the service of the development of daily life and of its residents. Places that allow themselves to be appropriated so that the space can be filled with a personal story. So that architecture creates a décor and that a place will be lived.