// architects head-to-head

Designboom publishes monthly interviews with prominent figures from the design field, a total of 20 architects have participated to date. The interviews are conducted in the same format where interviewees across the board are presented with the same set of questions. Such a format yields a head to head comparison between these architects and designers, it gives the readers the opportunity to measure them against their peers. Here is the list of questions they had to answer.

what is the best moment of the day?
what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
do you listen to the radio?
what books do you have on your bedside table?
where do you get your news from?
I assume you notice how women dress. do you have any preferences?
what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?
do you have any pets?
where do you work on your projects usually?
could you describe your style as a good friend of yours might?
is there any designer and/or architect from the past you appreciate a lot?
what current architects do you appreciate?
who would you like to design something for?
can you describe an evolution in your work from your first projects to the present day?
what project has given you the most satisfaction?
when you were a child, did you want to become an architect?
what are you afraid of regarding the future ?
any advice for the young?

I have gone through all the interviews on architects and selected my favorite responses for each question. Amongst the selections, some are in my opinion the most playful or intriguing and some are simply answers I can relate to. To enforce an unbiased selection, I was blinded to the identity of these interviewees. In the end I’ve tallied up the amount of chosen responses from each architect. To my surprise, I had chosen at least one answer from everyone, and Minsuk Cho (Mass Studies) graced the top spot with seven impressive responses.
I can see the results of this collation playing a role in choosing potential employers. Instead of solely judging the architects on their works, their character and personality also greatly influence the experience of a work term.  I mean this doesn’t mean I will bolt for Korea for my next job, but it did open new doors.

Click more to see the chosen responses.

what is the best moment of the day?

the best moment of my day is when I'm in a transitional    
state. when I am in the shower in the morning, I have a
hard time getting out, because I love just standing and
completely being in between. and I also feel the same
way about going to bed.
minsuk cho

what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?

music by rick sutton.
once I turned 40 I started learning piano and tried to play
that kind of music. so now I don't just listen, I study it.
mansilla + tunon architects

jazz, electronic, hip-hop… it’s all black

do you listen to the radio?

no, well I hear the radio but I don't listen to it .
when I'm at work I am not able to listen to anything,
the sound just disappears around my head.
mansilla + tunon architects

what books do you have on your bedside table?

a book from john berger, whom I found to be
an incredible writer. he puts together social conciousness
of the world in a sensitive and high quality manner.
I particularly love when you can enjoy literature and
at the same time reflect about the world.
mansilla + tunon architects

I don’t read in bed… I read in cabs, trains, planes…
whenever I’m on the move…
right now i’m reading the new german gestaltung
edited by max borka

I have a whole bookshelf as my bedside table,
so I'm kind of a person who reads a hundred books
simultaneously, little by little. this is some sort of
attention deficit disorder almost. right now I'm reading
about the roman story, the roman empire: italians.
minsuk cho

where do you get your news from?

my blackberry, in the morning, on my way to work.
I have a web news service.
I key in issues important to me and articles from the
new york times, the wall street journal, etc. get dumped
onto my blackberry.
joshua prince-ramus

most important information comes from my friends.
the news from the media is official, but from my friends
I can feel the delicate truth.
Kengo Kuma

Peter Cook

I assume you notice how women dress.
do you have any preferences?

simple and elegant, but also sexy. I have a huge
partiality to prada and to miuccia (prada).
joshua prince-ramus

individuality. especially in my region it is so much about
trying to fit in and status quo, so it is very extra ordinary
to find people like that: dressing to show their individuality.
minsuk cho

I think the best is when a woman wears a dress.

I like the dress that is like a double skin.
philippe starck

what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?

I dont like to wear a tie, because a tie constricts my body.
somebody said that a tie decreases the length of our life by ten years,
this is why the average life of ladies is ten years longer.
Kengo Kuma

do you have any pets?
no, only a cactus. it's maintenance free.
minsuk cho

no we don't, we have daughters (laughs).

a dog named 'le corbusier'.
Tadao Ando

not really.
some mosquitos! (laughs)
Jean Nouvel

where do you work on your projects usually?

here in the studio, but in the beginning of a project
we work with the client at their place, their site, their office,
their institution... to understand how they operate.
joshua prince-ramus

the ideas come from everywhere, but I also think
I spend a lot of the time working while I'm in bed,
because I often have a problem switching off my brain
and it just goes on all night in the darkness. my role in
the office includes generating and initiating the ideas,
but it always bounces back and forth with my team.
it's like a pinball game, you shoot and just... (makes
bouncing motion with hands)
sou fujimoto

mainly in the office because my work is not only done by me.
I collaborate with my staff through discussions and models,
but when I want to focus on something I prefer to be alone.
in that case I work at home or in a starbucks cafe.
minsuk cho

in my bed, around the table in restaurants with
everyone talking, and sometimes at the big table in
my office also. there is something very alive in this
contrast between big meetings of brainstorming
and after, alone in the silence. I spend a lot of time
in silence.
Jean Nouvel

could you describe your style as a good friend
of yours might?

my research is always around the idea of specificity
and I don't like to repeat the same vocabulary or to
do the same architecture on every spot on the earth.
I always research good reasons to do one thing in
a specific place, one thing with these people and
all the good reason to create something unique.
matter and light is the big question of the epoch and
the meaning of the world.
you have to work and every work has to ask a question
in these dimensions.
Jean Nouvel

I've a few topics where I'm highly interested in, and that is
organizations - the way how a building is structured together -
then in geometry - the way how let's say a building is used -
not in the classical sense of function, but very much in the idea of
how it gives the people an atmosphere to function, so how can
we stretch utilities in the building.
Ben van Berkel

joshua prince-ramus

I call it 'primitive future'.
a sort of primitive situation that relates to the human 'cave'
habitation but at the same time I like to create something
new for the future.
I recently gave a lecture 'cave or nest', the two embryonic
states of architecture.
a 'nest' is a place for people that is very well prepared,
everything is assembled and very functional, meanwhile
the 'cave' is just a raw space, which people need to explore
and find their own comfort within. this is a situation where
people can use space creatively.
I prefer something like the cave-like-unintentional space.
something that is in between nature and artifact - formless
sou fujimoto

is there any designer and/or architect from the past,
you appreciate a lot?

there are so many and I keep discovering more from
the past and the current people. well, I like nam june paik,
he has been my inspiration, not only because he is
korean, although that is how I got to know him.
unfortunately, I only met him when he was ill so I didn't
really get to speak to him. he was in a wheelchair and
he looked really annoyed to see one of his fans when
I was living in new york. and architects, yesterday
rem (koolhaas) was here. rem is my former boss and
still a very good friend. I deeply admire what he does,
only a few people can be as intellectually stimulating as
him and also do great buildings. also borromini maybe?
an interesting character, beautiful. I read his story
recently and came to appreciate his work even more.
minsuk cho

what current architects do you appreciate?
I am interested mainly in the work of european architects
and the designers from finland and the north of europe.
especially the work of furniture and industrial designers, it's very
important because they are always thinking of the relationship
between the human body and tools.
sometimes architects forget that.
Kengo Kuma

(rem) koolhaas. rem was my mentor.
I don't know how else to put it.
certainly an enormous amount of our intellectual production
continues things that I learned or started while with OMA.
also, attempting to negate things that I learned or saw at OMA...
I'm either reinforcing or negating this experience.
it is still a dialogue, whether it's directly with him or not (laughs).
joshua prince-ramus

who would you like to design something for?

bjork, gondry, jay-z, rodney mullen…
people whose personality and production amaze me…

can you describe an evolution in your work from your
first projects to the present day?

“more honest.”
philippe starck

“every time I start from scratch and so it's a repetition
of restarts. each time, when for instance, I design
a small private house I make over 200 models
which are very different from each other.
there are many trials that I go through to develop
the final design. more and more I conduct experiments,
because I think architecture should not take 'content'
as a basis for its ground rules. so I start with
a hypothesis and then it must be carried into action.
I call it 'genetic rule overdrive'. it is a sort of methodology
of sorts - let the rules take off on their own and leave
everything on auto-pilot.”
jun aoki

“I think it is getting more simple, ...
more aggressive, ...
and more easy.”
hitoshi abe

“there are some very similar moments in the early work where
the focus was on drawing, abstraction and fragmentation.
then it moved to the development of ideas.
lately it has become what architecture should be,
which is more fluid organization.
there has not been so much ‘a change’ but ‘a development’
over the years.”
zaha hadid

what project has given you the most satisfaction?

“wow, that is very hard. who is your favourite baby?
you know, usually we are never satisfied in what we do.
I have to be honest, usually the favourite babies are the
unborn babies, for architects I think. they're in this
different space, which hasn't been contaminated.
you know when I walked around yesterday, I saw this
furniture, prefect looking furniture and I really admired it,
I realized that in architecture this is never possible.
I'm not saying it is good or bad actually, but it is because
it has to be occupied, it has to be used and it has to be
worn out and it will never be like this perfect beautiful
thing that takes you somewhere just by looking at it.”
minsuk cho

it's always the next one.!
daniel libeskind
it changes every week.
sometimes I think that it is the 'moebius' house, sometimes I think it
is the 'erasmus bridge', sometimes I go back to elder prrojects
because they have a particular kind of refinement that I still want to
introduce in my work, so I always experiment with my own memory.
ben van berkel

when you were a child, did you want to become
an architect?

n: I would never have imagined myself being architect.
s: me too.
n: she wanted to be a grandmother! kind of funny!
grandmothers always look like...
s: they are relaxed.
n: happy and relaxed.
s: yes when I was a child I really wanted to be a
n: to sit on the terrace and enjoy the sunlight.

no, I wanted to be anyone who wore interesting clothing:
a priest, a policeman.
daniel libeskind

what are you afraid of regarding the future ?

the thing that worries me the most is that
everyone wears the same things,
eats the same things,
lives in the same environments,
this is what worries me the most.
toyo ito

shigeru ban

the issue of sustainability. it ties into both being an architect
and a parent. I have a rule with my daughter.
she's just turning four, but from the day she was born, I've
always tried to make her understand there's no concept
of 'away.’ you can't throw it ‘away.’ you can't flush it ‘away.’
it may not be here any longer, but it's there, somewhere,
impacting the world. what troubles me most - as an architect -
is that I'm a participant in the problem. in architecture
we don't exercise the option of 'no.’ we just ask, 'how?'
we might create buildings which can be incredibly sustainable,
but they are never as sustainable as the option of not
doing them. the fact that we can do less bad,
doesn't mean we're doing good.
joshua prince-ramus

any advice for the young?

I always suggest to go to site and communicate
with the craftsmen directly. the site is the inner source
of creation. in our studios we are separated from nature
and we are separated from the construction.
Kengo Kuma

you have to be very focused and work very hard,
but it is not about working hard without knowing what
your aim is!
you really have to have a goal.
the goal posts might shift, but you should have a goal.
know what it is that you are trying to find out.
zaha hadid

not to be put off, intimidated by those who just happen to be older.
peter cook

unless you are really committed to being an architect
in the true sense of the word,
its a terrible business and I wouldn't recommend it for anybody,
unless you need to do it for some personal reason,
I would say go into business, go into law, medicine, but don't be an architect.
Peter Eisenman

I'd recommend to do what you want to do.
when I was a university student I liked to study
and design architecture but I also enjoyed going
to the cinema. I think I watched about 300 films a year
and this was very important to me, because now
when I design something I remember some scenes
in movies and 'use' them in my work.
jun aoki

actually I miss teaching (I quit university last year)
advice? travel!
then you can understand different cultures of the world
and don't depend on the computer.
shigeru ban

first of all, to feel comfortable with life.
then to open your eyes and open your ears that is essential.
observe and reflect about what you are seeing.
mansilla + tunon

I have one specific piece of advice: don't follow conventional
paths. this is the best moment you could ever be a young
architect, because the playing field in this economy is
becoming even. for a long time, the older generations
ate the young. they're going down right now and there's
no definition of what architecture will be. don't try to get
a junior job at the best firm you can and spend the next
30 years working your way through. this is the moment
to move back home, use all your contacts and start
operating locally. do great work locally and define
what architecture will be for the next 50 years.
the more general advice is that no one can teach you
how to design. no one can teach you how to be creative.
but they can teach you to be self-critical. in school you
should focus on learning to be self-critical and on
contracts (laughs). spend most of your time
- if you're in architecture school - over at the law school
or the business school because that's where you're going
to learn tools. the real things you can learn in architecture
school are tools. focus on tools, not on your studio course.
joshua prince-ramus

work with and against preconceived borders,
with and against history,
be critical and knowlegeable

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