The video-interview series was designed with a double objective: firstly, to open a research path based on the analysis of these successful practices, with the aim of understanding their working methods, themes and approaches, in order to learn – through a comparative method – what it means to be an architect in the 21st century. Secondly, ‘Past, Present, Future’ was conceived to be a source of inspiration for the new generations of architects and architecture students, who are currently facing the job market, or who have recently started their working career.
In the ‘PAST’ interviews, we unveil intimate details about the journeys taken to get to their current positions, revealing funny anecdotes about their student days, key moments of inspiration, and the reality of setting up a business.
Kees Christiaanse studied with Rem Koolhaas as his professor and looks back on the time he had spent with Jane Jacobs, whilst Francis Houben recalls her friendship and admiration for Charles and Ray Eames. Simone Sfriso speaks about the importance of making mistakes as a young designer, and how, if it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t be where he is now. And not everyone started out as architects: Caroline Bos tells she was studying the history of art, and how her architectural talent was only recognised after UNStudio was established. Whilst Cino Zucchi decided to go to architecture school for “the love of a girl”, Jacob van Rijs confesses that he “studied architecture by chance”.
In the ‘PRESENT’ interviews, the architects discuss the ins and outs of their current practices and the foundations upon which they were built.
Stefano Boeri talks about the success of their vertical forest social housing project in Eindhoven. He also admits embracing both the successes and failures as an architect: “I understood that it was very important to elaborate failures, and to make that elaboration public”. Francine Houben compares Mecanoo Architecten to a “symphony orchestra”, stating that “inspiration” comes through having a diverse workforce. Marco Casamonti talks of the present in more abstract terms: “the present does not exist – the present moves”. Meanwhile, Mario Cucinella expresses his concerns for “Starchitecture” overshadowing the true role of the architect, which he believes should improve the quality of life for people living in poor conditions.
In the ‘FUTURE’ interviews, the architects predict the future of both the profession and the urban environment, discussing themes such as smart cities, sustainable approaches and digital infrastructure.
Caroline Bos talks about the need for the urban environment to be adaptive, mentioning the possibility of sensor-based architecture dictating its future: “we could envisage a future where architecture is mostly software”. Nanne de Ru talks about the “incredible speed” that urban living is gaining, and about the ways we can avoid theso-called “London syndrome” to ensure that buildings and facilities accessible for all. Kees Kaan talks about the “redefinition of functionality” in regards to the ever-changing urban climate, envisioning cities that can achieve “higher densities without losing quality”. Cino Zucchi raises the issue of disposable lifestyles:“we cannot throw away the city”, whilst Mario Cucinella stresses that sustainability is the only way forward, reminding young architects not to get carried away with their ego: “don’t forget, architecture is for the others”.