My first question is: what comes first – form, shape, function? What are the key information when you draw the first sketch?
I think what comes first is informing the form! Rewriting the program, understanding that the client – he normaly isn’t seeing complete scenario, he’s looking at his personal interest. So, there has to be some sort of shared responsibility, where he understands that it can improve, by working; we have a strategy inside the office that works with the clients to reinforce the program. We say: “OK, you invest the money in this project, you have this idea of an outcome, but, it can be much better!” So, we show him all posible thing that can happened to make project better with the same budget, but maybe they have different way of seeing it and understanding; that way he gets better project, but we also feel much better – that we did the project that created a value.
Is shape more capable to deliver message than program itself?
I think shape is right by the program, shape is not done on its own. Shape is not done by what is happening while it’s just shape. Than it’s a sculpture, not an architecture.
No. I think, as architects, we provide a service, we have to provide things that work, that are functional, and they express something. So, I’m not fighting with either of, I love the idea of designing shapes and I love beauty, and I love intuition, and I love experiences, but I prefer when they are coherent to the program, what they’re expresing, what it wants to be.
What goal does architect (or stararchitect) have to achieve today? What is your main task?
The main task is to focus on what is the other value? How we realy push projects to become just isolated objects? Because – projects become isolated objects in the cities. Than we are not doing our job. So, when I talk about shared responsibility – you might lose your job by telling somebody that he should think about the program. Becaouse – of course he is a client, he says: “What do you mean? I have my focus group and I have my people!:::” Yeah, but it’s the wrong program. So you might risk losing the job, but I think that our job today is designing and formulating the right program, formulating the things that are correct for the city. Someone would pay for it, but everybody should be able to take advantage of it, not just a person paying for it, no? Because – it is a part of the city. Unless – you are doing a building isolated, in the middle of nowhere, but majority of cases you’re doing buildings in the cities, and cities need to connect in different aspects to everything that is happening around them, no?
Does contemporary architecture have answers to changes that are imposed by increased everyday digital communication?
I think that it has never happened before that we are chasing society now. We are chasing how society is changing, shifting and moving. Not only in architecture, but before you could predict a lot of things, but not now – because thing are changing so fast, with technology, with media, and people moving all the time; I belive that there are certain things that you have to leave designed, but not “totaly designed”, as platforms – to see how people occupie the space and learn from them, than you learn from their experience. Because, even from the big companies – they can’t predict now what will happened in next two years. Trying to predict a behavior is a crazy idea, because we are learning day-by day, we are being tested with food, with technology, with everything we are doing… we have lab-rats for suntan lotions, for everything. When they tell you that things are bad – ouch! society changes in a different direction. I love the moment that we’re living, ‘couse it’s a very unstable time, but being unstable I don’t see as a bad thing.
I see instability as something important because you have to keep balance. Especialy in countries like Mexico – we’ve always been in crisis; for Mexico – that’s kind of a flavour, of moving around the crisis, like shifting around and learning how to maintain stability. It’s even like being a professional fighter – you have to be able to balance on your both feet.
There is a very interesting book called “Antifragile” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb); it’s about not being robust, but not being fragile either. It’s a condition like you take the impact, but you’re able to stay on your feet.
Is your architecture to be judged solely as a work of art?
No. We always work them as an expression of a certain conditions that build the project. Everything expresses something, either you want it or not! You can express blending into chaos, or blending into beauty, or whatever. I react a little bit (without projects) as i live in Mexico City – which is dynamic, there is a sense of playfulness, there is always “motions, movement”; maybe, if I have been born in Switzerland I would be doing totaly different architecture, but this is to me a reflection of how I see my country, and how I grew-up and see all those incredible things happening on the streets. But – I always take certain conditions of the program into considerations; and we also love exploring digital tools, we love digital design, but we love local fabrications; so – it’s a kind of this mix of digital tools, but they are only tools – I can use them to produce things I will learn how to fabricate. But if I grab local labour, that incredible craftsmanship that we have in Mexico, the mix of both things is realy powerfull as a tool – when you know how to design things and than figure it out how to fabricate them with the locals.
Does constructive part of your project makes them more expensive?
No. I believe that creativity is not dependent on how much budget you have. Creativity is dependent on how creative you are – that’s it! Budget is a condition, of course, and there are many other conditions, but we try to do things when we benefit of both things (as I explained before) – if I do pre-production, pre-design, if I’m designing with all those digital tools and if I understand how to fabricate, it’s not going to be more expensive – I’m understanding the process.
If I don’t know th process – it’s gona be expensive.
We don’t have construction company, but we work very close with construction companies. So, while we’re designing the building, we are disgning how to fabricate it. We can not design it as an isolated object and then bring the engineers, like: “OK, this is what I want to do, now – solve it!”.
So, what are we thinking: should it be done in steel, should it be done in concrete, what is the best material to have the best outcome, with the right conditions (time, budget,… ).
Someone once said that big ideas collapse due to compromise; is it possible to make great architecture and make compromises at the same time, do you compromise?
We’ve turn down projects. The biggest compromise in my whole career might have been “Cinetheque National”, which I accepted to do; it’s an incomplete project, which is open to the public. I did what I wanted to do, but I’m just not happy that the new government didn’t finished it. So, it’s opened to the public project and people are coming in and they’re like: “this does not look complete, this is not good”, but it’s still receiving a lot of people!
That could be a little bit of my compromise, but I was not able to see that we will not finish in time with the previous government.
I’ve never compromised, if client wanting to fullfill his egocentric dream, or crazy thing that would harm people in different ways, or something awkward… but there are people who will love to do that, because they don’t care.
But we care. We care about this idea of being intelligent enough to show responsibility.
Where is “your” architecture in the timeline: Modern, Post-modern, Late-modern, Neo-modern… ?
It’s a re-interpretation of contemporary living, it’s a re-interpretation of things that happen’ every day, so – it’s not one line! I hope I’m learning everyday and understanding how to produce better architecture with better result – so I hope it’s not a trend.
I mean – it is a modern way of thinking, because that’s the way I live. I could not be doing classical architecture because I’m not classical guy. I think it has to do something about social experiences, about how people inhabited buildings and live the buildings.
How do you define your ego, your self-concept?
The most important thing about working is that we are growing all the time. I would be very disappointed to get to a point where I know I’m not learning any more. I will never know enough.
I don’t believe in “oh, you’ve made it, you are famous!”. What is famous? That’s what people build upon you – they might know you, but in terms of working – work is work!
I appreciate it, but people get mistaken, often confuse themselves, thinking “I’m already a superstar!”. I mean – if you’re not understanding your process, if you’re not working your whole life, what is it for? You’ll never make it! There is always something that you can learn, there is always something that you can push a little bit further, there are always more people that you can collaborate with,… even in my personal life (I have a nine years old daughter and I always have incredible conversations with her) it’s always about: “what did you learn today?”, not in school – what did you, as a person, learn about life?
Every single day in your life, if you didn’t learn something, then you are not paying attention! You should pay attention.
Fotografije BDW + Ljubomir Janković