The 10 x 10/3 interview: Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten
An exclusive interview with the innovative German architecture practice selected for the latest book in Phaidon’s 10 x10 series
Founded just over 20 years ago by three graduates from Munich’s Technical University, Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten has gained a reputation as one of the most innovative architecture firms in Germany. Major projects include the Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen, the master planning of Audi’s corporate architecture, which involved designing buildings in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and the Stachus Shopping centre in Munich.
Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten were selected as one of the best emerging architecture practices by Peter Cachola Schmal, Director of the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt, in Phaidon's latest overview of contemporary world architecture, 10 x 10/3.
Q: You were selected as one of the best emerging architecture practices by Peter Cachola Schmal for 10 x 10/3. What does it mean to be included in the book?
We like the 10 x 10 series. Throughout the entire book, there is a consistent level of quality and surprise. In particular, we value the opportunity to discover new works. Obviously, we are proud to be part of it.
Q: Who else included in 10 x 10/3 are you particularly interested in?
We enjoyed the architecture by young Russians, Japanese and Mexicans. The designs by these architects are unconventional and surprising, for example in their use of recycled materials, or in the case of the Russian architects, the questioning of academic design methods.
Q: Which building or project of your own design do you consider the most interesting of those featured?
The Paul Horn Arena in Tübingen is sustainable architecture on a tight budget – yet it features multiple layers of usage. Each of its four different facades carries a different function. In addition, the roof is landscaped as a 'fifth facade'.
Q: Can you say a bit about your design process; do you start from the same point or do different design projects require a different approach?
What we are looking for is a dialectic approach - the adjustment between different poles on all levels concerning architecture. Our approach to a new project is very much related to the context. Depending on the context – topically, historically, socially, culturally – the results can vary a lot.
Q: Has the idea of sustainability become more important in your work from when your practice first started? How is this manifested?
Sustainability has been an important aspect for us from the beginning. Formally, it has not been as obvious as today. Paul-Horn-Arena is an example for a building where we included the aspect of sustainability into the visual appearance of the building by designing an entire facade serving as a photovoltaic solar system.
Q: Good design is many things, what elements do you feel underpin good design? Which one aspect of design do you give the highest priority?
Good design has to be able to be communicated. Like any other language, architectural language develops codes in order to be readable. Compare it with the many and various elements used to compose a book in order to transmit a meaning. With architecture these codes can be shapes, details, iconography or other elements.
Q: What for you constitutes outstanding architecture?
Architecture needs to be open, undefined and yet creating identity with a minimum of material input and a maximum of quality.
Q: How has your approach to architecture design changed over the years since your inclusion in 10 x 10_3?
Formally, our architecture has become less expressive. We believe that the era of iconographic forms is over, as its results are questionable. The formal multiplicity is wearing off. An architecture of adequacy, also ecologically and economically, with a substance that is legible for a longer period, is what we want to do.
Q: Who do you most admire in the world of design/architecture today?
The most interesting contributions to the architectural discourse are - formally - coming from Japan. The aspect of sustainability, however, cannot be found in these works. We also find Lacaton Vassal’s 'Null Architecture' quite interesting.
Q: Who from the history of design/architecture would you most like to meet?
John Lautner at the Arango House in Mexico. His houses are poetic and unconventional. They are staging space and landscape and offer an entire spirit of life.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring architects?
An aspiring architect should focus more on the social developments and less on the architectural forms. Like a seismograph, he or she should perceive the environment.
Q: What’s your view of today’s architecture community and the state of the creative industry at large?
Due to the fast and multitudinous transmission of images globally, there is an extreme multilingualism in architecture. Therefore, determination of quality is getting more difficult. Sometimes, buildings with an iconographic significance have a surprisingly poor spatial quality. They have been designed according to exterior, not interior quality. In this case, pictorial quality opposes quality, which can be experienced. Of course, the challenges of sustainability and social adequacy bear great chances to define new spaces and forms.
Today, almost everything is possible due to technical progress and the many images we have. This was different ten years ago. Our challenge today is not: what is possible, it is: what is adequate, what suitable? Too many possibilities result in randomness – in its extreme, it means that there are no more possibilities to differentiate. Then, images become a pattern.
Q: What do you feel are the greatest challenges for today’s architects?
Sustainability on many levels: ecological, economical, formal. How do you see the future of architecture? There is this tendency in Europe’s urban centres to reflect postmodernism. Out of the concern that new concepts could not be lasting, architects are designing urban spaces in a constituting, reconstructive way, using images of the past. Another different aspect is that conversions are starting to receive more recognition and are starting to become part of the public interest. In the past, new buildings were in the foreground of the architectural discourse. A change in paradigm can already be seen at the reconstruction of existing buildings with a very positive aesthetic result.