La conferencia va a ser en Inglés, so may I
introduce it in English. What a difficult task to introduce one of the best-known architects of the moment, someone who needs no introduction. I feel like the support band for a great singer, “como si fuera el telonero”, de Bruce Springsteen. He was born in, not USA, but in Copenhagen in 1974. He is today 43 years old, and is already one of the best-known architects around the world. He studied in the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, but as you know, to be a good architect there is a compulsory subject to be taken: travel to get to know the world, widen your horizons, open your mind and learn from other cultures. Practice the ability to listen and understand the needs and lifestyles of other people, to be able to design a better scenario for their lives. And for that, he chose Spain, during his student years to do his Erasmus, he came over with us. That’s why he speaks so good Spanish. He graduated in 1998, at the age of 24, that’s 20 years ago. Then, as best architects have ever done, he wanted to start his practice learning by intimate relation with the architecture and with a big master, so he went to work with Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam.That lasted three years, from 1998 to 2001. In 2001 he returned to Copenhagen to open his own office, PLOT, with Julien De Smedt, one of the former collaborators with Koolhaas there. They soon won some of the competitions we were talking some minutes ago. Out of six competitions, there were three to second prizes in a dismiss, he built the Maritim Youth House, the Baker Harbour Bath, five swimming pools, the VM housing, that is one of the best Scandinavian projects in 2006. That lasted for five years. PLOT disappeared and gave birth to BIG, in 2006, that is 12 years since then. He has opened up offices in Copenhagen, New York and London, with sixteen partners, there were former collaborators or students from his teaching, prior to that, creating a new social group. Forget about the hipsters, they are now the “BIGsters”. They make an annual trip to build up a family, and this year’s was Burning Man, with two thousand and seventy workers. They made an annual trip for everybody to know what it means to live in the middle of nowhere. He claims to practice Metamodernism, confronting with the two possible options existing nowadays. He says there is a vanguard, which is full of crazy ideas, detached from reality, and can only produce eccentric curiosities, or will organize corporate consultants that build predictable boring boxes. So, what he proposes is a pragmatic utopian that creates social economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective. As Frank Lloyd Wright used to say, the architect must be a prophet, a prophet in the true sense of the term. If you can’t see the next ten years ahead, you cannot claim to be an architect. That’s probably what he believes as well, he believes in the optimistic proposal, instead of a sad complaint. He is an “Hombre Propuesta”, and not a “Hombre Protesta”. Building ecosystems where the life of the people can find its best shelter. He was a teacher in the Harvard University, Columbia University and Rice University amongst others. Now, three years ago, he met Ruth Otero on a flight to somewhere, where they needed a charger to recharge their telephones. Ruth was a student from our first class, in our university, and she soon became part of this life project. As soon as their new baby is coming to the world, they will be attending their probably best living project. And why here and why today? It’s our 25th birthday present, it is a present that we’re getting from Bjarke Ingels to be here with us today. Yes, we are celebrating one fourth of a century, not much compared to the oldest University of the world, that was born in Bologna in 1088, almost 1000 years ago. And there is no other better way to start a new academic year than with an inspiring encounter with a young master. And let me share a secret. Ruth told me, some days ago, that they need to find, or they are waiting to find, some work in Spain, so that they can come more often to this place around. So, now you know that Cadiz was a trap on Ruth’s part. Good teaching should convert the 3 Es as they’re written in Spanish: “espectacular”, “experimental” and “experiencial”. Bjarke has helped us cover all three in the task of teaching our students. Spectacular are his explanations, diagrams and new ways of proposing architecture, and our students learn from it every year. Experimental was understanding what each of those projects had to propose, and summarize it to explain it to our fellow students in each of the trips we made to Copenhagen, New York, visiting his buildings. And Experiential was getting to each of the sites by bicycle, live the spaces created, talk to the people who live there, and have the chance to let those experiences fuel the love and interest for architecture and its capacity to change people and lives for good, which is the true task of the architects. So, thank you very much for being so contagiously, enthusiastic, thank you for being here with us today and it’s all yours. [Applause] Thank you so much, and happy birthday. Also, I think it was an excellent warm-up band, but I can promise you that there will be no singing, don’t worry. And also, Felipe was so excited that he actually started changing my slides. So I’m obviously very very
happy to be here in the in the school that sort of educated Ruth, that’s like the highest recommendation that any school can get, and I’d like to talk a little bit about the role of architecture, and the role of the architect, and then also try to at least because I think it’s very true what Frank Lloyd Wright said, I should definitely read more of his writings, because I mean, I do think that it is the destiny of an architect or an urbanist to live in the future, because we are literally always thinking about the future, and we think about what kind of a future would we like to live in, so in that sense, and even as an architect, so Frank Wright said, you have to live ten years into the future. We just opened a building in the Faroe Islands, that we have been working on for 11 years, so when we started it we were literally working ten years into the future. But I think one of the things is to really think about our cities and buildings not as two-dimensional facades, or three-dimensional objects, but as man-made ecosystems, where we channel not only the flow of people, but also the flow of resources through our seas and buildings. And that’s what we do every day. This is our office in Copenhagen. It’s actually a former Carlsberg factory, where they used to make the least exciting part of the beer: the bottle cap, but also a very important part, but of course, so this was made for manufacturing, but of course it’s also an amazing space for working, it has tall ceilings, long spans and abundance of daylight, so it also shows that there is something about architecture that even if a building is conceived for one thing, if it has qualities that exceed its pragmatic function, but qualities such as ceiling height, spaciousness, daylight, then it doesn’t matter if they stop making bottle caps. If the if the space is beautiful and inviting and exciting enough, it can actually be reinvented continuously. And I’ll return to this. And then of course I have 500 colleagues, very committed colleagues, as you can see. And it’s not unimportant, because when you try to do things differently, there’s a lot of reasons why things are the way they are. You know, the standard solution for a building didn’t become the standard because it’s bad. It actually became the standard because it’s a quite effective, and efficient, and a good way of realizing certain goals. So whenever you try to think beyond that and do things slightly differently, you’re gonna encounter so many good reasons why that’s not the way you do it. And to overcome all of those obstacles, you need to be very much in love with what you do, because it’s gonna be harder and it’s gonna take longer time, and it’s gonna take more work, but if you love it dearly enough, you actually have an extra gear, and an extra energy to achieve it. So maybe just sort of a little story of a project we recently opened. I love Lego. Lego is from Denmark, nobody knows that, everybody thinks that Lego is from the country that they are from, so I’m sure you all think it’s Spanish but it’s not, it’s Danish. So, of course we do a lot of models, so we have made a handful of models, including out of Lego. Our office is complete with Lego. All the signage in the office is actually written with Lego, and when we move around, there’s Lego everywhere. So at some point, five or six years ago, we got invited to do a competition for a new Lego museum. This is what a space typically ends up looking like in the in the process. The walls are full of evidence, there’s like models of different design ideas, and when we submitted the project for the competition, we made it, we copied one of the lego architecture boxes, and we and we gave the owner of Lego a gift. Then, when we wanted, we tried to do it in a slightly bigger version. It became a little bit more difficult to build it. We found out that actually a Lego person is roughly 1 to 50 and it’s roughly proportioned the same way that I am, and then we build it in 1 to 1. Often you hear people complain that the translation from the model to the rebuilt reality is too far away. I think here we kind of delivered on the under promises. We sort of conceived the project as the sort of an inviting landscape, in a way we wanted the building to be as inviting and as inclusive and as interactive as Lego itself, so the entire roof scape is a series of interconnected playground, where people are actually invited to climb some of the spaces. You have this sort of a melting a landscape of Lego, that allows you to sort of reach the roof. From the roof scape you have different kinds of activities at different levels, so even if you don’t have a ticket, you are actually invited to visit inside, you have the main gallery at the top with the 8 skylights, that makes it quite clear what kind of a building this is. Inside, we made the building so you can enter it from all four sides, so even if you don’t have a ticket, you are invited to hang out in the Lego square. You have light passing down between the exhibition spaces above. You have multiple generations of future Lego builders roaming around. You have this sort of ascending spiral that invites you up into the museum, and only now you actually have to buy a ticket, so the building really is becoming a public space in the city of Berlin. This is the biggest Lego artefact in the world, fifteen million bricks, and it’s a genealogical tree where you can see all the different sets throughout the times as they branch out. From here you get into the sort of the Keystone gallery, where you sort of look at the mastery of building with Lego. This is a three dinosaurs. One is made out of DUPLO, one is made out of Lego and one is made out of LEGO Technic. It’s like every boy and girl’s dream is to sort of see these dinosaurs. And then you can pass through the different aspects interacting with Lego in different ways, so it’s not really a museum, it’s actually more like an interactive playground where you can really sort of immerse yourself in Lego. It’s probably the only museum in the world where you have to touch the exhibited artifacts, and I think one of the things that I really like about Lego is that Lego is not a toy. It’s a tool that empowers the child to create its own world through play, and then invite his or her friends to join her in play and through play, and also invite them to help recreate or modify this world. And I think at its best, that is exactly what architecture is or should be: to remind ourselves that we actually, as human beings, we have the power to create the world we would like to live in, and then make it happen. So, of course, as you as you finish your journey, you go down in a treasure chamber underneath the Lego house, and here you have this sort of historical exhibits of some of the greatest Lego artifacts, including probably the best Lego set ever made, my first Lego set, the yellow castle from 1979. It was the same year they introduced the minifigure. The Lego minifigure, today, is the largest ethnic group on the planet, and of course, I think this is the highest honor any architect can ever achieve, that you can actually buy the Lego house as a Lego set. They were actually reviewed by Brickmania, one of the world’s leading Lego blocs, as the best Lego set ever made. So, basically, the sort of notion of just like Lego, that architecture is the fact that we actually have the power to create the world we want to live in. Also one sort of interesting aspect is that the Danish word for design is “formgivning”, which literally, in English, means “form giving”. To give form to something that has not yet been given form, or essentially to give form to the future, that we actually have the power to give form to the future that we would like to find ourselves living in, in five, ten or twenty years. So, the way we can do that is by, you know, life is always changing, it’s always evolving, and if we as architects, every time we have to start thinking about a new design or new building, if we start looking at how people are living and how has their way of living changed, how they are working and how its changing, if we start to listen to people and hear about their dreams for the future or their complaints, we actually end up seeing how there’s a discrepancy, because when life changes but the buildings remain the same, there’s like a crack or a disconnect between the way we use our buildings and the way they were designed. And those cracks become interesting because that’s where we have a chance to intervene, and actually imagine the future. Maybe just a few examples of some recent works where we’ve been trying to look for that one idea, or that one problem, or that one potential that could end up shaping the entire project. We got asked to do a museum about the Second World War, next to a German bunker, on the west coast of Denmark, left behind after the Second World War in this beautiful dunes landscape. We had solved a few dilemmas. As you can see, it’s a natural reserve, so we’re not really supposed to build any buildings. Also, the bunker is somehow the main artifact, and we didn’t want to clash, somehow create some weird relationship with the old bunker and the new building, so we came up with this idea of imagining that the museum was really like the paths slicing into the sand. As you move in, suddenly, you discover that between the dunes you have this sunken square. The square allows access into the museum itself, so anytime you can sort of descent into the history of the Second World War. The roofs open up towards the square, and even though we are entirely underground we actually bring a lot of daylight into the museum. And from here there’s like an umbilical cord that connects into the old bunker, and you can sort of experience the space where the gunman [gun] was supposed to be mounted. So, essentially, you can say that the quest or the contradiction between making a new building but not wanting to compete with neither the landscape nor the bunker created this sort of idea of almost like disappearance becoming the attraction.