Saturday, 7 January 2012

Emilio Ambasz Q&A

LF: Is architecture democratic?

EA: Without a client who is enlightened and establishes a high standard for approximation, you don’t have good architecture. An architect is not enough; you need a client who establishes a high standard. That is why committees usually fail in obtaining good buildings. Lets say architecture is in the domain of royal democracies.

LF: Should Architecture be democratic?

EA: Architecture has to solve a number of social problems, so if the social problems are solved, I don’t know how that makes it more or less democratic. I think that is a misuse of the word democratic. Democratic means a certain minimum common denominator. Even if it were a maximum common denominator, it is still a common denominator –the key word is common. Therefore, if you want to create a new model for changing the present it cannot receive the approval of the majority. It has to be a shock, it has to irritate, it has to be rejected, it has to be resisted if it has any value of invention contained within it. In time, if the innovation is understood, that prototype will become a type, and, with time, the culture that turned it into a type will turn it into a stereotype. And onward and onward. When architecture is architecture, it is a prototype. When it is a building and you can make some money, it is a type. If you can make lots of money, it is a stereotype. The hack architects work with stereotypes, the professionals work with types, and the artists make prototypes.

LF: Spider, bee, or ant. Which is the best architect?

EA: All three are unremarkable as such. A bee that always makes the same thing is a builder, not an architect. The spider that makes a beautiful web is a hunter, not an architect. The ant that keeps on carrying little leaves is an accumulator, but not an architect. Architecture means inventing a new habitat; those three don’t.

LF: Double envelope. Is the inside to be reflected in the outside?

EA: When I was a student I thought so. But I came to realise that it was a surrogate for decision-making. If you don’t  know what to do with the fa├žade, you just project the inside onto the outside. I think that the outside should be one thing, because its outside, and the inside should be another. I am not interested in single-minded images.

LF: Is the blob formal excess or lack of form?

EA: The blob is a form in search of itself. It doesn’t know what it is and so it is constantly changing. It is indecision carried through a state of confirmation, which of course is temporary. The context gives the form a certain meaning, then the context changes and the blob just remains there.

LF: Is architecture hiding behind technology?

EA: Many times technology is presented as architecture. But architecture is both techne and poiesis. If not, it is not architecture.


The text above is an extract from the article '53 Questions, 265 Answers', by Luca Farinelli, featured in the fall 2011 edition (23) of LOG. The article is a series of interviews with identical questions posed to well known architects, including Bjarke Ingels, Peter Eisenmann, Steven Holl, and Thom Mayne, although Farinelly has interviewed many others in what is an ongoing project....