Why architecture?

I grew up in a rather radical architect’s house from the 1960ies. Due to my father’s job I came to know many artists and architects in my childhood and youth. This strongly formed me.

What was it exactly that teased you?

The interface between art and engineering, which architecture always is. But much more I was attracted by the individuality. In private projects it’s the personality of the owner, in corporate or institutional clients the corporate culture and philosophy are key drivers for a project.

I like the human interaction. At the end architecture is not only a service for a client, but much more a communal process of creation, which involves the user and which will, only with the full engagement of all involved parties, result in the aimed result.

What is your role in this process?

The architect brings all parties together on one table. I don’t aim for a strong authorship in architecture, although I fully believe that in very important projects it is justified and necessary. My personal aim is the finding of solutions, that specifically respond to the clients’ needs. A project must nevertheless be an evolution for a client, a next step of architectural challenge.

You are fascinated by the architecture’s interface of engineering and art. Did architecture change in the age of high tech?

I have always been fascinated by technology, but not as an end in itself, but in order to make things possible, which otherwise would not have been done. I am therefore not a unconditional proponent for technological solution. Exactly the opposite is the case: true high-tech architecture is low tech. An architecture, which due to its conception and construction, responds to all requirements with as little technology as possible.

Clarity and readability of the detail are key aspects I am interested in. For example, my own expectation on the perfection and clarity of a floorplan is extreme. I don’t believe in “designed” facades, but on the development of a buildings hull from the inside out. This means from the function, the floor plan and the spaces.

I don’t follow any specific aesthetic style. My aim is to design modern, contemporary buildings, that in close interaction with the client generate the possible maximum of functionality, satisfaction and identification.

Isn’t it risky to state, not to follow any aesthetic style?

Following a specific style would, from my point of view, not allow me, to accomplish my mission. The big chance and responsibility in each project lays in the development of an architecture, that reflects the client’s requirements and identity appropriate in our time. An architecture that also respects social, cultural, local and regional needs. Might it be an internationally operating, future oriented company or a family.  
If I would follow a specific style, I wouldn’t be able to fulfil my responsibility.
I am for example clearly against  generating additional constructive efforts simply due to an aimed stylish shape. My understanding of good architecture is, that is has to be timeless, durable and honest.

timeless, durable and honest: how do such buildings look like?

I feel obliged to follow the idea of transparency, clarity, plausibility and honest of materials, readability of the built form and durability in my projects.
Buildings should be self-explanatory, easy to understand und functional, creating the surrounding and not the content of our life and work. Spaces, might they be in a room, a building or an urban space have different requirements on function and scale. Important is for each space the appropriate scale, that comforts the people.

Are there architects the formed you?

There are many examples of architects that have formed my understanding of architecture. Most important for me is it, to see, which evolution the architect due to the change of requirements has undergone.
Concerning the human scale, WAHRNEHMUNG and appearance of space, Le Corbusier was important to me - but also the traditional Japanese architecture. The step into a higher, contemporary complexity of projects from my point of view was best achieved by architects like Richard Rogers, whose social and human studio set up also fascinates me. Momentarily I admire the works of Herzog & de Meuron, whose buildings are all special, specific and extremely well executed.

After more than 20 years in the job you started you own studio in 2015. Why did you do this?

During my time at ingenhoven architects I had a high responsibility in the office and in projects and was mainly responsible in the internationalization of the office. Of course, it was fascinating to be travelling the entire world for projects and to work together with internationally recognized clients.
The reason for starting my own studio at the end was the independence and own creative process associated with it. I now have the ability, to generate autonomously and in each project scale solutions for my clients beyond their expectation. All this can now be done in a process that is much more positive for all involved parties than it would have been possible in my former professional life.

Might it be a bamboo-shaped high-rise building in Japan or a museum in Italy, each of the projects has a specific cultural environment. Which influence has the local aspect in your work?

For me architecture is a multi-level reference of the location, its culture and the ecological and social context. Wherever we develop a concept, we are doing this in an environment – urban, industrial, village or rural – that requests a responsible treatment of the existing, grown structures. This context is important an requires a profound analysis. At the end the old and the new shall not only be able to coexist, but together they should result in something better, which is more than the sum of its parts.
In this respect a timeless, adequate, contemporary architecture is important to me, in order to achieve an honest ensemble, that shows the historical and structural development whilst preserving the local identity.

How do you build local?
In many regions we are looking back on a long tradition of building. I have confidence and trust in these traditions and stay local in my choice of material, construction, arrangement and direction of buildings.

The idea is to develop solutions, that consider the regional construction culture, tradition and materials. We see a true sustainability in this holistic approach in the optimization, which considers not only the concept phase, construction and maintenance, but even much more the suitability of the function, a long time use and flexibility of the building. 

Local planning and building require each time a profound analysis. Why do you consider this to be worthwhile doing it?

Durability and longevity of buildings joined with a low level of technical installations are much more found in local, historical than in contemporary architecture. Today’s global architecture makes a big mistake, to forget the specific local know how of our ancestors. We should, without being backward-looking, start and evolve this worthy knowledge contemporarily. The result will be a modern, sustainable, flexible and future oriented architecture.

Talking about longevity and future orientated architecture – diverse, changing lifestyle require flexible buildings in the future.

Flexibility is hard to achieve, as it always requires compromises. It is clear, that it is impossible to generate solutions for requirements not yet known. It is much more important to stay flexible, to reuse existing structure and to modify them if needed for your new purpose. The main mission for the future will be to deal with our huge amount of existing buildings, its renovation, modernisation and reuse.

Dealing in the future primarily with existing structures leaves little space for innovation?

Innovation means not to accept things. Innovation means for example to reinvent existing spaces and their diverse resources. To have the guts to question requirements and to finally, together with the user in a common process, to design a building with which everybody can identify itself.
Much to often we are unconsciously led to implicate solution, which are solely based on our own knowledge and experience. But this means, that they most likely neither respond to the specific requirements nor that they are the best possible solution. Thus, there would neither be an evolution nor any progress.

Architectur ist he result of interaction from the people, space and time. All these are in constant state of flux. How will we live in the future?

It is my aim, to generate buildings, which provide safe, beautiful, inspiring, happy and healthy places. My vision of architecture is about diversity, appropriateness, natural resources, economical and ecological buildings, which reflect the values and goals of the client and user. The architecture of the future must provide a high quality of life for all and therefore use resources clever and in a sustainable way. Each project has new require- ments and will lead to individual solutions.

The interview is the result of talks and discussions held throughout the past 10 years with various people. I would especially like to thank Layla Dawson (+ 2015), who played an important role in becoming aware of my aims and goals and helped to put my thoughts into words, and Miriam Witsch, who help me in completing this. 

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Ben

Dieckmann

architects

BDA

architecture Architektur

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Meerbusch

Düsseldorf

 

© 2019 by Ben Dieckmann architects BDA