Nikolaus Hirsch Architecture is a somewhat schizophrenic profession. To speak in general terms, there is, one the one hand a form of practice that believes in design as problem solving, and on the other, there is a form of practice that researches, analyzes, criticizes. The field of architecture seems to split between those who built and those who research and question its relevance in a broader social-political sphere. You are one of the few who seem to bridge these two camps.
Stefano Boeri The core of the architectural profession is basically to balance two spheres, one that has to do with inclusion, and another which has to do with selection and exclusion. Yet all architects work with an inherently inclusive approach, because in order to anticipate the future of a space, we have to gather information, opinions, ideas, images, and so on. We can call this research, analysis, description, or interpretation. But at the same time, or not at the same time, we need to exclude 99.9 percent of this, because at a certain point we need to define a single, very precise material configuration of the future space we are asked to imagine and anticipate. It is not a matter of whether architects do or do not include or exclude. The point is whether these two approaches are more or less explicit.
Nick Axel How do you balance these two spheres in your own practice?
SB What I do try to do is to keep them together, but without putting them in a sequence. When I studied at university, we were taught that you need to know everything before you can start designing. That was one of the preconditions for a project in the Tendenza school. It was drawing, researching, and then what? We also had other maestri. Team 10 was very important for my generation and I remember that Alison and Peter Smithson and Giancarlo De Carlo were teaching ways to turn design into a form of research, as a way to provoke the reality of space; that the best way to understand how or what space is, is to oblige it to react, to tempt it. This was a brilliant way to talk about future, but in the end, it was still a sequence: design was to come before the analysis.
NA So is your solution to just do them at the same time?
SB In my opinion, it’s the simultaneity of the inclusionary phase and the selective, exclusionary phase that makes our profession so complex and exciting. Sometimes while working on a piece of research, something completely unexpected happens. Renzo Piano uses the term “hologram” when talking about how architectural ideas come into being. These unpredictable brain synapses, these holograms appear while working on things simultaneously. So in this sense, if the original question was about schizophrenia, yes: I think the best architect is the most schizophrenic one.