COMPETITIONS: The new University of Sydney Law School competition, which you won, included a lot of high profile architects besides FJMT: Neilsen Neilsen & Neilsen (Denmark), Axel Shultzes (Berlin), Norman Foster (London), (Bligh Voller Neild (Sydney, Aus), and Donovan Hill & Wilson (Brisbane, Aus). I assume it was invited?
Richard Francis-Jones: The University of Sydney became quite ambitious around this time and implemented a campus planning program called 2010. It included three major new buildings, the largest being the law school. The law school is currently downtown, so the competition was part of bringing the law school back to campus. The law school has a very prestigious faculty and the new site on campus is very strategic. It’s right across from some of the older neo-gothic sandstone buildings, and there’s a sense that it’s very solid. The building was to include a variety of programs and quarters for the faculty, and it also incorporates a law library and lots of general teaching spaces. But the main component is the law school. As a big competition, they had advisors from the architectural side – and the jury included James Weirick, Chris Johnson, Tom Heneghan from U of Sydney (all professors). It was a completely open submission of interest, worldwide. It was reduced to just a few teams and we had to assemble a very detailed – but short – submission for the second phase. We were limited to a certain number of pages and it had to include an interpretive program and outline what we were thinking about the site.
COMPETITIONS: Like a narrative of some sort?
RFJ: A narrative and a sketch – but only a few pages. Based on those submissions, they selected teams for the competitions (There were several competitions held simultaneously – the law school was just one). Then there was a full competition, and the interesting thing for me — and the unique aspect to this competition — was that we submitted our material, which included panels, a model, etc., and they were put on public display. The public could go have a look for about a month or so prior, and then we each made our design presentations to the jury. But it was also open to the public.
COMPETITIONS: So there was the proper jury but also the public?
Winner, Nathan Philips Square International Design Competition, 2007
Rome Prize Winner in Landscape Architecture (FAAR), American Academy in Rome Fellowship, 1990-1991
Third Place, Kent State May 4 Memorial National Design Competition, 1986
Citation of Merit, Innovations in Housing National Design Competition, 1986
Second Place, Copley Square National Design Competition (4 person team), 1984
Meritorious Award, Vietnam Veterans Memorial National Design Competition, 1981
COMPETITIONS: Environment often plays a role in what we choose to do with our lives. What was the determining factor that led you to become a landscape architect?
PETER SCHAUDT: My first goal was to become an architect. As I studied architecture here (in Chicago) at UIC, I was exposed to the great park system legacy of Chicago. We had many studios in the parks here. What actually led me to become a landscape architect was the Vietnam War Memorial Competition. I needed an art credit in architecture school, so rather than taking color theory or painting, and after seeing the poster, I approached the dean. He told me I could do it; ‘but you have to do it without an architect.’ So I teamed up with Charles Wilson, a wonderful sculptor at UIC, and I looked at that park through the eyes of a sculptor as opposed to an architect. The site in constitution gardens was a rolling site — very difficult because the competition site was half of an amoeba shape. That’s why Maya Lin’s project is so amazing. It’s because she was able to tie (her design) into the context.
Cite de la Voile Eric Tabarly, Lorient, France, 2007 - Winning competition entry (Photo: Luc Boegly)
COMPETITIONS: What inspired you to start your career in architecture?
Jacques Ferrier: First and foremost, I was fascinated with the way buildings were built, with their structure. Before I was trained as an architect, I was trained as an engineer - in science and mathematics - and then I pursued architecture. When I began my architectural studies in architecture, I realized the specificity of it, as compared to art or engineering. In a way architecture is less complex because there might be less calculation involved, but more complex because you work directly with people, with site contexts, etcetera.
COMPETITIONS: And what inspired you to start your own firm?
JF: I started a firm with a friend of mine who went to school with me. We started in 1990, as sort of a first run. I opened my own office in 1993, sixteen years ago now. We were lucky because it was the end of the golden age of public competitions in France and it was possible, even if you were a young architect, to be invited to participate in these competitions. When I started my practice, I managed to get invited to one such competition for a university laboratory building. With this building, I received a national prize, which was typically awarded for an architect’s first work. A few weeks after that, I won another competition for an industrial facility for the city of Paris – a water treatment plant. It was interesting because the brief for the building was very typical, but the lasting impact was on the site as a whole.
COMPETITIONS: Who were your mentors when you were receiving your education and who were your major influences along the way?Read more...
August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh, PA (Competition 2003, competion 2009)
AW: When I started there, I was the only one in my class of thirty who knew how to draw or knew how to express things. We had all kinds of backgrounds in the masters program at Berkeley, psychologists, structural engineers—you name it in terms of their background. They were very unfamiliar with the tools of architectural or life drawing.
COMPETITIONS: Was there a particular person or persons along the way who helped shape your ideas on architecture?
AW: Beyond my father, there were some inspirational people. People who really taught me the most are those who think of architecture as series of problems you need to solve. Gerry McCue, who later became the dean at Harvard was one. If I was going to identify the most inspirational architect, it would be Le Corbusier. I don’t know if it’s just a generational thing, or just total admiration. It probably has more to do with more time in Paris and France than any place other than places I have lived. I have probably visited almost every work by Corbusier.
During my time at Skidmore, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Marc Goldstein, who was an incredible mentor. I benefitted in my experience and success at the office because of working with him. When he became ill, he looked to me to just take it and run.
COMPETITIONS: What was the first competition you ever entered? And the most memorable?
COMPETITIONS: What led both of you to architecture? Was it something that occurred early on, or was it more of an evolutionary process?
BETH BLOSTEIN: Our answers will be very different. My interest was pretty sudden. I randomly decided to take an architecture class at Ohio State, and once I got into it, it seemed to be such a natural fit—for a way of thinking and making things. Even though it wasn’t something I had considered before, it seemed pretty natural.
Beth Blostein and Bart Overly
COMPETITIONS: When one sees your body of work, which are significant for the number of competitions you have participated in, one might assume that you are located in Europe, rather than in this country. It would appear that much of your work has come as the result of competitions. How did you get so deeply involved in that area?
DB: At one level, it’s the only way for a person who comes in from the outside for getting jobs. You’re starting an office, so where do you go to? I didn’t have any connections to say, ‘Give me a job.’ So from the beginning I jumped into competitions from day one, and I have pursued them very actively. Now we get into invited competitions and more direct commissions.
COMPETITIONS: Along the way, you must have learned something from these competitions.
COMPETITIONS: When did you decide you wanted to become an architect?
Craig Dykers: I started off wanting to work with fashion—women’s fashion and clothing seemed very interesting to me. I quickly learned that the world of fashion wasn’t what I had anticipated. It came to feel very superficial and calculating. I left that and was somehow accepted into medical school, perhaps because of an interest I had in the human body. My grades were not very high; but my notebooks were apparently impressive. In medical school your notebooks are reviewed as well as taking tests My ability to draw anatomical forms was very good and one of the professors recommended that instead of studying medicine I should enroll in the art school and become an anatomical illustrator.
I was confused with what to do with this conundrum. He advised me further, ‘You like science and art; architecture seems like a good thing.' I admitted that I had no idea what that was all about. He said something like, “Architects make churches and things like that. I felt I could work with this, making places for people. The architecture school accepted me and I rolled right into it, staying up many nights to work on my studio assignments. The end result of that long story is that there is an interest in the human form and the notion of the human body as it relates to the things we create. I think that is still with me.
COMPETITIONS: Was Charles Moore already in Austin when you were a student there?
CD: He arrived as I was leaving and there was only one semester overlap. I remember asking him why the nice parts of cities often appear to be on the west or north sides. Not entirely true, but it’s pretty frequent.
COMPETITIONS: Snøhetta’s origin began with the Alexandria competition. How did that come about?
COMPETITIONS: What led you to become an architect?
PB: I studied philosophy at the University of Toronto as part of my arts undergrad. In studying philosophy you study good and evil, right and wrong, laws and ethics. In the long run I decided philosophy was too sedentary, so I looked for a profession where I could live out some of what I had come to believe about right and wrong and essentially be able to do good. Architecture appealed to me as a place where I could affect the lives and futures of people in a non-political way. I also worked in construction to pay for the university—I did drywall—and got to know architects through that rather circuitous route, and talked to a few of them and went and visited some of their offices, and I took some introductory architecture courses in my final year of philosophy.
COMPETITIONS: You must have had people who influenced you greatly along the way.
PB: I credit one of the professors at UBC, Dr. Ray Cole. for awakening me to the environmental aspects of architectural design. At that point he was a 23-year-old PhD, a new professor at UBC fresh off the boat from England, and he had all these wonderful things to say about environmental issues and foreshadowing what everybody knows today about global warming. As best friends, we have mentored each other over the last 35 years and worked on some projects together.
Brentwood Skytrain Station, Burnaby, BC
I took some of the knowledge from him and went off to Europe. At the time I graduated in 1977, work was pretty scarce in Canada due to a recession. So in 1979 I went to London, looked at Grimshaw’s work, Renzo’s work, and Foster’s work, and decided I wanted to work for Norman Foster, and spent three very great years at his office. He had a great effect on me. Of course he was interested in environmental issues at that time, and had just finished the Willis Faber, a very pioneering green building. Buckminster Fuller was in the office at that time doing some experimental work with Foster, and I got to meet and know him. Charles and Ray Eames were in and out of the office. It was a very interesting time to be there.
COMPETITIONS: Foster must have been a lot smaller in those days.
COMPETITIONS: When did you decide to become an architect? Was it something you saw early on, or a personal connection?
JEANNE GANG: I always liked making things as a kid, rather than playing with pre-made toys. Not that as an architect you are actually building your own buildings, but it’s a profession that is related about putting things together, thinking how things work, making models, etc. While growing up on family trips, we looked at a lot of architecture, landscape and bridges. My dad was an engineer; so he always would go out of the way to go across some long bridge. One of the things that made a big impression on me was seeing the Indian native-American cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, where landscape and architecture was kind of blended and so connected to culture. Also, being good at math and art was a good combination which led me into that.
COMPETITIONS: Maybe you don’t have to be good at math anymore to become an architect. Werner Sobek, Helmut Jahn’s engineering expert for many years, said that the students he had at Harvard were mainly interested in designing something, not necessarily how it would be put together — they could give that to somebody else to figure it out.
JG: Then why couldn’t just anyone be an architect? If you aren’t going to be connected to how it’s put together, then why go to school for so many years? Architecture is at its best when it is a synthesis of structure, materials, forms. If it’s missing one of those things, it’s dropping down a notch.
COMPETITIONS: After finishing your studies at the University of Illinois and Harvard, you worked in the office of OMA in the Netherlands. This wasn’t your first stay in Europe. So I’m wondering what you took from those experiences?
COMPETITIONS: What led you to the study of architecture?
HARTMAN: It wasn't so much architecture, as what architecture is about. When I was a kid I loved to draw and paint, loved science and, to a certain extent, math. Growing up in the sixties, when NASA was in the news, I was probably one of the millions who thought that space and science was the greatest thing. So I did all these science fairs and was even invited to some schools which had engineering programs. When I saw what it was actually about—the curriculum—it seemed very dry to me, not nearly as exciting as I had imagined it to be. My father was absolutely adamant that I not become an artist. At about that time one of my cousins, who was taking a course on architecture in college, came home. I saw the work and felt it was really interesting stuff. Initially to me architecture as an idea was more the pieces which made up architecture rather than the excitement of designing buildings. In fact, my understanding of architecture as a kid in Indiana was that of an arcane profession—certainly not cutting edge. When I discovered through one of my teachers that Ball State University had just undertaken the first architecture program in the state, I felt I should check it out, especially since our family finances precluded my going to an out-or-state school. It turned out to be an incredibly great experience.
COMPETITIONS: That was still when the program was based in quonset huts?
HARTMAN: It was. And those were great times. The school was all in one place, and I believe that students often learn as much from one another as they do from faculty. We had some very energized young faculty there at the time, and that was a huge part of it. Tony Costello, for instance, was a huge influence on me.
COMPETITIONS: It was a great experiment.Read more...