'Before we can create things, we need to imagine them (Sigurd Larsen)
Room-304, Michelberger Hotel. Photo: Rita Lin
Dachkiez, Venice Biennale, Rooftop architecture Holzbau, Berlin 1-1100x1557
Room-304, Michelberger Hotel. Photo: Rita Lin
Sigurd Larsen is a Berlin based Danish architect working within the fields of architecture and furniture design.
He founded his studio in 2010 and has completed projects within the fields of housing, hotel, educational and cultural buildings and will continue to explore new fields. His work aims to combine the aesthetics of high-quality materials with functional concepts for complex spaces, designing furniture for various German, Danish and American design companies that are sold worldwide. He has a master degree from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen and previously been employed at OMA-Rem Koolhaas in New York, MVRDV in Rotterdam and COBE in Copenhagen. From 2011 to 2016, he was a research assistant at the Berlin University of the Arts where he teached architectural design. Since 2016 he is Professor at Berlin International University of Applied Sciences where building design and visual communication is explored through teaching and research.
As a renowned architect and designer, you have been honoured for projects dealing with urban biotopes, and issues at the forefront of our time. To your opinion, what is the mission of art today, what role could artists play in society? Can art influence social change? Can artists stimulate personal and social change?
I see the work of artist like holding up a mirror towards society. They help us reflect about who we are and where we are going. With the help of sharp comments or even humour, a lot of interesting new thoughts can be triggered and hopefully make us move forward. We need this reflexion to be able to understand ourselves as a species. Especially in a time where we are forced to rethink how we live. The past months we have listened a lot to our politicians, journalists and scientists. Probably a bit more than usually. But I think it's also important to get input of groups with less bias or people who are able to spectate things from a distance. Artists are in a position to contribute with a different angle or perspective on our society, also in times of transition.
Given the disasters and crises that characterise our world today, is it even possible that we dare to hope for and imagine a better future? What role does narrative play in times of great crises and upheavals?
Innovation starts in our thoughts. Before we can create things we need to imagine them. So I think in times where we undergo big changes, we also start communicating much more with each other, and perhaps a little sharper than before. Artists tell stories through all sorts of media like physical objects, performances or words. These stories can push our thoughts in a certain direction or inspire us to search for new paths. They are not only entertaining but also a possible way to generate unexpected solutions for the problems we are confronted with. Sometimes I feel like im running around with a lot of half ideas. Then I need conversation and input from other people to complete them.
What form could a dialogue between art and other disciplines take in order to promote social change and shape the future? What other disciplines would you like to interact with? What new impulses and ideas might emerge?
Like many other architects, I find artists who work with spaces and physical objects very inspiring for my work. Artists have a certain freedom to tell stories rather than solve problems, as designers are obliged to do. I find this super exiting and inspiring. So I think artists and architects have a big overlap of common interest, though we work under very different conditions. I had the privilege of being commissioned to create an art piece for the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus School in Berlinische Galerie last year. I think it was fantastic that someone "anti-casted" an architect to do this. I suppose something very different would have come out of it if you commissioned a scientist to do the art piece. There's a long list of artists who have designed swimming pools, such as Berthold Lubetkin, James Turell and less surprisingly David Hockney. I think this very direct exchange or even swapping of professions is a fun exercise. Perhaps a similar exchange could be imagined in a more future orientated or problem solving manner. To bring new input.
Assuming that a better world could be built on the ruins of the old world - what would it look like in your opinion? What do you personally wish for a better future?
On the positive side I'm happy to see how the digital age suddenly reached Germany. Now we only need the improvement of digital infrastructure to support it. I often wish I could execute more meetings online and travel less. But the insecurity of a bad online connection often makes me fly around Europe to our projects abroad. Many work related short journeys could be avoided if the digital infrastructure would be better. Now we were forced to work like this for a while, and maybe it was a good timing to be pushed a bit.
On the negative side I'm sad to see the polarisation in the western world the past decade. A cultural gap between people in cities and on the country side has emerged. And a growing gap in opinions between my generation and my parents' is also a negative development. I wish we would become better in understanding the needs of each other. The gap is visible in the election maps and many other statistics, and I think we need to address this issue.
It is often said that the special power of art lies in the courageous and fearless pursuit of the new, always starting from scratch on a blank paper. What strategies, rituals or techniques do you use to find your own way into a new work, start a new project?
As an architect, my work is influenced by a lot of restrictions, both from law, budgets and the character of the client. So I start with the framework and limitations; how high, how deep, how loud, where's the good view… And then there's already something on the paper to play around with.
Text and interview: Madeleine Schwinge
The interview was conducted in May 2020