Patrik Schumacher: “Each space is an invitation to join the interaction”

06.08.2012, 20:46
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Patrik Schumacher is an architect and a philosopher, partner at Zaha Hadid Architects and founding director at the AA Design Research Lab.

Before his lecture at Strelka on “Semiology of Parametrism” we had a small conversation with Patrik on his views of the role of architecture in a modern world, discussed changes in the global economy and his opinion about Russia.


Architecture as a frame for communications

Political decisions, legal system has its own kind of categories, which frames everything what goes on in society in order to stabilise its expectations, deliver collective and reviving decisions, frame all other domains. And I think the same is with architecture and urban environment — architect re-frames all the societal processes through the spaces. So that is my theory: I believe that architecture and design is a function system and they need to co-evolve and adapt to each other.

And I also believe that another twist of the matter is that the theory of society is conceived to communications theory — everything is communication, all our problems are because of communication. I am looking at architecture communication system and what it delivers to the society: premises of communication, frames the communication, gathers people in different communicative situations. The urban field is huge matrix for folding and laying out of specific spaces for specific communicative interactions.

About focus on the form

Form matters. Especially for urbanizational configurations: how do you separate, how do you distinguish, bring together into one consideration situations, spaces, subspaces and so on. Architecture is also a language and you need to navigate the space, you need to find different situations that you want to engage and go through during a day. You want to meet a number of people, a new set of experiences, you want to do new set of things and you need to find these things in the environment. So architecture is a visual language and the shape is a kind of semiotics.

There is a problem — how do you structure the information for it to be perceptually legible. And here shape comes into a play — with it you can make things clearer.

We are looking into form not as an end itself, but as an instrument to articulate and organise the environment as communication, as a text as well as a kind of a platform. Each space is an invitation to join the interaction: it encodes, it awares, it tells you how to behave and what to expect, it puts you in the right mode and mood, it premises and primes into action.

In order to have meaningful communication the participants need to know what they want from each other, because they came to a place which is a place to have fun versus the place to have professional communication — It is different where they meet. There is a place for everything and we also dress up for everything, it is the same as a fashion system, I mean taking all the design systems. So we need all that to understand that we find each other with the right mood which in the end makes you more productive.

About post-industrial era

Western countries also became communist — nationalised industries promoted universal consumption standard: everybody had the same house, same car, same washing machine. Once they had all this, when everything was the same, what is the next stage? And then microelectronic revolution came, computers, electronic age, freak innovation cycles. It is a new, totally new game! With much more uncertainty, much more play, much more freedom, much more innovation, and much more communication. Before the economy was planned and you had to divide the labour. Now you have to reconnect, re-network yourself, update yourself, see what everybody else is doing, make sure that what you are doing is relevant, re-design the process all the time. You meet the designers, manufacturers, traders, financials, lawers — every work is project based.

About degree of rationality in USSR political system

USSR had a degree of rationality. All the mechanisms were working perfectly, but they were working to some extend, there was a limit to it. 20ies of USSR were incredibly fertile, and it’s striking because the country came out of civil war and faced economic problems of establishing new system. Yet on science, film-making, art, design, architecture, they [you] produced so much innovation. You could literally say that everything which was done all the way until the late sixties or seventies was invented in Russia or in USSR, not worked through but anticipated. It was extremely fertile.

Advice to Russians

If I was a developing country I would look at how to make a progressive contribution in a global division of labour: which industries you actually could pick up and lead.

The continuous question for all the markets is how to advance further. The most advanced countries have the best positions to do the next step. And Russia should also create conditions and niches, to give freedom and space, and maybe support to incubating institutions like Strelka. So for example in 5 years you will have some architects here, in Russia, who will have an impact globally. They will do things here at first and then they will enter the competitions globally, and they will become like operating innovators and that’s in every field. That what I think is important — to have your own culture, your own society, places where you have the potential to start.

So the question is how do you generate situations in a country that actually keep the best talent, attract outside talent and generate top contributions. Not only for the global market, for your own market as well.