Hookup

We’re walking around Copenhagen’s Sluseholmen. It’s the first day of our Aalto-Demos-Hoas excursion to Copenhgen. The story of this area is familiar from Helsinki – an old harbour transformed into a residential area. We visit an apartment building designed by Dissing & Weitling. I like this building. But why?

The building is surfaced with copper. The aging is happening in front of our eyes. First green spots are already showing. I remember a lecture the other week by Professor Ola Nylander from Chalmers University on characteristics of a good home. Nylander – an architect – explained how we people like the feeling that we understand what things are made of and how materials have been treated. We enjoy that our homes age with us. That we grow together.

We take a 5-minute bus ride to the next location, an apartment building by Lundgaard-Tranberg. I can’t really put my finger on it. Why do I like this so much?

“There’s no fences or railings”, Eero says. He’s an architect. “We feel we have direct connection to the water. In Finland the authorities would tell you to put a fence there”, he says sarcastically. “Yes, at least 170 cm high”, Heikki agrees. He’s also an architect.  “To make sure no one ever falls into the water”, he says. “If someone would kill themself by falling into the water, in Finland the architect would be taken to court.”

We conclude the day’s official programme at the Royal Theatre in Nyhavn. It’s amazing. As we sip our drinks, there’s a fascinating mix of calmness and anticipation in the room. I know I am in a theatre. It’s clear that we are by the water. You end up staring out of the window for minutes.

Our guide Julie – an architect student herself – explains how Lundgaard-Tranberg wanted to make a foyer where you feel like you’re sitting outside. That’s why the bricks are the same inside and outside, why the windows of the facade continue all the way to the top, why the metal structures in the windows carry no weight and can therefore be so thin, why the building is made of bricks as it connects to the history of the area and why the lighting is so dim so that you can see out in the dark.

I am starting to understand what defines a good architect.  I admire these people. They have the craft to turn our sentiments into solutions.

I think back to a situation the other day with Lin – an architect. I was telling her how we have been teaching architecture students ways to do meaningful interview. “And how is that”, she asks.

“It’s pretty simple”, I say. “You let people tell about things they feel competent in, you let them be themselves, you ask open-ended questions, you give them enough time to answer, you interview people only when you need the answers, you explain why they exactly are needed. In the end you conclude the findings, analyse societal developments and this all to social theory and systems.”

Thinking back, it’s very similar and very different than what architects do. When architects translate sentiments, wishes and problems into solutions, we social scientists translate individual to general and we see culture in the action of the individual.

Maybe we should hook up more often.