Interview of Architect JuhaniPallasmaa
Please explain your design approach that has an insatiable sense of inquiry and sense of introspection.
I have never regarded architecture as my profession. It has been a window through which I look at the world. Such an attitude immediately puts you in a different position in relation to your work. Architecture has always been my way of getting to know the world, myself, and other people. It has also served my sense of curiosity more than anything else.
I guess early intellectual and emotional experiences are important and I was very fortunate to work at the Museum of Finnish Architecture ever since I was a second-year student. The best architects in my country used to meet there and most of them were a generation or two older than I was, but they always accepted me as an interlocutor. I would listen to the conversations of wise colleagues early on. In Finland in those days, there were no large offices at all (Alvar Aalto had perhaps twenty people at that time at most), and so I felt that all of these architects had an existential and philosophical orientation in relation to their work rather than a professionalist [sic] one.
I have grown in a situation where architecture is fully integrated with the architect’s life. As a consequence, I have never seen any difference between work and life, or work and vacation. They are all the same continuum of life for me. And, at the age of seventy-five, I still feel that I am an amateur, a beginner.
Are you always mindful of balancing act of creating, yet equally engaged in listening?
When I was young—and I would believe this is part of anybody being young—I was impatient and wanted to intellectually control everything. You tend to dictate rather than listen. But, you learn to listen by age. There is a working rhythm, phases when you have to push and phases when you just observe, trying to see what has happened. In an authentic creative process, the work achieves a certain autonomy rather early on in the process. After that, design becomes a dialogue between you and your work, rather than the work simply recording your conscious ideas. The method is part of your way of being. I don’t believe authentic design can be a very determined, intellectual, or theoretical thing. Design is engaged in too many uncertainties and existential issues to be entirely intellectually controlled.
How do you mediate the tension between the personal experience and shaping a universal message through your work?
I cannot separate them in any fundamental sense. Ludwig Lichtenstein writes, “I am my world.” If you think that way, you can’t separate things. And I don’t believe all things need to be separated. I think today there’s too much of that categorization as an intellectual game. For instance, one’s sense of existence absolutely calls for the simultaneous acknowledgment of self and the world, doesn’t it? There is no existence unless the two dimensions fuse into one.
Source: National Building Museum