Interview with Architect Henrik Valeur
What inspired you to be an architect and then an urbanist in dealing cities?
You can rebel against your background but you can’t escape it. I guess that’s my experience. I decided to become an architect because it represented something different from art and fashion but due to my upbringing I probably have a more creative and artistic than say technical or scientific approach to architecture though I was exposed to that side of the profession too as my grandfathers were both civil engineers. I grew up in a small village in the countryside and, in reaction to that, I was always fascinated by big cities and have enjoyed living in a number of big cities around the world. But lately I’ve become more appreciative of the “slow” life of the village and the close relation to nature.
Having gained recognition around the globe as an Urbanist, could you rewind a bit and narrate a short story of your design career?
When people talk about a career they often imagine someone climbing a ladder, whether that ladder symbolizes status, money or whatever. However, some careers, including my own, are probably better visualized by someone dancing in a room. You move a bit in one direction, then a bit in another. There are ups and downs and at the end you realize you’re more or less in the same place where you started. As a student of architecture I went to Barcelona, found a place to live in the historic part of the city and began studying with Enric Miralles who was known for an artistic and personal style, like his predecessor Antoni Gaudi. But I was also fascinated by the modern city and went to Rotterdam, a city that had been completely erased during the Second World War, to work for Rem Koolhaas who is known for an analytic and eclectic style. I started out on my own making competitions and nearly won one for a new university in Copenhagen, a multi-thousand crore rupees project, and worked on some relatively large urban development projects, but I also made small artistic projects, including a sound installation in a phone booth, and digital projects, including an interactive 3D planning model.
In India, the public has begun to realize the effects of pollution in the cities due to high congestion of traffic and lack of public transport facilities. How would you encourage them?
Actually, pollution is only one out of several problems related to transportation in cities and the car is far from the only polluter. Public means of transportation like buses and trains may pollute just as much. And pollution itself comes in different forms such as air pollution, which can have both local, regional and global effects, and noise pollution, which can have adverse health effects. I wrote a paper about these problems, which also include accidents, stress and physical inactivity, and even though I was aware of many of the problems beforehand I was shocked to see them all together. So I wish the good people of Gurgaon all the best of luck with car-free days but I’m afraid that might not be enough. I think you have to make parts of the city car-free on a more permanent basis – at least for an extended period of time – in order to test alternative means of transportation and to prove the benefits of not having cars in the city. And those benefits are not only environmental and human health related but also social, as cars are taken up the space that could be used for social interaction and by everyone. Last year I conducted a couple of workshops in Gurgaon with students from IIT Roorkee and Sushant School of Art and Architecture. Gurgaon is a new city but it is also a new kind of city in that public space, understood as meeting places that are accessible to all citizens, seems to be completely absent.
Source: Zingy Homes