Farshid Mussavi took part in the "Days of Knauf" forum in Krasnogorsk on April 3-4 and answered the questions of Archi.ru.
Archi.ru: What do you think is architecture?
F. M.: Let's start with the fact that buildings are physical bodies, they have mass and volume, they are “actually present”. And their presence leaves an imprint on how we perceive the space around us, including the urban space. Since architects are an important part of the equation that defines this presence, I think they are responsible for the consequences of the decisions they make.
I am very skeptical about the assertion that we architects "create images", because in this case people who live and work in the resulting buildings are discounted. This turns architecture into a kind of totalitarian practice, where architects impose their subjective tastes on people. I am much more interested in the idea of the space that arises between people and buildings as a result of their actual coexistence in one place and time.
We should think about the consequences of our actions in advance and try to understand where they might lead us. Otherwise, we will again and again have to face the problem when we are forced to forcibly form a certain consensus in society about what we, in fact, create. Our society is becoming more and more complex, we all have different biographies, political views and social origins. Like politicians or any other public people, architects strive to express themselves as precisely as possible, but still cannot expect that everyone will agree with them and equally understand them. With architecture itself, the situation is exactly the same. Buildings are, in a sense, written or, I would say, indirect speech. They express ideas. Of course, a writer can think about the consequences of his book, but he cannot foresee all the options, otherwise we would not have so many controversial or just bad writers.
Archi.ru: If we consider an architect by analogy with a public person, then who should be considered his “target audience”, the public? Is it the whole society or some separate groups of people?
F. M.: By public, I mean the townspeople. On the one hand, any architect wants to maintain independent thinking and be completely independent. On the other hand, we must create ideas that will help people find common ground. Since we have decided to live together in cities and villages, albeit separated by walls of apartments and houses, we need to find a common language that will allow each of us to maintain individuality. It's like going to the movies: everyone is watching the same movie, but it evokes its own range of emotions for everyone. It's the same with architecture.
Archi.ru: How do you feel about the current topic of "green" architecture?
F. M.: Not that I constantly think about it, but it is impossible to close our eyes to the problem of environmental “sustainability”. This is a question of exceptional importance, but it annoys me that nowadays it has become fashionable to talk about it in order to show: look, they say, what a responsible architect I am. Yes, the architect is responsible for a lot, because we influence many aspects of a person's life: his social and economic life, behavior, way of thinking. But now I have a feeling that for many, architecture comes down to just one problem of global warming and the rational use of natural resources.
Archi.ru: Can architects control such things?
F. M.: Of course! Let's take the same choice of materials when designing. Of course, you cannot completely control the process of their production, but the choice of materials is yours. Or let's take multifunctional buildings: they initially seemed like a great idea, if only because they allow people of different origins and wealth to be united under one roof, which prevents social segregation. All of this is still true, but mixed use has many other advantages that are not so obvious. For example, in such houses, people can live and work in almost the same place, which means there is no need for a long drive to and from work. This allows you to significantly relieve the urban transport system and save fuel. You can also build metro stations so close to residential buildings that it is obviously more convenient to use it than a car. All this is included in the spectrum of urban planning tasks. Neither the politician, the masterplanner, nor the architect is directly involved in energy issues, but if they are forward-thinking, their decisions will help conserve resources. So, in my opinion, it is in the field of design that architects can help the cause of the rational use of natural resources.
Of course, there was a time when architects did not have the opportunity to implement projects around the world, as now, and resource consumption in those days was much more modest. Back then, architecture itself was more sustainable. And today society has many new tools and opportunities, which, however, have a negative impact on the planet and create a lot of problems. We must deal with them, but not individually, but in a comprehensive manner, in close connection with the various influences that architecture has on our lives.
Archi.ru: The main message of your books is simple enough: space and architecture matter, they affect us in many ways that we often don't even know about. What advice would you give to those who are under the pressure of "heavy" architecture? Treat her with irony?
F. M.: Generally speaking, I think that a person can adapt to any space, treating it with irony or just looking at things positively. If we look at old cities with historical buildings, such as London or Paris, we can see how people perfectly adapt Georgian and Victorian buildings to themselves.
In general, I believe that architecture is by its nature a flexible thing, unless you deliberately make it so rigid and immovable that it will be impossible to change it.