Go Hasegawa: Conversations with European Architects, Tokyo, 2015.

By Laurent Stalder and Tobias Erb
Translated from the German by Jill Denton, Berlin
Translated from the English to Japanese by Harunobu Makio (Fraze Craze Inc.)

Hans Ulrich Obrist (ed.): Olafur Eliasson.
The Conversations Series No. 13,
Walther Konig, 2008
Were one to describe the history of architecture since Modernism in terms of its various textual formats then the manifesto would sum up the 1920s, thesis-type journal articles the 1950s and 60s, elaborate theoretical papers or books the 1970s and 80s and, without any doubt, the interview the present day. Exemplary for the latter are Hans-Ulrich Obrist's Conversation Series, a breathless, global inquiry into diverse contemporary positions at the interface of architecture and art, and the AA Files Conversations, meticulously researched interviews with protagonists of post-war architecture which constitute an essential contribution to the history of the period; or, were one to concentrate rather on national movements, the Project Japan: Metabolism Talks published by Rem Koolhaas and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, a lively introduction for Western audiences to the theses of the Metabolists, and the compilation Architectural Dialogues: Positions - Concepts - Visions, edited by Marc Angélil and Jørg Himmelreich, which explores Swiss architecture of the last forty years through concise conversations. Numerous interviews with more or less important architects in journals and books, increasingly also in online blogs and videos, could extend this list indefinitely.

Thomas Weaver (ed.): 
AA Files Conversations,
Architectural Association, 2013.
Therefore, before reviewing a compilation of interviews, such as Go Hasegawa's Conversations with European Architects, some remarks must be made on the genre. That which primarily distinguishes the interview is a new immediacy, namely the opportunity to make accessible to the general public, in a direct or even at times raw manner, not only architectural positions with an aura of intimacy but also the personality and thought processes behind them. Interviews are, moreover, distinct from other genres in architectural historiography inasmuch as they firmly belong in the category of source material and only to a lesser degree in that of critical or historical interpretation. This implies a decisive shift away from earlier text forms, in two respects: the first concerns the role of the critic or historian, the second the relationship between the architect and his or her work. The role of the critic or historian is no longer simply to interpret an architectural artefact but rather to document, albeit critically, an architectural position; it also necessarily implies a shift in focus, from the work of the architect to the architect him- or herself. In consequence, the author-editor assumes a new role. In the case of an interview, he is no longer the one to authorise the text - the interviewees alone can do this - but, rather, the one to edit it. His position is reflected, therefore, not so much in the statements made - even though authorship of the questions asked does remain his - as in the choice of the framework for the interview.

Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist,
Kayoko Ota, James Westcott (eds.):
Project Japan. Metabolism Talks,
Taschen, 2011.
This considerably increases the complexity of reviewing any volume of interviews. It is no longer enough to discuss merely the content of the interviews therein - most of the interviewees in the present compilation, for instance, have already spoken in great detail about their work in other contexts - since the spotlight now must be turned instead on the agenda that underpins it: the choice of interviewee, the structure of the publication, the set of questions and, above all, the position of the interviewer himself. For what count's on today's globalised and intensely mediatised architectural market is no longer only the quality of various architectures - which are now conveyed almost exclusively through images - but rather the sole legitimation through networks that represent, disseminate and impose their own interests. And, admittedly, anyone who assumes the critic's tasks and writes a review on a particular network - as we are doing now - inevitably becomes a part of it him- or herself. Yet in the present case, given that Go Hasegawa is one of the most thoughtful architects among the younger generation in Japan, fear of such assimilation can be swiftly dismissed with an easy conscience.

Marc Angélil, Jørg Himmelreich (eds.):
Architecture Dialogues,
Braun, 2011
Conversations with European Architects compiles interviews conducted by Go Hasegawa during his time as Guest Professor at the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio, in the academic year 2013/ 2014, with six European architectural offices: those of Alvaro Siza, Valerio Olgiati, Peter Märkli, Anne Lacaton + Philippe Vassal, Pascal Flammer and Kersten Geers + David van Severen. It contains a brief preface to the interviews titled "neverending history" then each section opens with a photo of the respective interviewee(s) with their interviewer. It concludes with a short "after the conversation" commentary, and is illustrated by plans and photographs of a selection of the relevant projects. Hasegawa states in his preface that the aim of the volume - given the "hazy future" facing the avant-garde in Japan and the reluctance in contemporary Japanese architecture to look to history - is to foster understanding of the foundations on which European architects build their work. How the role of history is negotiated in contemporary architecture is its primary focus and Hasegawa endeavours to demonstrate this by reference to various European positions on it.

Laurent Stalder and Kazunari Sakamoto were invited to the final critique of Go Hasegawa studio in the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, 2013. Photo by Takahiko Higuchi.

In Europe, where Japanese architecture came to be admired for its historical continuity at the latest in the Modern era - be this in the early work of Kenzo Tange, the projects of Kazuo Shinohara or, more recently, the innovative research of Atelier Bow Wow - this premise may well seem astonishing. Therein lies perhaps the sole criticism that we might make of this publication. Hasegawa's premise could easily be turned around and in consequence, from that perspective, the historical interest that Hasegewa claims to recognise in the work of his European colleagues would be proof not so much of an historical consciousness in Europe but rather of a late reaction to the dismissal of history in modernist discourse in Europe.

The heterogeneous selection of interviewee-architects gives cause for surprise, at first glance, for they are of three different generations, have accordingly diverse professional track records and hail from four different countries (three among them from Switzerland). Had Hasegawa not stated his basic aim in the preface, namely his wish to do nothing less than fathom the very foundations of contemporary architecture, then suspicions that this volume is the outcome of discussions conducted within an established network 'among friends' might well have been aroused, all the more so given that the author-editor tautologically justifies his selection by simply stating that it is his own. Also, the supposedly, obligatory premise - to approach history as the basis of architectural practice - reveals itself to be extremely broad ranging in scope. With Siza, it becomes a debate on the themes of Modernist architecture, with Oligati, the search for a non-referential, original architecture, with Märkli, a debate about the overall idea of "Western culture", with Lacaton + Vassal, the superimposition of various contexts and temporal horizons, with Flammer, the concept of "cannibalism" when dealing with references, and with Kersten Geers + David van Severen, aspirations to make something classically universal of one's own position. Yet it is precisely the gulf that opens between the answers that binds these conversations together and foregrounds the common interrogation behind each individual's personal standpoint: that old chestnut, "Where do we stand?" as pursued since the earliest days of Modernism, inter alia by Hermann Muthesius and Marcel Breuer.

This question, which has been voiced with increasing desperation since post-Modernism spelled the end of the grand Modern narrative, is the red thread in this publication, linking together the various interviews. Alvaro Siza examines fundamental issues such as the role both of the Modern and the new in contemporary architecture, or the relationship between architecture and politics respectively between architecture and nature. Valerio Olgiati grounds his architecture beyond signs, in a rational theory of design derived form the basic notions of space, structure and materiality and inspired by his reading of Mayan architecture. Peter Märkli, by contrast, sees himself as a builder and the European culture of architecture as the contextual framework for his architectural practice. Anne Lacaton + Philippe Vassal consider the prerequisite of their practice to be economy in the best sense of the term, i.e. a sound handling of the resources of architecture and their spatial potential. And while Kersten Geers + David van Severen legitimate their work through its coherence Pascal Flammer derives his architecture from his own biographical and phenomenological experience.

As diverse as the interviewee-architects' responses to this inquiry into their respective positions may be, the compiled conversations brings to light a shared understanding of both architecture as an autonomous discipline and the importance of defining its tools. Yet, despite such consensus, two contradictory positions can be distinguished: the demand for a narrative able to encompass one's complete oeuvre, such as Siza, Olgiati, Märkli, and Lacaton + Vassal touch upon in their respective interviews, is countered by the, in the best sense post-Modern attitude of the younger architects who are distrustful of any such narrative and demand instead an always fresh appraisal or legitimation of each individual project.

There is no better text format than the interview to epitomise this latter position. In contrast to the dogmatism of the manifesto, the definitive argument of an article or the critical dimension of theory, a compilation of interviews allows situative and subjective circumstance in flux to be recurrently reappraised and allegedly, fool-proof positions to be challenged time after time. This architectural attitude not only opens new perspectives, however, but also simultaneously holds a hidden menace, namely that the immediacy and subjectivism of a discussion may cause healthy individualism to flip unthinkingly into arbitrariness. Yet Go Hasegawa steered well clear of such danger in Conversations with European Architects and indeed found the perfect format in which to pursue his inquiry into the foundations of architecture. Moreover, the compilation of interviews not only allows us readers to study a choice range of positions in contemporary European architecture but also constitutes an excellent introduction to the thought and creative practice of Go Hasegawa himself.

Laurent Stalder (b. 1970, Lausanne) is professor for the history and theory of architecture at the Department of Architecture at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH). The main focus of his research and publications is the history and theory of architecture from the 19th to the 21st centuries where it intersects with the history of technology. His most recent publications include Hermann Muthesius: Das Landhaus als kulturgeschichtlicher Entwurf (2008), Valerio Olgiati (2008), Der Schwellenatlas (2009), God & Co. François Dallegret: Beyond the Bubble (2011), and Atelier Bow-Wow. A Primer (2013).

Tobias Erb (b. 1985, Bern) is an architect graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). There he is currently a research assistant at the chair of Laurent Stalder at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture. His research focuses on the intersection of architecture and engineering and examines the correlation between scientific and technological developments and architectural thought.


特集 長谷川豪『カンバセーションズ』