I recently interviewed architectural theorist, critic and writer Charles Jencks for a book review I wrote for the Irish Times. Here is the full transcript of the interview.
Published in the Irish Times
In 1947, as the machines that made war, were put to work rebuilding the world they had destroyed, the architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe declared that the maxim for this new age of ‘progress’ would be: “less is more”. God — if he still existed in the shadow of Auschwitz — was to be found in the stark, minimal details of steel, glass and white concrete boxes. The hero of this new age would be the architect; his gospel, an architecture, that, irrespective of context, from Deli to Dublin, would be a new ’international style’ — concrete promises in an age of optimism and progress.
The Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast is a very popular tourist attraction. Between 2012 - 2015 it attracted 1.9 million visitors — that's more than the population of Northern Ireland. As a piece of architecture it raises all sorts of question; I'll maybe write a separate piece on those. But, I do find the whole concept a little strange. One the one hand, a kind of expensive shiny Disneyland for disaster. On the other, it tells an important story from Belfast's history.
Last year, on a winters morning in Copenhagen, as the ‘clockwork’ city was beginning another day I walked though the quiet streets of Island Brygge. Snow was being to fall, the temperature below freezing, and out of a small hut on the banks of the canal came two elderly men dressed in swimming trunks, swim hats and goggles. Walking down a ramp towards the canal they both dived in an began to swim. I watched them for about fifteen minutes, doing lengths of the Harbour Bath, a small enclosed area of the canal. They got out, walked back up the ramp, into the changing rooms, emerging ten minutes later dressed in suits, presumably heading to work.
The work of Philosopher Gilles Deleuze and Psychoanalyst Felix Guattari is complex. I’ve been reading them for years and feel that I am still only beginning to scratch the surface of their ideas. But the more I have engaged with their work, the more I have become convinced of the importance of their work for urban theory and architecture.
I recently interviewed Dr Hélène Frichot for an article I am writing. Hélène is an Associate Professor and Docent in the School of Architecture, KTH Stockholm. She is the director of Critical Studies in Architecture, and the Director of Research Studies in the School of Architecture, KTH. Along with Catharina Gabrielsson and Jonathan Metzger she edited the book Deleuze and the City.
The future success of the urban environment of Belfast city centre depends on how successfully the city navigates the next few years. The city is entering a crucial phase — the fourth of three critical phases in its planning history. There have of course been many crucial phases in Belfast’s planning history; to reduce them four would risk reductionism. Nevertheless these phase have had an unusually significant impact on the city and warrant being mentioned.
Our studio is in a converted mill just of the Falls road in Belfast and we really like the space. We worked out of this mill before, and knew the quality of spaces that were in here, and we wanted a space that was filled with light . It’s about ten minutes walk into town so its a great location. You know, there’s such limited quality space in the city, so much horrible spec office stuff, which would just be horrible to sit in day in and day out…and the location is in a part of the city that we want to engage in, the inner city and the issues that are associated with the inner city.
We are working in Belfast by choice. Most of our fiends are not, they’ve heading off, during the recession, and theres a reason for that but we are optimistic by nature, we feel that Belfast’s time would come soon, we thought it would come five or six years ago maybe ten years ago, it still hasn't really came the way we see it, but we still have faith that something positive will happen here, and we want to be involved with that and want to be part of it. This is where we live, its where we are raising families, this is our home.