During the month of June, the Architecture on Stage programme curated by the Architecture Foundation in partnership with Barbican Centre welcomed five emerging Swiss practices, whose lectures were presented as a series called afterFORM. Each of the practices, 8000 agency, Bessire Winter, Schneider Türtscher, Truwant+Rodet+ and Parity Group is representative of a growing tendency in Swiss architecture to embrace topics including the reuse of existing fabric, urban policy and civil action.
The design of new buildings is much less central to the work of these firms than was the case with Swiss architects of the preceding generations, reflecting a change in political priorities around the climate and biodiversity crises. Each of the talks concluded in a conversation chaired by a British architect with the aim of finding common ground between the situations young practices are facing in both countries.
The series has been delivered in partnership with the architecture department of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, where the visitors can now enjoy a free exhibition staged in the RA’s McAulay Gallery and profiling the work of 8000.Agency, Bessire Winter, Schneider Türtscher and Truwant+Rodet+ and Parity Group.
"Drawing New Lines - Voices in Swiss Architecture" is on diplay until the 19th of November 2023. To have a better insight of the practices' work we have asked them a few questions...
8000.Agency is the name you chose to define the practice behind Oliver Burch, Jakob Junghanss and Lukas Ryfel. Can you tell us more about this choice?
Agency was chosen because of its twofold meaning. On the one hand, the meaning of an organizational entity, and on the other the ability to take action and to have an impact. So, the term agency framed our concern to get active and referred to us as a collaborative entity. And the explanation for the 8000 is quite simple: it's the postal code of Zurich, a hint towards the place of action and where we started.
You studied at ETH Zurich with Tom Emerson and currently teach as part of the professorship of Jan de Vylder. Can you see shifts in focus between your teachers, your year and current students? Where would you say architecture practice is heading towards?
Both students and teachers seem to be making a shift in attitude — towards an architecture that is less about the totality of the project, but rather about including all forces and materials that are available to us and working with them in an open way. This change in attitude will hopefully result in a new culture of architecture practice that is less biased and more polyvalent.
Potential realities, surprises and observations feel recurrent in your work. Does instinct lead your practice?
Rather than instinct we would say it is about intuition. If we observe our world closely and with care, we sometimes find clues that we need to follow and sometimes we'll end up somewhere very exciting that we had not expected to end up.
In your graduation project Wydäckerring, time and commitment unravel a poetic relationship with the site and its inhabitants. Can architecture be art?
We believe that a close relationship to a place and an unbiased observation and interaction with its reality can unrave lmoments of great beauty that otherwise would be hidden in the cloudiness of the everyday. These moments can be used in any discipline that tries to make some sense of the world, be it art or architecture or anything else.
You are part of ZAS collective and discuss current issues in Zurich's urban planning,such as the confrontation with the existing. What tip would you give to young practitioners wanting to rally for a cause?
Collaborate and trust in each other. If you have a good idea about taking action, don’t be too doubtful about it — you won’t ever solve everything at once.