afterFORM - Bessire Winter

afterFORM - Bessire Winter

July 2023

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...

Céline Bessire and Matthias Winter, you are both graduates of ETH Zurich and founded Bessire Winter in 2019. How would you describe your practice in a few words?

Although our profession is situated within the domestic, we refuse to operate in the safe space. To critically engage with today’s realities it is essential to blur our line of work, to transgress disciplinary boundaries and to think transversally by crossing different fields of knowledge. Taking a stance from multiple grounds allows us to rethink our profession and to subvert the paradigm of the architectural project by shifting its perspectives from the singular work to the situated network, from the object to the in-between, from iconography to sheer invisibility, from surface to ground, from real estate to different states of being, from built density to occurring intensities, from building to choreographing, from plan(ning) to map(ping), from moving matter to accumulating meaning, from tabula rasa to the possible beginning of something that was already there.

Bessire Winter talk programmed by the Architecture Foundation in partnership with Barbican Centre

You offer projects loaded with positivity as a way to remain optimistic about the world. What tip would you give to young practitioners in the early stages of their career?

Architecture should not be about designing dead-end objects but rather about establishing and maintaining complex systems (architecting) – architecture should be about how to navigate within a situation, about encounters of all kinds, also about how to make things apparent which were hidden, about intensifying complexity and experience that doesn’t necessarily involve building something…

To do that we have to work and think transversally (multi-layered, multi-scaled) in order to bring things together,to pierce different fields of knowledge and to create relationships. Most importantly we have to come up with positive alternatives - one of our tasks is to recognize change as something positive. The optimism and enthusiasm of our discipline could help to show potentials of an otherwise difficult and desperate time (showing the potential of letting things go, live on fewer m2,etc.).

The question today is not: What should we do in order to sustain our lifestyle and comfort? But rather: How can we re-define our idea or concept of ‘the good life’? As architects we have to produce some sort of evidence that this is desirable.

Matthias Bessire and Céline Winter in conversation with Nicholas Lobo-Brennan (APPARATA studio)