Fredrik von Platen is a former Director General for Boverket, the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning. He is also on the steering committee for WOOD 2010. Virserum Art Museum caught up with him to ask him a few questions and to get his reflections on the Architecture of Necessity.
What does the Architecture of Necessity mean to you as an architect and a community planner?
Our picture of the city or the dense urban area is shaped to large degree by its topography, buildings and the human enterprises that are carried out in and around those buildings. The Architecture of Necessity places demands on those of us who are responsible for planning. It asks that we think and try to find the soul of a place or the genes of a location and subsequently break its genetic code. We can do this by making use of existing physical and imaginary structures in a city, by reducing the length of transport journey and by increasing the proximity of human contacts. The aim is to build upon pre-existing resources and investments with the city boundary, as well as to avoid counterproductive social structures.
What is the biggest challenge faced by the Architecture of Necessity?
The biggest shortfall within community planing is the application of knowledge by those responsible for shaping and administering communities. All actors in the community planning and built environment sector, not least the architects, should be able to provide well-informed and capable support to developers and politicians on a variety of different issues. These issues can relate to the environment, economics and technology but also to social and behavioural science.
The building of a house or a community is not the responsibility of a single person but a teamwork, and more of a process than a project. It is great if the architect can play a leading roll based on knowledge, but it will require a significant expansion of the horizon of the average Swedish architect.
The Architecture of Necessity to me entails that we take an even greater step towards industrialised construction and gain a better understanding of the processes from the already industrialised sectors of commerce. Lean construction economises with human resources and offer prudent, smart solutions whilst reducing wastage.
Are there to be found, either in Sweden or elsewhere, examples of what could be labelled Architecture of Necessity?
The Architecture of Necessity is neither glamorous nor flashy, but can perhaps be spectacular in that it can lead to unexpected results and solutions that are devoid of paint-by-numbers thinking.
A good examples for me is the reuse of buildings for new purposes, where an existing building is reused for purposes that do not conflict with its properties, But the purpose should fit into its surroundings. Good illustrations of this are military complexes that are turned into colleges, disused airforce flotillas with airfields that become logistic centres, boiler-houses with big glass surfaces that become art spaces.
Disused municipal locations that are turned into housing and enterprise areas (for example the housing locations B093, H99 or BO01) are Swedish examples of how you can reclaim the city within its own boundaries.
A good example that I am aware of is a development project in Botswana, that further builds on knowledge of construction and habitation traditions that embrace sustainable social structures in the community and the family and combine it with tested, solid technology, borrowed from industrialised nations, that economises with finite resources and avoids deforestation.
There are already examples of projects that integrate economics and ecology based on life-cycle analysis. But it is a question of separating the wheat from the chaff. It requires the assumption that the investments do add up, and that the environmental efforts are sustainable in the long term and not merely ecological camouflage. Projects of this nature have the advantage that lesson are learned, as long as the experiences are taken to heart and provide the framework for the next process.