Max Dudler: We see construction as a matter of continuity

14 May 2018

On May 18, as part of the business program of the ARCH Moscow exhibition, we will meet with Max Dudler. The Swiss architect told the Archcouncil Portal about the ways of preserving the cultural heritage by adding new functions.

Max Dudler is the founder and leader of the architectural bureau Max Dudler operating since 1987, which has branches in Zurich, Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin. In the context of a number of architectural projects by Max Dudler, there will be a topical discussion about how attention to history can be combined with the aspirations for the future. The meeting will take place at the Cinema Concert Hall of the Central House of Artists from 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM.

– In Moscow, a fairly successful system has been implemented, in which the city provides a number of benefits to the developer if the latter restores an item of cultural heritage. Did you do things like these in your practice?

– One can do that in Germany, too. In major landmark projects within the so-called town planning contracts, in certain exceptional cases deviations from existing urban plans are allowed, and they are compensated in various ways. We do it all the time. The coordination takes place at the city administration level. It is a very common case, but usually it is a matter of re-functionalizing the area or increasing the density, which will be compensated by vegetation and less often by cultural monuments. Probably because all these measures should be directly related to a particular project, rather than aimed at filling in for the sovereign function of the state.

– What examples of interesting redevelopment projects can you name? Which task is more interesting for you: a new building or renovation? How do the local residents treat the reconstruction of their neighborhoods?

– Construction is always an intervention in the existing structure. To achieve a correlation with the place and its history is our direct task. Some of our colleagues, wishing to attract attention to themselves, destroy the isotropy and build parallel worlds. We reject this approach. We always strive to achieve aesthetic integrity, to create an ensemble of the old and the new. This is what we focus on. The context can be different: whether it is the Hambach Castle, where we work on the cradle of German statehood, or the Europe Alley in Zurich, where we design a new central district. We see construction as a matter of continuity: building something always means “building further”.

– What should we focus on when renovating existing urban areas?

– Architecture and town planning is a single unit. It is dangerous to separate these concepts. Public space should be created in parallel with the design of buildings, otherwise the city becomes ‘asocial’. We know what the historical centers of cities based on: streets, squares, and parks. If you don’t create them, problems arise, as it happens in the suburbs.

– We should not forget about what makes a city a city, its grammar and its vocabulary. A person moves from one space to another, in the exterior as well as in the interior. The whole point is in the transition and in how the functions are tied to one another. In the 1970s, the absurd idea of ​​sorting processes and functions was created: it became trendy to separate housing from work and hospitals from elderly people’s homes. Everything had to exist autonomously. Not only buildings, but whole spaces or better to say “zones”. With the creation of such zones, the disintegration of the city began, its one-dimensional expansion, without any diversity. The high density and diversity of the city help society to exercise self-control. Otherwise, security issues become more pressing. Places, buildings, and, to some extent, people themselves become single-purpose units with a respective attitude towards them.

– What kind of structures will remain relevant and in demand 20 years from now?

– Well, the bishop of Munster told me that the library we had built for him would be relevant even in 400. Architecture must reinforce memories, which is only possible if the building retains its material and aesthetic value for hundreds of years. The functions and engineering systems inside it will, of course, change from time to time.

– In Moscow in recent years, much attention is paid to the revival of libraries, but the main idea is the upgrading and expansion of functional diversity, rather than the construction of new buildings. Do we need new libraries today and in what format?

– Today, only a few buildings can be a representation of society as a whole. Libraries can too. They are a public function in pure form, which is what we love them for. This is not just a place for work and internal concentration, but also a place for meetings and networking. They say that our Grimm Center (the largest free access library) in Berlin works well as a dating hub. The new media only strengthened these transformations, but nothing was changed in principle. Our best accomplishment at making a library a city forum was probably the Swabian Heidenheim.

– What are you working on now?

– We are designing our eighth library. We can say that with this project, we finally found our architectural language.

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