Crystal Talk
Text: Axel SimonPhotos: Hertha Hurnhaus, Mageritha Spiluttini


Interview delugan

In your projects the portrayal of speed plays an important role. Where does this wish for dynamism come from?

Roman Delugan: In our studio we generally like things to be “dynamic”. In our projects and our work we try to integrate the future – and that implies motion. This most certainly plays a major role in our architecture, but it is not the only design parameter. Only in combination with a static, latent space can dynamism really express itself. This duality is important to us. Take the concert hall in Erl, for example: From the outside it’s a dynamically conceived volume of two intertwining edifices. Stepping over the threshold, going inside is laden with excitement; in the auditorium itself one encounters calm and concentration for the performances – quality architecture also has to achieve that. We don’t have a trademark: Delugan Meissl = dynamic.

Dietmar Feistel: One important aspect is certainly the appearance of our buildings. Dynamism, however, should not be limited to something purely formal. Our welfare housing projects are not stacked uniform boxes, designing dynamism is far more a general stance against rigid systems.

On your website you mention architects that for various reasons you hold in high esteem. Out of nine seven come from the Anglo-Saxon world, in other words almost all of them have a different tradition from yourselves.

Elke Delugan-Meissl: We hold their work in high esteem, but don’t make it our own. John Lautner, Oscar Niemeyer … are a source of inspiration. Quite apart from that our work is full of a wide variety of forces – sequences and snapshots from totally different contexts – including emotions.

Roman Delugan: For me operating within a restricted sector is not that exciting. There are several, frequently even chaotic influences that you can’t exactly pinpoint. It gores without saying that vehicles, landscapes, and other images influence design work. Viewing work as an open system without showing allegiance to a particular school or group is the approach we take.

Elke Delugan-Meissl: We don’t pursue trends; more, as you already stated, a claim to permit all possibilities.

So you’re not interested in what already exists but what is still to come?

Elke Delugan-Meissl: We’re of course not in a position to have all-embracing knowledge of what is in store and use our concepts to try, with regard for example to apartment construction, to respond to current and changing ways of life.

In other words you don’t go in search of shapes that consciously that point the way away from the here and now?

Elke Delugan-Meissl: Our goal is to come up with shapes and living spaces that will hold their own in the future. Modern versus fashionable.

Christopher Schweiger: I think that when we are talking shape what we are striving for is a strong, timeless statement. With regard to the future it’s to do with the functional – given the extreme speed of developments, what are going to be facing in, say, two years? Where is society going? Future ways of living, the future museum: it’s enticing, it’s a challenge. In formal terms there is if anything independence, timelessness.

Are there such things as timeless shapes? Or does the attempt to remove buildings from time and conventions not produce shapes that are domiciled somewhere between futurism and retro, as, for example, in the case of Oscar Niemeyer?

Dietmar Feistel: You just mentioned conventions – that is precisely the right term! An unconventional shape is not per se the same as a futuristic shape.

Elke Delugan-Meissl: Let’s not just talk about shapes, but rather about contents. What are the goals we are striving for? Atmosphere, rooms that offer a specific experience, that are conceived to suit their users but are also fit for use in the future. The priority in terms of design is not to conceive volumes that are as dynamic and folded as possible. The design process is subject to intensive exploration of the contents. The formal language is a result of these considerations.

You talk about experimentation, that your approach to every assignment is new. Nonetheless in terms of shape your projects are closely related to one another. Is that not a contradiction?

Roman Delugan: Recognizability is not all there is to our work, but is certainly an element. It’s not as if we change on a daily basis. Nonetheless if you look closely the projects are different, they respond to the concrete demands whilst at the same time maintaining a common language.

Martin Josst: Within this language there has been a major transformation over the course of the studio’s 15 years. I don’t know what form the projects are going to take in the next five years. Perhaps a certain similarity will be detectable again in this period of time, but there is a development, a process taking place. The major priority is to come up with a concrete solution for a concrete assignment and not adhere to a formal superstructure.

There are studios where every project looks different. And there are also studios – and I would say you come unto this category – where there is a strong linking thread, in your case even between the various benchmarks. A door handle is similar to a door, is similar to a residential building …

Dietmar Feistel: Whether we are talking residential building, Porsche, or Film Museum – the focus was always on the idea of experimentation. The shape that ultimately emerged is the result of these considerations. The experiment did not involve producing shapes that didn’t previously exist. The experiment is the idea for the building itself, the contents.

Delugan Meissl has now been in existence for 15 years. Four years ago an additional three partners joined the existing two. What did that mean for the studio?

Elke Delugan-Meissl: We can bundle our forces better, are able to operate on a broader base. We have been working with the three partners for a lot longer. The contents of our work have not changed.

The range of the contracts you land is extremely wide: From as basic as it gets, welfare housing, to the exclusive museum for Porsche. Where does your heart lie?

Elke Delugan-Meissl: We’re not fixated on any one topic or line, aim to keep the spectrum as open as possible and derive the same pleasure out of product design as the design of a museum. There is still any number of aspects of architecture that we are interested in and which we would like to address in the future.

Dietmar Feistel: Both have their charm: Re-thinking things one has already done, and coming up against a totally new subject matter. It wasn’t without reason that we became architects, because that is precisely how we see the world: with as broad a view as possible.

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