Peter fattinger, interview

The exhibition INSIDERS, is an investigation, that try to shows and deals about the new alternatives way of practicing architecture. How the discipline call herself into question, how architecture put herself at the service, how does she invent new territories, new accounts, new fictions, weave social links. I had the feeling that architecture borrow or return to many popular knowledge for renewing itself…. Your feeling about that ?

PETER FATTINGER: Especially in practicing architecture, which really has such a momentous impact on so many fields of daily life, it is important to leave the narrow normative tracks and search for alternative ways. There is a big potential of exploring and inventing alternative processes already in the course of the academic architectural education. You can gain so much knowledge just by doing things yourself. This personal hands on involvement in project execution triggers a process where ideas are not just implemented, but further inspired. Therefore bricolage can be a perfect source for new ideas.

You are architect, you are teacher, and you make the choice to teach in building with students. In that way it define one of the new alternative frame of practicing architecture…How do you define, explain your own practice? How does it start for you ? Which feeling had make the decision to go further in that way ? And the assessment by report to that ?

P.F: Since 2000 I am running a design-build studio at Vienna University of Technology. Together with my students, we are designing and building architecture in collective teamwork, with an intense hands-on approach, through all project-stages, with all the related responsibilities and consequences: from drawing the initial sketch to carrying out the entire construction works and finally even organizing the opening-ceremony. By closing a process-circle of thought and action, we very directly and personally come to a built result. The students get the big picture of what producing architecture means and finally, when the building is in use, they get directly aware of what their ideas have brought about. At the same time and in the same team we are acting as initiators-researchers-designers-fundraisers-builders and sometimes even operators of an architecture in public interest. Our projects range from temporary, useable and inhabitable installations for the urban public space in European cities to permanent buildings for social institutions, like kindergartens, care centres and orphanages in South African townships and Indonesian disaster areas. The students leave the classroom to get confronted with real tasks and real conditions. Especially with the extra-european projects, the construction sites – far away from the environment the students are used to, not only in geographical, but also in social terms – become their places of work and learning for several weeks. Cooperative work for and with the local population fosters both a mutual cultural exchange and an awareness of what architecture truly means for the majority of the world’s population.

Some people speaks about a fashion attitude, an avatar or misadventure of postmodernism ? Does it have to be prolonged, to be transmitted, to be developed in the next couple of years and how ?
P.F: Within the last 10 years we gained a lot of experience in doing design-build projects with our students, starting with small projects and continuously raising the complexity and dimensions of the building tasks year by year.
In 2003 we did a pilot-project in the South African township Orange Farm, designing and building a day-centre and workshop for disabled people. As the project worked out great we continued with another two buildings in the following years, a home for disabled and a kindergarten. In the meantime eight schools of architecture from Austria and Germany followed the idea to do building projects in South African townships and joined together in a busy network, called Sarch.
So of course there is a kind of trend at schools of architecture to offer these alternative paths of architectural education and experience. Actually I do not see this as a fashion attitude, but as a long-term chance to reconsider architectural education and the making of architecture as a complete process, where students can interfere very directly and have to take over responsibility for their thoughts and actions.
Consequently we will continue with these projects in the next years and are looking forward to new challenging building tasks.

Interview with Eric Troussicot, August 2009