BIG INTERVIEW

Creating Designs that Inspire

An architect who designs every project like his first and believes that he is responsible for every structure that he is involved and should be designed for comfort of the people. His love for steel as a material is clearly reflected in his bridge projects which gives is an epitome of aesthetical appeal.

The Man-of-the-hour DIETMAR FEICHTINGER,
Principal Architect, Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes
is here with us sharing his beautiful journey and some insightful thoughts…
Read on to know more…

How has been your journey from your first venture as an Architect to now?
When you go on a journey you usually have an aim. What was it on my journey into architecture? Creating spaces and life circumstances for people that are comfortable, interesting, forming the scenery of everyday life or special occasions. Considering the social and environmental dimensions. This journey was not well defined. I did not have a clear plan of how to get there so I just got going.

Some very important people in the adventure have joined me, made part of the way together or still are with me. Like on all these adventures there are ups and downs, like winning an important competition for a footbridge in Paris and then waiting for eight years due to political and technical matters to see the project realized. Looking back the way we found seems to be a good one, not too many deviations and we are getting close to achieve our dream to create spaces full of life.

With wide variety of experience in high rise structures, what is your take on high rise buildings in India?
Well, I know there is a big activity on high rise buildings in India. I must admit that I do not actively, as an architect participate in this activity as I did not get an opportunity yet. India is a very, very dynamic place nowadays. I have been there not so long time ago, and I was really fascinated. There is a lot of contrast, though.

Talking about steel structures in high rise buildings, there is often a logic in how you do a building and how you build the reserve and situations that lead you to prefabrication and mounting methods. Especially, in big cities like Mumbai often the situation is quite dense, and I think there steel structures are very much appropriate.

Architecture influences many people’s lives without them even realizing. This is the big responsibility that architects have. We are working on public buildings, school buildings, leisure buildings. Observing people evolving in our realized project the way we imagined gives us the most satisfaction

What is the significant difference you have found while working with Indian and International firms for building steel infrastructure?
I do not make so much the distinction between Indian firms’ as big European steel companies have been brought into Indian societies. It is a global issue not so much linked to either Europe or India or other places. I think India has a very important input to give now, because there is Mittal who has a big participation in the fabrication of steel and also, of course, in the price of steel, because that’s also a very big factor.

There are ecological aspects to steel construction today. There are good sides and bad sides – The bad side is that it takes quite a lot of energy to build in steel, to produce it, make it ready for construction. The good side is that you can do very efficient structures, you can work in complex situations, also steel can be reemployed. If the construction is done properly the building can be demolished and the steel can be recycled and reused for new building, I think that is a big point. This brings me to a point that you must do construction seriously in considering that you might have to reconstruct, and you must not mix too many materials. Mixing materials makes it quite difficult to reuse certain materials. If they are not mixed, they can be distinguished and with steel there are quite good possibilities.

What aspects do you consider while designing any project?
There are two main aspects – where do you build your building, what are you referring to, who are your neighbors and what kind of situation – dense, delicate, sensitive landscape – or is it something that has to be a significant object – like a landmark building in the urban composition. The other aspect is the content of the building, what is the program, who are we building for, is it a public building or an intimate space.

Of course, there is the specification of the sight and the content of the brief. These are the driving elements in design. Mounting conditions, prefabrication, the impact of the building process on sight are additional elements that influence the design and sometimes can modify the way of approaching the design.

What is your signature style while designing a project? What makes your design style different from other contemporaries?
We are trying not to be stylish and not to repeat ourselves. With a certain amount of experience you may try to redo the experience, that was successful and do something similar. We are referring to every project as new project and starting from scratch.

We want to treat every project as singular project. Every project has its own context and destination. We are trying to be as objective as possible but at the same time we are looking for open buildings, welcoming buildings, we are looking for comfort for people. We are very much considering issues like natural light and ventilation, being oriented towards ecological issues, build buildings that are simple buildings because more buildings are complex in their technological way their use is difficult. We are trying to design buildings with lot of intelligence but least complex. We try to be open to all kinds of briefs, working for public and private clients as well, building for education, leisure and sport, culture, work and living environments.

As an Architect what scope do you see in the Indian Steel infrastructure industry?
We know a lot of steel comes from India and China is also present in the market, as well as Europe and India are working very closely together.

A far as my practice is concerned, we use steel for a foot bridges as an example – when we get to a certain span, want to have a quite a light transparent structures that is considering and integrating landscapes, to be delicately installed in the landscape, not to be imposing. Often steel comes to be a good meaningful answer in such cases We are trying not to be pre-conceived in our ideas. We do not think in the beginning that we shall do this structure in steel or not. I think there are materials appropriate to our ambition and the best material is used which helps us achieve the ambition. Often in my practice there is presence of steel.

Can you please mention steel related projects designed by you?
Talking about steel structures we are implicating metal louvres, big facades, office buildings, interior connections, or multiple ways to apply materials within all kinds of buildings and they are not necessarily steel buildings because we mix materials. We use it in our bridges as it requires long spans.

Other than this we are working on Sports complexes like public pool complexes and gymnasiums in France and Austria, bridges in Europe (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany), in steel.

How have technological advancements influenced your work?
We have had the chance to work with several great engineers. They help us make our imagination real by creating transparent open structures, modern design, lightweight and efficient objects. There was a big advance in calculation of structure, non-linear approach, taking into consideration dynamic aspects and searching for the limits of the possibilities.

Combining these aspects while searching for simplicity, easy mounting and maintenance, making the buildings and object long lasting and using our natural resources the best.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work?
When I was fourteen years old, I discovered the Centre Pompidou Project under construction in Paris. I was astonished and fascinated by the structure and its impact on the city.

I was amazed the way it was erected, and it was something that never left me and I think from there comes my interest for understanding the form of the building and the way we are building it.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
To me what I am doing at the moment is important to me. Like the project on my table is my favorite because right now I am totally into it.

It is not a matter of size and recognition, it is what we are trying to achieve. I am trying to do find coherence with my ideas of life, contributing to the society with architecture. Architecture influences many people’s lives without them even realizing. This is the big responsibility that architects have. We are working on public buildings, school buildings, leisure buildings. Observing people evolving in our realized project the way we imagined gives us the most satisfaction.