In the framework of the ACE-UIA International Conference on Design Competitions, ACE talked with Friedrich Passler from AllesWirdGut to discuss his vision regarding quality in the built environment, Architectural Design Competitions, regulations, inclusion and new trends.
ACE: Last October, you attended the ACE‐UIA International Conference in Paris. In your opinion, what are the opportunities offered by Architectural Design Competitions? What are the practical optimisation routes?
Friedrich Passler: 'First of all we were able to establish a remarkable international company on the base of design competitions. But there are some more benefits that come along with design competitions: An important one is that the quality of the project itself, and even more the quality you can maintain while developing the project with your clients, is much higher than with direct commissioning. And even more important: Design competitions keep us fresh and new. We develop new concepts for constantly changing tasks and for different sites and contexts in several countries throughout Europe. We get to experiment and try things out, like new typologies for different tasks. And we get to spend our lives and our working hours doing things we like, things that make us proud, things that are challenging and don’t start boring us.
An important optimisation for competitions is that the level of detail requested in design competitions should be reduced. In the end it is about finding the project with the best potential and the strongest concept, not the one which is the best in fulfilling each functional and technical detail requested.'
ACE: With your project WAS, House of Life, the quarter aroundHannah‐Arendt‐Park in the Seestadt Aspern, you received the State Prize for Architecture & Sustainability. Can you tell us more about this responsible project as an architectural solution to mitigate climate change?
Friedrich Passler: 'Good that you ask about this project in the context of sustainability, because in this special case the main aspect is not sustainability in the common sense, but social sustainability in the sense of inclusion, neighborhood, communication and community. Obviously the building is also compact, well insulated and very energy efficient. The standards required by law are very high in Austria, but the main aim was to create a building complex with five houses giving each house and the complex as a whole tools to enable community life, starting with a reduced number of apartments in each house, bright and vast circulation spaces for meeting and communication, common spaces for each house and the whole complex, the central common courtyard garden with children playground and introducing mixed use and flexibility with commercial and office spaces in a flexible urban support for the first two floors.'
ACE: How do you think your projects will age? (in terms of materials)
Friedrich Passler: 'Buildings have to age with dignity. Their patina over the years should make them better, not worse. We always take the aging into account as an important factor and in many buildings we are able to realise our aims. But sometimes it happens, that economical construction constraint are tight, that we have to take into account, that only by taking care of the building can we maintains its quality. Healthy social relations and a working community are also important fin making people feel responsible for their surroundings.'
ACE: In your view, what is the relevance of architectural policies?
Friedrich Passler: 'Most often, the regulations and policies we have to deal with make sense. Especially if they provide safety. Some might be over the top. In our work we try to regard policies as a challenge to find smart ways of dealing with them, as a source of innovation.'
ACE: You just opened a new office in Germany. Is it a way to increase access to international markets. Or gain more visibility?
Friedrich Passler: 'Mainly it was a necessity having won three competitions in a row in Munich. Besides that it seemed important for us to have better access to the German market. In terms of visibility the location or number of offices doesn't seem crucial to me.'
ACE: In your opinion, what will architecture be like in the coming years and decades? What are the emerging new trends and tendencies?
Friedrich Passler: 'Sustainability will become the crucial aspect also in the field of architecture and city planning. Energy efficiency of buildings is just a small part of this need. Even more important is the reduction of grey energy in the building process and taking care of creating very long lasting structures while not forgeting about social sustainability in the widest sense.'
ACE: AllesWirdGut is based on optimism. What is the concept beyond this name, can you tell us more about this philosophy in the design approach?
Friedrich Passler: 'Actually the name of our company is related more to our working conditions as architects than to a special design approach. Architects have a difficult and very challenging job with considerable responsabilities and risks. It is important to know, that in the end everything will be alright and if it´s not alright it´s not the end.'
ACE: Alejandro Aravena directs those just starting out to be as nerdy, free, and rebellious as possible. What is your advice for young architects?
Friedrich Passler: 'Do what you, just you, think is best. Don´t try to please anybody.'
Friedrich Passler is managing director of the office AllesWirdGut in Vienna and Munich. In addition to a large number of public and private projects of various scales, the office has a focus on housing construction - from housing development, to complex new urban housing forms, to mobile housing. Numerous projects in subsidised and social housing construction have emerged in the context of the Viennese housing tradition. Friedrich Passler studied architecture at the Vienna University of Technology, with a year abroad at McGill University in Montreal. After working in various architecture firms in Austria and the Netherlands, he co-founded AllesWirdGut in Vienna in 1999 together with Andreas Marth, Christian Waldner and Herwig Spiegl. They opened their headquarters in Munich in 2015.
Friedrich Passler participated in the third panel of the ACE-UIA International Conference on Design Competitions, 25 October 2019, UNESCO headquarters, Paris.