• Kivi Sotamaa

Interview mit Kivi Sotamaa

Prinz Eisenbeton 2006


What do you expect from the studio and what is the aim of the studio for you?

"Well, I expect great work at the Angewandte. To teach here is a great opportunity. You have basically three of the best architects of each of the generations. You have Wolf Prix, Zaha Hadid and you have Greg Lynn. So for somebody, who comes from the 4th generation, it is a nice opportunity to try do the next thing."


What is the name of the studio? "It is Erotech."


What is it, Erotech? " We look at architecture as a stage for life. The idea of Erotech is founded on the premise that technological advances in architecture always enable cultural innovations. While the use of parametric and algorithmic design processes enables the design of technically more complex objects, it also enables culturally more sophisticated designs. For example digital parametric techniques allow us to co-ordinate the effects of different systems of a project to an unprecedented degree, potentially resulting in a new synergetic effects.


Let me give you a practical example: a Jackson Pollock drip painting produces a sensation of movement, if you were to combine the patterns of a Pollock painting with a dynamic form, you have project where the color, pattern and form are all orchestrated to reinforce the sensation of the movement. We believe that if you coordinate the effects of the different variables of an architectural project, including program, with topological form, keeping an eye out for the synergies that emerge, you get something new, Erotech Architecture"

“We picked a tower project, New Downtown Athletic Club in Chicago, because of the precedent of Rem Koolhaas’ analysis of the Lower Manhattan Athletic Club in Delirious New York. Koolhaas was excited by the elevator and the cinematic experience of the stacked crazy “plots” of the LMAC. We are interested in the possibility of creating more dramatalurgically considered sequences of experiences. Instead of the stacking of wildly different programs we are after nuanced, erotic staging of the differences enabled by topological forms and new materials. Our tower projects will are constellations where form, program, pattern, color and ornament all are co-coordinated to produce specific sensations.


You are talking a lot about processes and algorithms. Now what role does the physical model play in your approach? “We are pushing the project in parallel with digital tools AND physical tools. Tomorrow we are starting a workshop where all students are building large clay models of their forms. Of the clay models they will make plaster casts and plaster models. Subsequently they will for example laser cut a sheet of plastic and vacuum form it over the mold, or pour resin and some particles into the mold, in order to develop effects of the skin. The physical plastic modeling technique allows us to fully understand, develop and design the form. I read in a recent AD magazine of research proving that you can only grasp roughly 60% of surface curvature on a computer screen, the three dimensional model will really allow us to really sense the form. The use of the plastics and resins allows the students to explore the synergies which emerge between the forms and color, pattern and ornament".

“We are trying to create new synergies between architectural elements by parametrically linking them. In terms of digital processes we use animation to drive the form, Rhino scripts to link the form to pattern and RenderMan to parametrically render color, bumps and material effets.

“ On of the key issues regarding design processes, analogue or digital, is how to hide them. Any evidence of process produces an indexical effect which produces a “reading” relationship to the object and therefore works against sensation. So, we’re trying to be like magicians, hiding all of our tricks in order to foreground a sensation.”


Networking was an important word at the Architecture Biennial in Venice. How was your change from Ocean North to your own office? "If you look at my website, you can see a quite a number of different people that I have worked with over the years. What I like about architecture is the chance to work with somebody that you connect with. Ocean was founded on this idea. The idea was that it is a kind of loose group that reconfigures itself. In reality, quite soon certain successful patterns of collaboration settled in. In my case this was a collaborative relationship with Johan Bettum and later a collaboration with my designer sister Tuuli. Eventually, in terms of collaboration, operating under a common increasingly well known name Ocean started to become a restriction. The pool of people was limited to the members of the group. So, the shift to practice under my own name enabled more collaboration. If you look at the music business right now, there are a lot of artists for example of Country and Western Music playing with Rap musicians - Tim McGraw with Nelly, for example. I like that model of crediting and of collaboration. Operating under your own name and always crediting the person you are working with is a much more flexible model than operating under the name of Ocean North, where the pool of people is defined and no one really knows who is behind the work produced. In terms of the way the collaboration gets communicated it is also a better model – it captures the different sensibilities of authors.


So architects should form temporary collaborations – just like pop bands and pop groups? " I think that architects should do more collaboration like Frank and Greg - it is going to be great to see what they cook up. Right now I cooperate with several different people, more than ever during Ocean. I have a Mexican collaborator Gabe Esquivel in the United States on a big housing project, I have an American collaborator Andrew Kudless for an experimental pavilion in Helsinki, I have a Finnish collaborator Antti Ahlava in Finland on a library project and I continue to collaborate with my designer sister Tuuli on numerous projects that range from industrial design to private houses. I collaborate with all these people and then it says "Kivi Sotamaa featuring …".

“I am trying to advocate collaborations between strong individuals at the moment: There is a group of young progressive architects like Francois Roche, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Ali Rahim, David Erdman and Mark Gage, all of which have one foot in Academia and run exiting practices. We are doing a conference I co-organised in Mexico entitled Azul Rey – Architecture Colors Life and there is another conference coming up in Yale organized by Mark, and maybe we will do a show together, who knows. The idea is to have a discussion, learn from one another and maybe fall in love and collaborate.”


There is a discussion in the moment about trends in architecture. People starting to call architecture fashionable, because it is in magazines and the visualization is almost all about beautiful pictures. "With terms like fashion I think people mean different things. In Finland there is a discussion about "Wow architecture". They got the term from Herbert Muschamp article. Some people think that "Wow architecture" means grand standing fashion architecture void of content. They understand it negatively. I would understand it positively as a term that describes all architecture powerful enough to produce a sensation, capture imagination and therefore become popular. My inclination would be to understand fashion positively. It is great that architecture is in the media! And I don't think there is anything bad about being recognizable and getting work for it. That is what we all dream of. It is fantastic that architects are becoming "fashionable" or that some architects are "in fashion". How else is architecture going to become a player in public culture. People like Zaha Hadid and Wolf Prix had struggled for years doing virtual projects developing a vision of architecture that is so unique it gets instantly recognized everywhere, and the fact that their language becomes desired or recognized and disseminated by magazines, that is basically the engine that gets them the opportunity to realize the work and that’s how architecture as a discipline progresses. Fashion and media are necessary mechanisms for building visionary architecture!"


What is the question here??? My expertise is to make poetry from material and that is what I teach in the Erotech studio.

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