Interview with Dagur Eggertsson

VILLA DIALOGUE
This conversation is based on F2F interview with Dagur Eggertsson by Amir Abbas aboutalebi

 

Rintala Eggertsson Architects

A Villa, is quasi a lodge, for the sake of a garden, to retire, enjoy and sleep, without a pretense of entertainment of many persons; and yet in this age, the humor takes after that, and no the other. Then the villa was a family space, a social space, and a site of recreation, but not yet especially private space.

The Villa was a site “where the mind, fatigued by the agitations of the city, will be greatly restored and comforted, and be able quietly to attend the studies of letters, and contemplation,” and where, unlike in “city houses” one “could easily attain to as much happiness as can be attained here below”. (Archer, 2005)

 I use the above quotation from Archer to make this conversation about villa ideology. 

 Villa as a Separation

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
How is Villa life in Norway?

Dagur Eggertsson:
In Norway, many families have a home in the city as well as a summerhouse in the countryside or a cottage in the mountains. We are cultivating a contradiction: for the most part of the year we are seeking a protected life within the protected urban realm, but sometimes we are looking for almost the exact opposite: the unguarded life within nature where we are more exposed to the elements.

In Norway, most people can still allow themselves this luxury. Decentralization makes it easy to access rural parts of the country and farmers are dependent on the extra income they get from tending these properties and taking care of the roads.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
At root, this subject is fundamentally about freedom. How architecture possess it? How architects are able to define the spheres of their own practice regarding this subject?

Dagur Eggertsson:
Architecture has the potential to create this freedom. Architecture is not like mathematic and is not limited to science. It is a potent tool to make a liberation in the systematic life and habits. Like we talked about in a conversation with Brigitte Labs-Ehlert, which was published in the book “House As an Instrument:” Every man has this thirst of freedom and I believe it is our task as architects to create the necessary requirements to offer the degree of protection that is needed because of our climate and to allow for a kind of freedom of enjoying the rhythm of the day and the year”.

 

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Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
There is growing debate about how architecture is generated by psychological needs rather than utilitarian needs. What is your opinion?

Dagur Eggertsson:
Architecture is kind of active relationship between the human being and the environment. The architect’s role is to define this relationship.  architecture touches us in most of our daily activities and influences our lives regardless of our social status; Architecture becomes therefore an important tool to improve lives through our organization of space, buildings and urban interventions. All this boils down to the concept of space not only in a physical, utilitarian way but also what it does to us on a mental level. It is important that architects acknowledge and prioritize human needs for affections.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Looking to villa-typology, what is the program of Villas in Norway?

Dagur Eggertsson:

The contemporary program of the villa is driven from vernacular architecture where functions gradually got separated and then fused together in later decades. It is important to bear this close relationship with history when designing villas, and housing in general. The program of the villa is not significantly different in Norway than in other western countries. Most of it is driven by producers of very traditional prefab solutions, while a smaller portion is represented by architects working for well-off people where experimentations is more likely to take place.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
What is your approach towards that issue?

Dagur Eggertsson:

We haven’t had so many villa commissions since we started the office to be honest. The ones we have had have been developed through a close dialogue with the clients because the act of making a home for your family is often the first meeting with architecture, and it is therefore a steep learning curve for most people we work with. Most discussions are about fairly practical issues, but as architecture is so much about the relationship with the environment, we need to develop solutions which are in harmony with the place and the inhabitants. That is where things get more complicated and interesting. The use of local materials is one of our main interests, which is why we have always been interested in the architecture of indigenous people. There are many lessons and ideas, which are still useful for contemporary life and contemporary architecture.

 

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Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
your work reflects on the relationship between man, culture, and nature. That is so close to the Villa-culture.

Dagur Eggertsson:
I am not sure if one can use the word Villa-culture because the villa is as much about co-existence as any other dwelling typologies, but the villa does offer a larger degree of detachment from others, and often a larger connection with nature. The restorative powers of natural settings in contrast to the brawl of city life is an important part of the villa program. Separation is an excellent word here. Human minds need to be restored.
Sometimes People need to step out of their life routines to zoom out, see things from a distance and find a meaning of things.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
So it can be the villa-purpose?

Dagur Eggertsson:
yes of course! The purpose is sometimes to separate yourself entirely from the rest of the world in order to be able to attend to more quiet activities and contemplation.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
people and societies are changed as an impact of industrial revolution and mass production. Architecture today has a serious lack of dreams and happiness.

Dagur Eggertsson:
I totally agree with the presumption that mass production has limited our scope of action, but it has also offered other possibilities which were not readily available before the industrial revolution. To me there is a distinction between building and architecture.  Architecture is the consciousness of creating positive spaces for human being, whereas buildings are the mere physical, technical solution to a task.  You see many buildings today and not so much architecture, but if you look closely there are ample amounts of dreams and happiness.

 

Element House
Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Most of your works are small-scale practices to create a place for a dialogue, an inner world, a space for meditation and joy of nature; where memories and dreams may have their places.
Are they to a contemplative life?

Dagur Eggertsson:
Yes, that is true. We have had many low-budget projects over the years where the connection to the immediate surroundings has been essential. We have in many ways tried to emphasize the important relationship we have with environment; the seasons and the cycles of nature which is so embedded in our own nature. The word contemplative is difficult as it is often used to dismiss types of spaces which are functionally more open ended, frameworks for different types of program, but yes, our public spaces often offer this open-endedness which you can call contemplation.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
A childhood fantasy come true: “Treehotel”. How come the naming for this project?

Dagur Eggertsson:
I guess it came out of our wish to offer a reference to nature with our proposal. There were already different typologies in place such as the “mirror cube”, the “UFO”, the “Nest” and others which pointed in different directions. We did not want to compete with that and felt that a reference to the animals of the forest was suitable. A body with four wings, the solution we had in the end was somehow suggesting the name by itself.

 

Element House
Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
you have completed projects in many locations around the world; Cuba, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Japan, India, switzerland, south Korea, Norway, USA, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Austria, and etc.  To me they are kind of prototypes and study projects. What kind of market strategies do you have to make these projects done?

Dagur Eggertsson:
Haha, This may be because we have no market strategies at all. Non-conventional projects seem to draw the attention of non-conventional clients. They seem to live many places. But we live in times where images are spread fast over the internet and that has sometimes been the case with our work.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Oh! So there must be a specific challenge make this attraction for non-conventional?

Dagur Eggertsson:

No. Every project comes with a new challenge. It is the task of architecture to create a good environment for man and it is the task of the architect to understand people’s need. We try to help to address the emotional and social needs of people and to reflect a certain attitude to the environment, because everyone is a philosopher and has a certain attitude, which architecture can also express. For us, every project is a new opportunity to show our responsibility towards humans and environment. If that draws the attention from clients who wish for something less generic, it is good for all of us.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
In “corte del porte” you talk about free spaces for the benefit of mankind.
Can you explain more? 

Dagur Eggertsson:

Architecture is so often charged with something, a political will, economic manifestation or religious power. We were not criticizing that, just pointing out that we also need spaces which give a break from all of that, places which are more open-ended in terms of use. You find them sometimes in nature; a mountaintop, clearing in the forest or a small, secluded beach, and sometimes in urban areas. We should be better at offering these situations in architecture, situations where we can just hang out without feeling that we need to have a specific purpose.

 

Maison de l`ecriture Montericher
Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
In Villa projects, architects will be making a public declaration that will promote their own perspective of their experiences of architecture.  Writing their own manifestation. Ordos villa program, is a good example for this challenge.  

Dagur Eggertsson:
With the onset of modernism architects were given the possibility to redefine our existence in the light of new understanding about the world. After the first world war there was a boom in social sciences, molecular biology and psychology which led to more knowledge about the human being. Architecture in that period was an answer to that and today we are still investigating this relationship. Villa projects are therefore perhaps the most obvious arenas for these investigations to take place. The Ordos 100 project was one of these where 100 architects were selected by Herzog & de Meuron over a masterplan by Ai Weiwei to offer an answer to this human being vs. nature question?
We took part in this program and it was an important project for our office as it gave us time to reflect about our base ideas about architecture. We might brush the dust off the drawings and publish it someday.

 

Amirabbas Aboutalebi:
Villas projects are foremost an attempt for architects to write their points and to become known. Villas are also a wise way to persuade other architects to a critical thinking and new philosophies.
Is this a utopian setting for architectural conversations and inventions?

Dagur Eggertsson:

I am not so sure about that. For sure some architects want to make a point with what they do, become known for that and even get rich for that matter, but I would say that when working with private clients, one is more dependent on trust than with any other clients because what we are seeking together is something deeply embedded in personal life and psychology. What happens beyond that depends on the clients and how much they are willing to fold their lives out in publications, lectures and on the internet. That kind of personal contract makes it impossible to think of the villa as a way to carve out new philosophies and use them to persuade other architects to critical thinking.

There are other situations though, like the Ordos 100 project where we had no knowledge about the future inhabitant of the building and recently, we have been working on a villa project in Spain which goes under the name of Solo Houses, located in Matarraña, Aragon. The Solo House project is known for the widely published Pezo House by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, and the Office House by Office KGDVS. The true resistance in those kinds of projects you need to find in yourself and the surroundings. We were offered a stunning site with two small ledges which in many ways gave the form to the villa we designed. With a view spanning 270 degrees we had to think almost as film editors where the view had to be broken down into sections and each section was given a content. We are hoping when the pandemic is over we will see the beginning of the building.  

 

 

Maison de l`ecriture Montericher
Villa Magazine No.11

 

 

Maison de l`ecriture Montericher
Villa Magazine No.11