Kasper Jørgensen: «Building for the Ongoing Evolution»

An interview with Kasper Jørgensen, a Danish architect, an expert in new technologies and “green building”, leader of the innovation department of 3XN architects

Interviewed by:

18 April 2013
- It’s in the nature of GXN to use the daylight as much as possible, or let the tree keep its natural form, or just let materials it live its own natural life. Do you see yourself as a pioneer of such approach?

Kasper Jørgensen
- I think material science is pioneering these years. We really want to take this new knowledge and use it in our buildings. I think there has been a huge gap in architecture. The whole industrialization of the way we build has forced architects for many years to think about straight lines and mass production. Now we actually start to go back a bit and look at nature, its forms and materials to design the solution we want. I think that will be tomorrow’s architecture - a much higher level of tailor-making and new expressions in terms of space and buildings.

- In that most recent built project of 3XN, the Blue Planet Aquarium in Copenhagen, did you have a deliberate intention to bring the inside to the outside? It seems that visitors there feel as if they were the fish in the water, not the other way around.

Kasper Jørgensen
- We wanted tell a story by the building itself. You see, most aquariums today look like factories, or at least like something that doesn’t belong to water. So, it was very much our intention to create a feeling of connecting people to the fish or the universe of the water, and do it the whole way, so that this feeling becomes the heart of the building and embraces you like a wave. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is that the aquarium on top of your head, so you really feel as if you’re under the water. It’s the biggest aquarium in Northern Europe. We have some very big fish in huge ocean tanks. Also it’s a funny building, because we have tropical forests with free flying birds, snakes, turtles, and a lot of places where people can touch the fish and interact with nature.
- Is the aquarium glass bulletproof?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Yes, it’s more than bulletproof.

- Do the creatures that live there kill each other, like in the wild?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Yes. For example, we have two species of fish, and one actually eats the other. So, maybe in a half a year we will have only one species. But that’s just how nature goes sometimes.
- Do you see materials as tools to facilitate people?

Kasper Jørgensen
- That’s actually what we do at GXN, the innovation unit at 3XN. We’re studying how people react to different materials. In our work we involve a psychologist to find out how materials, space, environment and atmosphere affect people. It’s interesting to investigate how we can actually make buildings that make kids learn better and stimulate knowledge sharing in corporate culture or support visitor’s curiosity in a museum.

- What does stimulate sharing?
Kasper Jørgensen
- Social interacting. Creating spaces where people meet, where they pause and do it in informal settings. Providing a right framework and also creating acoustical and visual transparency. Doing that is not about having just one big open space, but actually it’s about diversity in the space that you create. We often perceive our buildings as internal cityscapes with small streets, central passes, quiet corners, places in the shadow, places in the sun… We end up having a lot of variety of contrast in the layout of our space. We always have central staircases and open connections between the floor slabs to create this kind of transparency and allow for more places where people can meet, share knowledge and interact. It’s interesting that staircases actually make you slow down, invite you to talk more together, and offer all this place for people to meet standing or sitting, or waiting... All of this creates dynamics and social interaction.
- Your proposal for the Museum and Exhibition Center of Polytechnic Museum and Moscow State University didn’t win in the recent competition, but it was a very strong concept. Is it going to the archive forever? Could it be actually built elsewhere?

Kasper Jørgensen
- I feel sad it didn’t win. I really liked it. It was a strong example of 3XN’s signature work of integrating with the city and creating open space. I think it would be a very dynamic building. It would bring the Polytechnic exhibition and its various elements together. Many of our projects have some of the same elements. But this project was unique. And there can’t be a place somewhere else to build it, it was very related to that particular place.

- What is overall story of that building? You’ve probably walked through it many times in your mind. How would it feel to be there?

Kasper Jørgensen
- It was really a story about bringing people together, and the city together with the building as well. It was a space that would be excellent for exhibitions, education and teaching, working and resting. But most importantly, it was taking all these functions and melting them together in this very transparent structure. It would be amazing to actually have this connectivity in such a complex building layout. I’d like to sit on the top of its terrace in the summer, looking inside the building from the outside and being a part of everything around, feeling a part of Moscow. So it’s quite sad that one is not going to be built.

- Do you still feel inspired with the perspective of working in Moscow? Will you keep trying?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Definitely. We hope to be invited to similar competitions here in Moscow.

- Let’s imagine you are Chief Architect of Moscow. You have zillions of square km of space and zillions of people living in it. What would you do?

Kasper Jørgensen
- I’d try to make more centers in the city and to promote local identities. So that everything would be not just about one center. All this building mass could be used to create great areas. This city seems a kind of a dead city in many places or times of the day. So I’d try to promote more diversity and make local neighborhoods more attractive.
- Obviously, you are a person who cares very much about the consequences of his actions. Why did you choose architecture? Why not philosophy or a fight against hunger or poverty?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Architecture has many powerful ways to affect our lives. Some of the biggest challenges come from the building industry. If you think about energy consumption or waste, there are so many things we can improve through architecture and building industry. I’m not necessarily thinking about saving the world, but I would like to do things with a good quality. I think it’s just common sense to make buildings that don’t make you sick. It’s natural to make buildings that can have a value after they have been turned down, and it’s logical to use materials that can be recycled. Why not make buildings that are positive instead of just minimizing the negative consequences that we always hear about? We can make buildings that produce oxygen, energy and clean water, buildings that are integrated with the nature. I think that’s why I really like being an architect, because it allows me to play with all these challenges and find solutions that come to life and become real for many more than just myself.
- Are you concerned with making this kind of a research and designing process available to other people?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Everything we do is open source. Of course I would not like our design to be copied, but the philosophy and the research is really to be shared. I believe architecture is best when it’s unique for a specific kind and a specific site. But we share all the knowledge we have. If you share ideas, tools and strategies, it all comes back to you. So we’re showing by example how sustainable architecture can work, and we’re hoping that this way we’re helping to build a better future.
- Is your idea of sustainability wider than just green and eco? Does it mean something that gains value over time?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Yes. I see a building like an organism that becomes a part of a man-made eco-system. It can be taken apart and be integrated into another building, in a kind of circle of a building life.With such a mind-set, we can create this regenerative architecture that gives more than it takes.

- Would you rather not demolish buildings at all?

Kasper Jørgensen
- Ideally I see a building becoming raw material for future buildings components. The reality is that today many buildings components are toxic. So, we can’t reuse it. But by staffing buildings with healthy materials we can actually create a scenario where turning down a building is not a bad thing, because it gives a new life to future projects. We don’t make buildings as we did twenty years ago and not even ten years ago. People will have different needs tomorrow. Building technology will be totally different in another ten years. So, I think we need to keep using the possibilities we have in our hands to create the best possible environment.

- Do you feel we should build for eternity?

Kasper Jørgensen
- No, I don’t think so. We should build for the ongoing evolution.

18 April 2013

Interviewed by:

comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
​In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
​Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
​Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
​Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
​Architectural Laboratory
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
​“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
​LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
​Celestial Tectonics
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
​Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.
​The Towers of “Sputnik”
Six towers, which make up a large housing complex standing on the bank of the Moskva River at the very start of the Novorizhskoe Highway, provide the answers to a whole number of marketing requirements and meets a whole number of restrictions, offering a simple rhythm and a laconic formula for the houses that the developer preferred to see as “flashy”.
​The Starting Point
In this article, we are reviewing two retro projects: one is 20 years old, the other is 25. One of them is Saint Petersburg’s first-ever townhouse complex; the other became the first example of a high-end residential complex on Krestovsky Island. Both were designed and built by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners.
The Path to New Ornamentation
The high-end residential complex “Aristocrat” situated next to a pine park at the start of the Rublev Highway presents a new stage of development of Moscow’s decorative historicist architecture: expensively decorated, yet largely based on light-colored tones, and masterfully using the romantic veneer of majolica inserts.
​Renovation: the Far East Style
The competition project of renovating two central city blocks of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by UNK project, won the nomination “Architectural and planning solutions of city construction”.
​The Contact
The Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome presents Sergei Tchoban’s exhibition “Imprint of the future. Destiny of Piranesi’s City”. The exhibition includes four etchings, based on Roman architectural views of the XVIII century complemented by futuristic insertions, as well as a lot of drawings that investigate the same topic, at times quite expressively. The exhibition poses questions, but does not seem to give any answers. Since going to Rome is pretty problematic now, let’s at least examine the pictures.
​In Search of Visual Clarity
In this article, we are reviewing a discussion devoted to the question of designing city space elements, which is quite complicated for the Russian expanses of land. The discussion was organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the ArchMoscow convention in Gostiny Dvor.
​The City of the Sun
Jointly designed by Sergey Tchoban and Vladimir Plotkin, the VTB Arena Park complex can arguably be considered the perfect experiment on solving the centuries-old controversy between traditional architecture and modernism. The framework of the design code, combined with the creative character of the plastique-based dialogue between the buildings, formed an all-but-perfect fragment of the city fabric.
​...The Other Was Just Railroad Gin*
In their project of the third stage of “Ligovsky City” housing complex, located in the industrial “gray” belt of Saint Petersburg, the KCAP & Orange Architects & A-Len consortium set before themselves a task of keeping up the genius loci by preserving the contours of the railroad and likening the volumes of residential buildings to railroad containers, stacked up at the goods unloading station.
​Lions on Glass
While reconstructing the facades of Building 4 of Moscow Hospital #23, SPEECH architects applied a technique, already known from Saint Petersburg projects by Sergey Tchoban – cassettes with elements of classical architecture printed on glass. The project was developed gratis, as a help to the hospital.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
​Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
​The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
Health Constructor
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
​The Flying One
Expected to become an analogue of Moscow’s Skolkovo, the project of the High Park campus at Saint Petersburg’s ITMO University, designed by Studio 44, mesmerizes us with its sheer scale and the passion that the architects poured into it. Its core – the academic center – is interpreted as an avant-garde composition inspired by Piazza del Campo with a bell tower; the park is reminiscent of the “rays” of the main streets of Saint Petersburg, and, if watched from a birds-eye view, the whole complex looks like a motherboard with at least four processors on it. The design of the academic building even displays a few features of a sports arena. The project has a lot of meanings and allusions about it; all of them are united by plastique energy that the hadron collider itself could be jealous of.
​The Aperture Effect
For a housing complex built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow metropolitan area, KPLN Architects designed facades that adjust the stream of light by using the wall geometry.
​A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
Color and Line
The new successful techniques developed by A.Len for designing a kindergarten under budget constraints: the mosaic of irregular windows and working with color.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The Countdown
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
White Town
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
​Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
​Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Pedagogical Architecture
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
​Rational Arrangement
In this article, we are examining a complex of buildings and interiors of the first stage of the project that has recently become extremely popular – the Kommunarka clinic.
​Parallel Universe
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
In the Istra district of Moscow metropolitan area, the tandem of 4izmerenie and ARS-ST designed a sports complex – a monovolume that has the shape of a chamfered parallelepiped with a pointed “nose” like a ship’s bow.