dRMM and Ellis Woodman Q&A
We caught up with dRMM’s Alex de Rijke and Sadie Morgan, and curator Ellis Woodman at the British pavilion.
What does your work say about architecture ‘Beyond Building’?
Alex de Rijke: It’s beyond mere building because it encompasses social dimensions. Many other exhibits [at the Biennale] just concentrate on tectonics. This exhibition has a more social and political context. You can’t ignore these things.
Ellis Woodman: We should perhaps have called it ‘Beyond Betsky’. The ambition was to make a wider context for housing provision. Architectural ideas are embodied in buildings.
Is this about a form of new pragmatism?
EW: The high tech architects weren’t housing architects. Those who did housing - Neave Brown, Darbourne and Darke, etc. - in the high tech era, their careers fell off a cliff in 1979 because the opportunities weren’t extended to them.
AdR: They went off to work in Holland. The opportunities still aren’t in the UK.
EW: You’d struggle to put on a show of five European architects working in Britain.
Sadie Morgan: Although they’re trying, with the Olympic Village. It’s largely about economic factors.
EW: It’s all about delivery. The public sector won’t take on responsibility.
AdR: But there are also a lot of warts in the Dutch system - they aspire to being like the UK, for example. We don’t necessarily see the Dutch as our inspiration.
Are satellite offices becoming more important to these architects?
Can you force architecture to express national characteristics? Or are these issues universal?
AdR: We have 15 nationalities in our office now.
EW: One of the interesting things about housing is that it suggests urbanism. You necessarily have to to look at the city you are building in.You have to have a responsiveness to the scale of the city. If anything, it’s empirical architecture, in the sense that all British cities are shaped by private development. All of the architects here are trying to make a ’difficult whole’ out of the city.