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Shane O’Toole on Architecture and Travel

Interview Date: 02-05-2013
(More interviews from this person)

VIEW the entire interview on VIDEO!

What is the importance of architectural tourism?

Architectural tourism is slightly problematic in the 21st century. Ever since the Renaissance Architects have gone on the Grand Tour to find out about architecture and to learn, more and more we have to stop travelling; I think we all travel too much and so tourism is kind of pejorative, so the word is not a correct word any more. Tourism implies a sense of consumerism that there is a product to be consumed and maybe we have to become travelers again, but we have to find things for ourselves and not consume what is put in front of us.

What is the importance of travelling especially for architects and humans in general?

Travelling is essential, not only by going to cultures and places that we are not familiar with, that we really challenge our own ideas and find new models and new answers for the future. We discover ourselves through travelling.

What do you think is the added value that architecture creates within a city?

It’s a very tricky question. I’m not sure what contemporary architecture does and maybe that’s always an impossible question to answer, because the value of cities is established over time; it’s not an immediate thing that arrives and yet architecture seems to arrive immediately and seems particularly, let’s say, in the last fifteen years, with icon architecture and so called “Bilbao effect” that people believe that architecture renews cities. I think cities are more settled than that and have to be measured in a longer time frame than architecture can possibly deliver.

What is the importance of architectural events like WAF? What are the profits for a city holding such kind of events?

Events like WAF are really global events, so they are intended; first of all to be a meeting place for architects. I have come here, this is my third time being at WAF and I meet new people, I meet old people, I get to see what is happening around the world. Mostly, it’s about meeting the people, because, sadly, when you come to events like this, usually we fly in and we fly out and we don’t spend enough time at the host city.

At the end, can you please provide your personal proposal for ten buildings (constructed and visitable) which you think as the most important worldwide that someone must visit anyway?

I wouldn’t do ten, but I’ll do one. And it’s not necessary that it’s the best building, but it’s a very small building and I went to see it, I guess three years ago and then I found that I’ve gone back to see it twice more since, even though it’s not in a city with an airport; it is the “Bruder Klaus Field Chapel”, the Field Chapel for Brother Klaus outside Cologne in Germany and designed by Peter Zumthor.

It’s a very simple tower, a small family religious icon building, built for a very beautiful reason. It’s built within the skills of farmers and yet it is completely of the 21st century, completely like anything else you have seen; it’s a space that is best for one person, it is an architecture of a single room and all the best architecture is always of a single room whether it is a cave, or whether it is a cathedral or whether it is the Bruder Klaus Chapel, the idea that for the building there is one room, is psychologically very rich, no matter what its scale is. And something else that I like very much about it is that you cannot drive near this building; you have to park a long way away and you have to approach it slowly. Although it is tiny, on a private farm (visitors can come and visit), it includes the dimension of time, as well as space and that makes it important.

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