“Good architecture must be human”

The crisis shows: The more digitally an architectural practice works, the greater the competitive edge. In this interview, oow associate Robert Blödorn talks about digital tools, flexible planning in times of Covid and the benefits of a carpentry apprenticeship.

Architektur Berlin Entwurf lang

“We are always up to date with new technologies!”

We are having this interview in the middle of the second Covid lockdown. The entire team has been working from home for months. How does that work?

It works great!

It is actually hard to imagine that an architectural firm can be moved online completely. After all, the work is also very tangible. Tell us a little bit about how you have managed to do that.

Before Covid, if someone had asked me what one of our major strengths was, I would have said, among other things: We are always up to date with new technologies! I really admire that about oow’s founders Sebastian and Mathis: We make full use of all the tools available on the market. And that takes courage, since it costs a lot of money. But now with Covid, it has paid off big time. I had the impression that 80 to 90 per cent of all architectural firms said: We can’t work digitally, it’s just not possible. We, on the other hand, had moved everything to the cloud and switched to different software solutions within just one week. It works without a hitch.

Developing new ideas thrives on personal exchange. How did you cope with the fact that things like chatting by the coffee machine were no longer possible?

Of course it’s nicer when you also work together physically, but I think we are handling it very well. Every Friday, we all get together for a virtual after-work beer, and we’ve even tried out games on that occasion. It’s always super fun and there’s only one rule: No talking about work! (laughs)

And you also celebrate promotions. Such as yours and Carsten’s to Associate, congratulations!

Yeah, we were thrilled about that! We have only been on board for two years and it is great that our work is seen and appreciated in this way.

Do you think this digital way of working will remain after Covid?

Even before Covid, our distinctive feature was that we were always up to date in terms of technology – and of course we will stick to that. Especially in times like these, you not only have a competitive advantage compared to firms that are lagging behind. You also get better results in general.

For example, you have been using software for a long time that allows designs to be visualised at an early stage. Is this an example of where digital solutions can play to their strengths?

Yes, definitely! We want to create an image as quickly as possible that comes as close to the eventual reality as possible. Many architects don’t do this as early as we do because it takes a lot of time. But we strongly believe in this. Architects are very good at assessing rooms based on floor plans, but if you don’t have a background in the industry, it’s much easier to use images. And we see that it is extremely well received by our customers.

oow Architekten Berlin
oow Architekten Berlin

“I find that in nature, buildings not only look more iconic, but often also more harmonious”

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The world is changing at an incredible pace at the moment. Do you also notice this in architecture?

Yes, even very recently in a project in Tübingen that I am supervising. It is an existing building, an old factory. Originally, we wanted to have co-working spaces and flats there. Now it will probably be a laboratory building. It’s crazy how quickly a project can change. But it’s incredibly exciting to see the range of different ideas that can be developed for a building and how differently rooms can be used in principle.

Which brings us to the question: What is it that makes good architecture for you?

That it is human. For example, a city that consists only of steel and glass buildings doesn’t emanate anything. Cities and buildings really only become liveable when different atmospheres are created by using different materials. I already loved playing with materials during my apprenticeship as a carpenter, which I did before my architecture degree. Many university graduates have never seen the inside of a workshop. That’s definitely different for me. (laughs)

Do you have a dream of what you would like to build one day?

A house of my own would be nice, somewhere in the countryside. I find that in nature, buildings not only look more iconic, but good architecture often allows them to blend in much more harmoniously than in big cities, which may seem surprising at first glance. My house would definitely have a lot of wood – and a great view.

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