Uffe Leth and Karsten Gori are the brains behind the Danish architecture studio Leth & Gori. The identity of their projects combines the strong idea about social function of architecture with a sustainable conception of the space and his creation. From The Brick House, one of their most popular works, till their last projects, this great couple of creatives are still struggling to find new and extraordinary ways of understanding contemporary Architecture.
Your projects have a very strong personality. What’s your idea about Architecture?
Architecture should be personal and have a strong personality. Architecture and space have a very strong impact on the human body and our wellbeing as individuals and in a community. We try, in a humble and respectful way, to create buildings and spaces that can contain the qualities of the ordinary everyday life and at the same time offer something extraordinary. We believe that in this balance between ordinary and extraordinary – between architecture which is personal and architecture with personality – we can find spaces where we can be ourselves but also become someone new – someone better.
The social and cultural context defines the creative process of an architect. In your projects, this impact on the context is minimum, even when it is about big installations. How is the relationship between your creations and their environment?
It is true that we try to reduce the physical impact of our projects on their surroundings. But at the same time, we also try to maximize the social and functional impact so that there is a positive dialogue between the building and the context. This can lead to many different strategies, for example, in our project for the Estonian Academy of Arts where we propose a tall building with a footprint of only half the site. By doing this, we can give back the other half of the site to the city as a public plaza. Each site or place in the world has different potentials and challenges, therefore, every project has a unique response to its surroundings.
In the same line, we can see how important is the concept of community in your projects (collective spaces and interconnected). How does this idea define your creative process?
The idea of creating spaces for exchange and community is very important for us.
Do you think the notion of nordic european design fits with your style?
We cannot deny our Nordic roots but an important part of the Nordic tradition of design is also to seek inspiration abroad.
Brick House, which is probably your most successful project, became a referent of the sustainable architecture in the entire world. How was the Brick House experience? And which was your contribution to reduce the environment impact?
The success of Brick House has been quite surprising for us because it is a very small and, in many ways, modest project . We won the project in a competition two years ago and the design challenges and process was very fast and challenging. The idea of building a no-maintenance, long lifespan house for the same budget as any usual house was a bit of an impossible mission that we could only solve by working very closely with the client and contractor. The design and way of building is strongly inspired by historical buildings which have survived the passing of time. By looking at these projects we learned that by reducing complexity in terms of materials and building techniques and focusing on good craftsmanship, we could solve the almost impossible requirements for the project.
What should a good architect do in order to make something everlasting from all his projects?
Well, accepting that nothing is everlasting would be a good start. Functions change, climate changes, social patterns change and buildings must be able to adapt to these changes.
In the process of giving shape to your ideas...which was the biggest obstacle you found on your way?
Realising building projects is nothing but a series of big obstacles. There are no easy paths to take. That is why architecture is so important and so difficult to master. We create projects to build them and we are constantly facing new challenges and learning new things in this process.
Is there any referent in the field of architecture who is a big inspiration for you?
We find inspiration in many different places, inside and outside the world of architecture. We both teach and the dialogue between the students and colleagues is an important source of inspiration. We also run an exhibition space in our office storefront space and the dialogue with the people exhibiting and their work is also an important source of inspiration. But inspiration is nothing in itself. In the words of Thomas Edison “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. This is very true when applied to the creative process of making architecture where the basis of taking the right decisions comes from hard work and more hard work.
Do you have some sort of dream job you would like to undertake?
We would like to find the time and place to make a small project where we are the clients, architects, builders and inhibitors. A combined retreat and meeting room for the office in the woods perhaps?