If there is a particular strand in my work
that I think is profound, and yet maybe to be appreciated,
is that I didn’t import concepts from place to place
but actually subordinated myself
to try to understand the essence of a place.
Design is about making things work, and fit,
and respond to their purpose.
That is for me the kind of checklist of:
Is my architecture timeless?
Is it responsive in such a way
that it’s likely to be meaningful on a long-term basis?
In the early parts of my career
I was quite obsessed with geometry
and with the notion of creating three-dimensional spatial components,
as building blocks for construction.
Habitat is an example where boxes form houses,
but then I tried to carry that thought process to other typologies.
At some point I realized that different typologies
require different systems
and that there’s a wide variety of building systems,
all of which could lead to a wider variety of expressions.
So this was a big lesson.
A lesson of the language of my building.
As an architect committed to building
and impacting the environment,
to design without the intention of building
is a failure by definition because it’s not architecture.
For those who design in order to build,
not succeeding in building is not a failure.
There are different reasons why things don’t get built,
but they form a fascinating track
through one’s thoughts and career.
Probably more than 50% of my work is unbuilt.
When I review that unbuilt work,
some of it is the most significant work I have done.
The Habitat 67 that got built
is one-fifth of the original complex.
Had the original been built,
perhaps the course of architecture in this century would have been different.
When you’ve been an architect fifty years
and you already had three buildings demolished,
and you see the transformation that’s taking place,
very little or none of it is forever.
I’ve seen architecture go from profound concerns for society as a whole
to a period of interest in tantalizing society
by the possibilities of architecture.
I’ve seen the public awed by certain buildings
because of their notoriety for a while,
but there’s a quality of being impressed
and there’s a quality of affection and loving something.
I go to Habitat today,
it’s fifty years old
and, not just to my mind but to almost every observer,
it’s as fresh as ever.
It’s as relevant as ever.
After years of being semi-ignored,
all of a sudden the ideas of Habitat are all over the place.
The question of contemporary
has to do with the values a building represents.
A contemporary building seizes the spirit of the time,
as well as the technology of the time,
in a way that has meaning that lasts.