In the Proust’s short questionnaire style, AA questions architects about their profession, their projects, their vision of the future. Today, we meet the danish office COBE, created by Dan Stubbergaard in 2005. With more than 100 architects, engineers and landscapers employed, Cobe received many prizes greeting their approach and their vision as the Nykredit’s Architecture Prize in 2012 – the most prestigious prize in Scandinavia. Architects at COBE focus on an inclusive architecture, taking into account the social and environmental data in all of their creative process.
Being an architect means…
That is a very broad question. Architecture is a way of looking at society and shaping the future we want to live in. Being an architect is in many ways about helping people and helping the development of the society. By that I mean that architecture is a kind of a physical vision on different ways to inhabit our planet, different ways of living together and different ways of having social interaction.
What would your perfect order be?
I am often being asked questions like “what is your favorite project?” or “what is your dream project?”. I have very clear answers: I am passionate about all our projects at COBE. They are each very important and dear to me and I don’t have a hierarchy of favorite projects. For instance, it is equally important to me to do a small kindergarten in Copenhagen, as it is to build an amazing brand building for Adidas in Germany.
How do you see your job in 20 years?
There is no doubt that it is a lot of hard work being an architect, and that practicing architecture is not easy. But I am also sure that I’ll still be an architect 20 years from now.
The advice you’d give young architects
I think our key role as architects is to show the possibilities of architecture, buildings and spaces that people have not foreseen yet. As an architect, you have to be both visionary and solution-oriented in your work in order to solve some of the challenges we are facing in our society. One of the most important things when starting out in this business is to find your ‘soul’ as an architect, so to speak.
What would you want to transmit to your co-workers?
I would like COBE to be viewed as trustful, innovative and creative, and that we meet our clients and users personally. In that sense, I want to be an example to my co-workers.
The emerging architect we should follow
I am currently very absorbed by the work of Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi. I know he’s not an emerging architect, but I have recently seen an art installation he did here in Copenhagen and I was very keen on it. Sambuichi has a very subtle way of pointing out the architectural DNA spaces. This ability to capture the spirit of a space in a way that reaches outside itself has inspired me a lot.
The project you would have loved signing
Recently we unfortunately lost a competition on a swimming hall project on our beloved Paper Island in Copenhagen, which is soon to be rebuilt. We won the masterplan competition for the island and then we were lucky to participate in a public building: a swimming hall competition on the harbor front. We got into the final along with BIG, but unfortunately, we lost in the final round to Kengo Kuma. That is indeed a project I would have loved to sign and it still hurts like hell that we lost. But big congratulations to Kengo Kuma.
The other job you would have practiced
I am quite happy about being an architect, so I find this topic a little dangerous to look into. I think I would get insane if I had to reevaluate things I could have done differently in my youth, concerning my education or decision-making. I am pleased to be an architect.
An inspiring place
There are of course many inspiring places around the world. Locally, there is a spot where I often go to find inspiration. It is a place my grandfather showed me when I was five or six years old, the Grundtvigs Church in Copenhagen, the construction of which took over 20 years. The church is built purely out of bricks and I find it very beautiful. Even now, 100 years after it was built, it is still a very futuristic building and that is something I am continuously being inspired by. I always experience something new when I go back. Sometimes I see new architectural elements, different ways the light is creating spaces or something else. And of course the church is also a memory from my childhood, which is very important to me.
A book, an object, a piece of art you particularly love
This question is actually closely related to the previous one. For me it is about going back and to the same element or object or experience again and again, because I find inspiration there every time. The art museum Louisiana in the very north of Copenhagen gives me that special feeling. I am particularly fond of Gerhard Richter’s painting “1025 colours”. I can always find new perspectives in that oeuvre. I also really love going to Louisiana.
I am currently reading a biography of Elon Musk; I think that that is incredibly inspiring these days to read how he accomplished all of his visions by being very ambitious and nearly stubborn. At the same time, he explains how important mistakes are and how important it is to learn from them. He translates mistakes into innovative fuel. I find that extremely inspiring.