Juhani Pallasmaa Interview: Art and Architecture

“Architecture is not out there, it’s a mediation between the world and our minds.” Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, a leading figure in contemporary architecture, here talks about how good architecture and good art alike tell us something not only about our society, history and culture, but also about ourselves.

Pallasmaa argues that self-construction is important in order to eventually be able to build something yourself. Reading is an important part of this built-up, and he encourages his students not to read architecture books but rather poetry and novels: “When we read a good book, we construct each one of the characters, every room, every space, every house, entire cities we construct in our imagination.” Moreover, the miracle of art, Pallasmaa finds, is that it conveys the presence of the maker, whether that be a current artist, or one who lived thousands of years ago: “Greatness is measured by timelessness.”

Juhani Pallasmaa (b. 1936) is a Finnish architect, critic and former professor of architecture, who is considered a leading international figure in contemporary architecture, design and art culture. Among his buildings are Bank of Finland Museum (2002-2003), Kamppi Centre (2003-2006) and the pedestrian and the Viikki Bridge (2002) in Helsinki and Cranbrook Academy of Art (1994) in Michigan. In 1983 he established his own architect’s office in Helsinki – Arkkitehtitoimisto Juhani Pallasmaa KY. Awards for his architectural work include the 2009 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Finnish State Architecture Award, the Fritz Schumacher Prize and the Russian Federation of Architecture Award. Moreover, he is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and an Honorary Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1991, he was Finland’s architectural representative at the Venice Biennale. Pallasmaa has written several books on architectural theory, among these ‘The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses’, which has become a classic of architectural theory and is required reading on courses in many schools of architecture worldwide. Since 2008, he has served on the jury for the Pritzker Prize for Architecture.

Juhani Pallasmaa was interviewed by Rasmus Quistgaard at his office in Helsinki, Finland in March 2018.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Dreyers Fond

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