Mette Harder work as an architect and teach at Umeå school of architecture.

How did you get interested in architecture?
I’ve been interested in architecture since I was quite small. When I was playing I were often building small houses and caves or draw all sorts of dwellings. I loved the drawings and descriptions of houses, for example children’s books as The Moomins. At the time I could of course not define my interest, but I just thought it was fun to play. Later I began to find out what architects are working with is to create space and that it was that I wanted to be. I remember how fascinated I was when I visited Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia on a research trip in 9th class.

What was your latest inspiration?
I am very inspired by how people behave and act. That is what we as designers create a framework for.
What do you think about the architecture situation in Sweden and in Umeå?
In Sweden and in Umeå it’s a great tendency to often think only functional. You can see that on city planning. The cities are surrounded with malls in the suburbs, where you can only get to by car. There are absolutely no spatial qualities of these places, it is pure function.
How does Danish and Swedish architecture differ?
Danish architects are very good at selling their architecture on the international market.

Where in Sweden do you believe that the best development is? What do you consider is missing in Sweden?
There often lack of a discussion of the architecture for what we want with it. How does it improve our lives? How does this affect our urban spaces? Often it is either purely functional without aesthetic qualities, or it becomes a smart image without much content. I miss the architecture that takes an active position on how our society looks like today and how it should look like in the future. Are we really building the society we want to create?

Favorite architect?
Utzon has been my favorite architect a long time. I visited the Opera House in Sydney some years ago and it was a great experience. There takes a lot of time to get into his building and working methods.

What kind of architecture do you believe is most important for the moment?

Sustainability is of course an important issue. You are not just limited to pollution and energy consumption, but should also include social sustainability and local culture as well, Economics, Aesthetics, health, material consumption, flexibility, functionality and a timeframe. Durability should be a holistic view of architecture that integrates all aspects of life.

I first heard about Victor Marx when I got in contact with ‘Kulturkampanjen’ (a nonprofit cultural organization for free culture). He was one of the people behind ‘Cyklopen’ which was an open culture house built up with four containers and lots of old windows. This building where finished in the summer of 2007 and burned down one and a half year later.  Marx and the ‘Kulturkampanjen” continued to fight to build up a new cultural center that won’t be ruled by financial interests, but haven’t succeeded yet.

Outside the ‘Kulturkampanjen’ Marx have worked with upgrading unwanted areas in Stockholm with free art galleries and shelters for homeless people, this without any building permit. The art gallery was standing for five month and the house for homeless people is still there.  This ‘guerilla architecture’ created a debate in the Swedish media about unwanted architecture and who are deciding about it.

Victor Marx is one of the people I am inspired by and the reason that I did contact him is because I am interested of what had made him decide to study architecture and what his thoughts are about it today.

At the time Marx was applying for the architecture school he took part in a small occupation movement and got to see big empty properties that inspired him to renew and use for better purposes. He tells me that he always has been interested in buildings and the opportunities of different spatiality’s like abandoned buildings, forgotten areas under bridges and in the train system and old foundations. He had seen these unwanted areas and dreamed about what he could do with them if he got the opportunity. When Victor Marx saw these areas he started a thought process how he could upgrade them, what functions they could fill and he thinks that these fantasies about spatiality’s was one of the reasons that he got into architecture. Another reason was that he wanted to be an artist when he was younger but was discouraged by how hard it is to get your earning from it and see that architecture is a compromise of that.

When I asked Marx about his favorite architect he told me about Shigeru Ban, who is a socially engaged architect from Tokyo, Japan. Ban has worked with helping disaster victims in form of architecture and Marx claims that Ban has through his projects explored new ways to look at the functions of architecture and at the materials being used. Marx also believes that his “normal architecture” is innovative, creative and well thought through and therefore inspiring.

Michael Rakowitz is one of Marx’s latest inspirations with his project (P)LOT. Michael Rakowitz does “questions the occupation and dedication of public space” with (P)lot and has build tents that look like car covers and given the opportunity to have a place to live in an urban area.

Marx’s sees architecture as being important because ‘the whole society takes part of it, few people succeeds escaping from it and the question is if the ones that succeed get any happier!’

Hans Löfgren has taught art at School of Architecture and the Built Environment in Stockholm for 18 years, he’s an artist with a 5 years education at Valand’s Academy of art and has studied architecture at Chalmers for 2 years.

Löfgren enlightens me that not all architecture is art, but some of it should have the right to be it. Since architecture controls by short economical interests the artistic quality often comes in second place. The functions of the building also controls the artistic value, as a new-build church has easier to express its artistic value then a residential building because that one include in an industrial order and then the art is less important than the economy.

More creative work and architecture and art history would improve the basic education in architecture according Löfgren. To answer the question ‘What is missing in architecture?’ he says that:

‘…More individual expressions that are accommodated to the site and that create social meetings between people. But also for a organic solid society it’s important to make the energy consumption more effective .’

Architecture highly influences the life of the people, he continues. With that in mind we should plan with a longer perspectives when we construct new buildings.

If I understand it right Hans Löfgren is a spokesman for diversity, and I agree with that. I believe that more diversity in architecture would go alongside with more acceptances for diversity in the society.