Ole Scheeren Interview

Project Description

SAWASDEE
Ole Scheeren Interview

by Lim Sio Hui, Jan 01, 2012[View PDF]

Ole Scheeren
The German architect is leading the superstructure revolution in Asia today

You just participated in Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Congress (WSC) – what do you see as your possible contribution to the world today?

We should aim to build a sustainable social environment: a good city is not only a city with a low carbon footprint but also a city that people like to live in. And a good building for the environment is a building that really works – it lives and functions.

Can you share an example of how that comes across in your work?

My latest project, Angkasa Raya, is a 268 meter high-rise tower in the center of Kuala Lumpur. On one hand it deals with explicit environmental issues; it has a sophisticated passive shading system, which will substantially reduce the energy consumption of the building. But the most important aspect is how we are integrating the building into the urban context, by continuing the streetscape inside its ground levels with a mix of people, shops, cars and green – and how we reflect the diverse and multicultural character of Kuala Lumpur.

You have designed one of the world’s most iconic buildings: the CCTV in Beijing, the city that you have also chosen as your home today. Why did you decide to move to Asia?

I first travelled to China when 20 years ago – it was an intense and life-changing experience and I realized how different the world could be. Since then, I kept very close contact with Asia. I care very much to spend time in places where I’m working, several months at least, to understand the culture of a place and to be able to produce meaningful architecture for them.

Tell us more about your first impressions of China.

It was a moment when international tourism as we know it basically didn’t exist yet in China, so many places I came to did not have hotels – I slept at times in workers dormitories with 200 people; I travelled on buses that couldn’t crawl faster than 30km an hour; I stood in line for two and a half days queuing up to buy a train ticket. In terms of travel, it was probably one of the most extreme experiences you could possibly imagine. After that, everything else seemed really easy.

You’ve also lived in Bangkok. What did you like most about Bangkok?

The six months I spent here in 1999 were a very important time for me. I met some incredible people, and it was during this period when I grew to appreciate the stark contrasts that make Bangkok such a great city. The mixture of future and past, side by side, and the incredible intensity of the city make it a unique place.

You were born in Germany and have lived in Switzerland, Holland, New York, London, Bangkok and China. Travel is an integral part of your life: what do you enjoy most about it?

I’m very interested in different cultures and cities, in that sense travel plays a very important role, both professionally and personally. I was lucky to have the chance to not only travel but actually live in many different places: you’re not only looking at things as a bystander or tourist but actually become involved in the culture of the city. For me the experience of that is one of the richest parts of my life.