Back Prof. Xaver Egger

Or why modular construction means local independence to Prof. Xaver Egger.

Good architecture should …
be designed for the people who use them.

Architects should …
… in this logic be craftsmen who take an interest in people’s concerns. But it is more complex than that of course. After much importance being currently attached to specialisations, I would rather like to see a return to generalism. Therefore, architects should be all that: from architects up to project developers and also to a certain extent psychologists, sociologists, researchers, explorers.

Are there buildings which arouse a particular passion in you?
Yes, there are many, e.g. colleagues’ contemporary architecture, but also ancient architecture which was thought nearly lost. Recently, I’ve been travelling in the southern region of Africa, in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe also means “stone house” for it is one of the few African countries where really massive towns and houses were built which technically could rival their European counterparts during the Renaissance. That architecture can also often be politically motivated is shown, for example, in the colonial era’s belief that it would be impossible for black people to achieve such perfection. I was perplexed by how architecture is used for certain political ends – or misused one should rather say. This is a matter of interpretation, less of architecture.

What inspires you?
That can be anything really, e.g. something just seen or heard, but of course also this approach I pursue in high school: What is actually going on in society? And how can it be translated into architecture? But also subjects like handicraft, craftsmanship and passion inspire me. When I see people nowadays who create things with passion, a lot of time and precision, this inspires me particularly. It doesn't really matter what it is about, whether it is self-distilled schnapps made with a whole lot of love or a woodcarver in the Black Forest working on sculptures: I always learn a lot from certain aspects. All things considered, it is about sensual experiences, sensual inspirations. Do you know what blind people say? Blindness is not so bad because it only alienates you from things, unlike deafness alienating you from people.

What was your biggest achievement so far?
My children and the related challenge which is even bigger for me as an architect, as I ask myself: „What is my legacy to the next or the one after next generation?“. Professionally, it is an achievement for me to have found a way, to go out, to identify the questions of our age and to formulate answers. It need not be the claim that there is only one right answer but it is certainly always an important incentive.

What is your next project? What are you currently working on?
Personally, I am currently involved in a project, for example, about new work environments for the digital economy and synergy with eSports. This is quite interesting because we always think that we know everything which is required. Also with a view to Asia where meanwhile stadiums are being built for eSports. We will not build a stadium but perhaps a multifunctional hall. And after talking to experts from the industry we realised that we need the same surface again as for the planned hall for team quarters, the fitness area and training studios etc. We never finish learning as the world is turning faster and faster.

What is in your opinion the biggest advantage of modular construction processes?
I think it is indeed advantageous to depend less on the local building industry. When I drive my modules, prefabricated under optimal factory conditions, on a low-loader somewhere, but then need e.g. a local construction company to concrete the cellar, it’s not going to work. They either don’t feel like it, have no time or charge prices other than those calculated by us. This downright counteracts industrial architecture.

Are there disadvantages?
I believe that we, as planners, are not equipped at all for planning industrial processes, respectively industrial construction of buildings. This became painfully obvious during our first system constructions, respectively module constructions. In this respect I believe one should intervene at this point and alert the planner to what it actually means: just-in-time production means just-in-time planning which we are not yet familiar with. And in terms of resources and sustainability I think the subject ‘modular’ is also questionable. You will end up with each wall structure and ceiling structure in duplicate. Therefore, does ‘modular’ make sense or is it not rather a question of elemental building? Is a mixture of both perhaps in order? It is currently still early days in this respect.

What is your advice to young architects?
Presently, it is of the utmost importance to keep an open mind. As to modular vs. non-modular, one should focus on the different types of construction and approaches which make sense for a particular project.

If you had not become an architect, what would you be today?
Future-oriented lobbyist! That can be anything really and that is exactly what I like about it. But it is future-oriented. I like looking ahead.
Prof. Xaver Egger
SEHW Architects
Wikingerufer 7
D-10555 Berlin
Tel. +49 (0)30 3087 8510
Fax +49 (0)30 3087 8520