Counting Kai Uwe Bergmann as one of the most prominent guests at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2020 is unlikely to prompt any great protests. Bergmann is a partner at the globally renowned Danish architectural firm BIG and, from his base in New York, he is constantly traveling to every corner of the world where the firm has some spectacular new project in the works. For a couple of years now, Bjarke Ingels Group has even been involved in a project exploring how the planet Mars could be made habitable for humans in the future, although, for obvious reasons, Kai Uwe has not yet had call to inspect work there.
We open by asking whether BIG has any interesting projects on the go here in Scandinavia?
“The most exciting one is a factory for Norwegian furniture company Vestre, where we’re working together on how new technology can be used to create a building for circular manufacturing, tailored to the requirements of the next generation. We’re trying to find ways to improve the logistical element of our architecture.”
How would you rate the reputation of Scandinavian architecture and design in the world today?
“There is huge respect out there, as illustrated by the fact that Scandinavian architectural practices such as Norway’s Snøhetta and others are securing more and more international assignments. I have no doubt that this is because of our pragmatic approach to architecture, which is both intelligent and based on social responsibility.”
Karl Uwe Bergmann has never been to Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair before, despite actually having lived here (30 years ago, on Laxgatan in the suburb of Fisksätra!) and having relatives in the city.
“I’ve been fascinated by what I’ve seen so far. Everything seems to be so well organized.”
How important is this type of event to the industry?
“Enormously important. I’ve just now met colleagues from Barcelona and the USA who traveled here specially for the fair and we have people from BIG here too. It’s a meeting place where people come to exchange ideas. Stockholm Design Week has put Stockholm on the world map as a key arena for all kinds of design.”
Stockholm Design and Architecture Talks’ moderator Mark Isitt joked after your talk that the one thing left was to get planning for buildings on the moon. In fact, it turned out that BIG is involved in a project on Mars. Talk about cutting edge. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your industry in the immediate future?
“I think it’s actually the question of how we’re going to stop using fossil fuels and convince society to get serious about finding alternative energy sources. Mass migration from rural areas into the cities is another challenge. How can the cities provide their inhabitants with opportunities for education, recreation and self-actualization? The transport sector also needs to be overhauled. I think we have to rethink things and fundamentally change the transport systems we’ve built up. There are going to be major paradigms shifts concerning how we move from one place to another. We may end up traveling less, and there might be more interaction via screens.”
What is the time horizon for all these changes?
“I see small paradigm shifts happening every day, and the pace of change varies depending on the area. Naturally the advances are coming most quickly in the field of technology. In my lifetime alone, the smartphone has replaced around 10 other products, for example. When I was young, we had a typewriter and a camera and so on – things we just don’t need any more.”