Oculus - Winter 2010/2011 - (Page 14)
When we were living in Darmstadt, Germany, where the German Jugendstil developed, I was fascinated by a small arts ghetto there that had been populated by Olbrich, Behrens, and others. As I grew up, my family allowed me to visit a number of cities in Europe. Simultaneously, there was always an atmosphere of culture in my home. This surely had an influence. I began my university work studying fashion design and business, but these fields felt too superficial for me. Later I transferred to pre-med school, and was counseled to become a medical illustrator due to my skill at drafting and knowledge of science. My father suggested I look into architecture, as it is a good link between art and science. I have not looked back, but all of these pursuits have to do with human form and need.
Craig Dykers, AIA, LEED AP, received his Bachelor’s in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in 1985. He co-founded the Oslo, Norway-based architecture, landscape, and interiors collaborative Snøhetta with Kjetil Trædal Thorsen in 1989, after its members designed the competition-winning entry for the Alexandria Library in Egypt. Upon being awarded the commission to design the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site in 2004, the firm opened an office in New York City with Dykers at the helm. Trying to catch him sitting down is like trying to catch a falling leaf in a winter wind. Chances are he’s in the air, somewhere between his Oslo and New York offices, or just about anywhere else in the world. Oculus Editor Kristen Richards finally connected with him (via email) while he was winging his way to Houston – or was it San Francisco, where the firm recently won the competition to design the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art? – to talk about the differences between working here and abroad, and life as a nomadic architect. Kristen Richards: You had a rather nomadic childhood – one profile called you an “Army brat.” Was that experience influential in your becoming what some might consider a nomadic architect? Craig Dykers: I was born a military dependent. As soon as I made friends in one place, my family would move and I would find myself making new friends and waiting for the next message that my father would be stationed elsewhere. For me this was a positive influence. I developed skills for connecting to people in a short period of time. I OCULUS WINTER 10/11 taught myself how to engage and be empathetic. My sensitivity to language grew more profound. Also, I was raised in Europe and the U.S., so my education was broader than if I had been brought up within one specific cultural base.
Your 1989 competition-winning design for the Alexandria Library in Egypt was the result of an international team, and
Snøhetta came out of that collaboration. How and why did you settle on Norway and Snøhetta? We were a loose collection of young people, none over age 30, all recently out of school. We understood that the
project was too large for any one of us to consider alone or within a small group. This important understanding cultivated a sense of collaboration and engagement that has stayed with us to this day. It is a different kind of ego than one traditionally finds in architecture; it is a feeling of being singular in the plural.
What was the impetus to open an office in New York?
Our office in Oslo was founded within an unusual contextual environment. We had drawn the Alexandria Library com-
petition in Los Angeles, but the participants mainly came from Oslo or had ties to Europe. We found that creating a work environment outside the ordinary walls that defined our lives was a useful stress that could help us evaluate our architectural interests better. New York was a way of doing that again, after being successful for 20 years in Oslo.
What are the most striking differences between working in New York and Oslo? Many people in Norway have a more relaxed understanding of design, and often this promotes more radical proposals.
In New York, some colleagues who have been trained in the U.S. rely on more aggressive methods of conceiving architecture that involve a great deal of research and preemptive accountability, meaning modeling behavior patterns during the design process.
What most inspired you to become an architect?
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2010/2011
Oculus - Winter 2010/2011
A Word from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
So Says...Craig Dykers, AIA, LEED AP
How Cities Learn from Each Other
Why Isn’t Architecture a U.S. Export Priority?
When Small Firms Venture Abroad
Division of Labor
Out of Africa
Thinking Globally, Acting Humbly
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Winter 2010/2011