Small Office in Munich Creating Big Change
Opposite Office is an award-winning activist architecture firm in Munich founded by Benedikt Hartl. They are known for their cutting edge design proposals that cater to sociological and political issues through an architectural lens. Their work has been internationally acclaimed and has won many awards including the Social Design Award, Spiegal in 2019.
How do you perceive the importance of activist architecture in today's world?
"Architecture has a responsibility for our society. So in my opinion, we should try to influence and express issues that are relevant and critical at a time. Architecture is not only a business, but also a thinking other than profit."
Do you see your social housing proposals being implemented in the near future?
"Of course! I think affordable housing is one of the key issues of our time! If we will not manage to proceed and to create appropriate living conditions for people in cities, we will fail and cease to exit as society. But as architects we have to be optimistic and I think we will manage to build one of our social housing concepts in the future. For that we need courageous and innovative clients!"
How would you view your proposals in a South Asian Context?
"Affordable Housing is an important issue worldwide! The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Also in South Asia, the most vulnerable are being left behind in the housing market. So, I think resilient, healthy and affordable housing should be treated as a basic human right!"
What is the one thing you know after years of experience in the radical architecture approach that you wish you had known earlier?
"Well… somehow you have to make money with your work. If you are too radical, it is impossible. That’s why we try to combine serious architecture with radical ideas. Opposite Office is a studio that works between fiction and reality. Let’s make fiction real!"
What advice would you give students and young architects entering a world that has rapidly changed over the last few months?
"I don’t think the world just changed rapidly in the past few months but in the very last years. In my opinion coronavirus is only intensifying our problems!
It is not the virus which made our world a place of unpredictable uncertainty but the global developments within the last years: Extreme political parties and right-wing leaders came to power. You can observe how the most powerful country goes to the dogs. For a long time, the US was the country of freedom, the country of unlimited possibilities and the country of international cooperation, security and peace. It is a shame to see how such a great country is being destroyed in a very short time. In the US you can see how vulnerable the system of unlimited capitalism is. I think we are witnessing a major downfall of a system which is only based on economic growth and an exploration of environment and natural resources."
What is your take on how the architecture industry is evolving during COVID-19, and the future of it? What can architects do to survive?
"I think what I think is utopian. So I stopped thinking and began to dream and romance. I hope architecture industry is becoming more sustainable. Maybe in times of coronavirus we realize how vulnerable we are. Maybe we also realize how important it is to create affordable and healthy architecture for every part of the society. The protests against the housing crisis, a rising inequality and Friday for Futures already showed us before COVID-19 that we have to change something! Somehow all these problems and challenges are connected to architecture. I mean you have to consider that it is not the traffic but our houses that are climate Killer No.1. "
How important is it to innovate in architecture with every new era? How is it going to affect the future? Can it have a negative impact?
"I don’t think it is important to be innovative in terms of architectural expression. I think it is important to be innovative in terms of ecology and social thinking."