Posts tagged with "Pritzker Architecture Prize":

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Five rules for an “uncharted” architecture from Balkrishna Doshi‘s Pritzker Prize lecture

2018 Pritzker Prize laureate Balkrishna Doshi delivered a wide-ranging lecture at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto in Canada last night during a reception honoring his career and achievements.  The sprawling discussion covered topics ranging in nature from the finer points of self-directed communal housing in India’s small towns to the ways in which institutional buildings can be imbued with a sense of wonder and surprise. Doshi, the first Indian to win the Pritzker and one of only a handful of architects ever selected from non-European or American countries, seemingly relished in the opportunity to discuss the relative difference and richness in perspective his “uncharted” architecture possesses, saying at one point, “If you come to India, we can show you how [poetic architecture] can be done.”  The talk, autobiographical in nature and encyclopedic in its treatment of the vital but seldom-discussed facets of thoughtful architecture, was organized generally as a series of life lessons presented to the students and staff in attendance for their benefit.  Below are a few of the many key points Doshi espoused in describing his life-long pursuit of open-ended, dynamic, and multivalent architectures. 
  1. Create spaces where you can lose yourself—In describing visiting religious temples and participating in familial ceremonies during his youth, Doshi explained that he would lose himself in the spectacular detail of sacred spaces but that he was also often inspired by the ability people have to transform any place into a special one. These two things come together for Doshi to inspire both an admiration of architecture and an acknowledgement that people and the stories they create play as important a role in the full expression of space as typical architectonic elements do. Doshi said, “mythical stories have become for me a fact because they are in my memory,” adding later that “everything can become sacred because there’s always something there that is unknown to us.”
  2. Be a citizen as well as a professional—Responding to a question about the relationship between mass shootings and architecture, Doshi explained that for him, being involved with other people as a citizen and an individual was of the upmost importance and that building human relationships should sometimes supersede professional concerns. Remarking on the current state of politics and society, Doshi said, “right now, the dialogue is missing and I think dialogue is very important.”
  3. Focus on stability, not mobility—Several of the projects Doshi covered in his lecture focused not just on the inherent usefulness of his designs, but on their potential for reuse and reinterpretation, either through the lens of an evolving family, for example, or through the ways in which nature and the changing of the seasons can lend spaces a sense of dynamism. For Doshi, the propensity buildings have for long-term use and re-use comes from designing for stability. In response to an audience question, Doshi himself asked, “when we design, do we [anticipate] if we were the users, the ways in which we would modify” something like a house or an apartment?
  4. Design things that can be used for many, many purposes—In discussing a design for a water tower for a new company town, Doshi explained that instead of striving merely for the most efficient or easy-to-build form, his office explored a way of creating a water tower that could also be used for festivals and celebrations throughout the year. With the project, Doshi tried to answer the question: “How does one create [spaces for] several activities that are natural [to engage in] when there are no opportunities to do them?” His answer? To design a brick and concrete water tower with a wide skirt at the bottom that creates covered outdoor space and provides a winding staircase that ascends to the top of the tower so “young couples can have ice cream cones” on their way to the top to enjoy the view. Doshi also discussed self-directed housing types in Aranya, India that allow occupants to incrementally add to their units over time in order to create dynamic dwellings that can grow along with their inhabitants or add the potential for economic development and social integration.
  5. Embed movement, nature, and an appreciation of time in your work—Doshi imbues many of his projects with direct connections to nature out of necessity due to India’s climate. His works, like the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology and the Indian Institute of Management developed with Louis Kahn, allow nature to flourish amid architecture. Doshi said, “we are [never] aware of time, but if we sit in one place and watch the sun, everything can become sacred and can have some use we do not currently know.”
A recording of the talk in its entirety can be found on Youtube here.
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Pritzker winner Balkrishna Doshi forges an architecture of place in an age of placelessness

About time!” was perhaps the most common refrain on social media when it was announced that the 2018 Pritzker Prize had been awarded to the architect, B.V. Doshi, the grand old man of architecture from the Indian subcontinent. He is the first Indian to win the prize and its oldest recipient. It would be impossible to write a history of the modern architecture of India or, for that matter, of the non-western world, without acknowledging Balkrishna Doshi’s seminal contributions. His career spans nearly seven decades as an educator, urbanist and an architect, and his legacy undoubtedly transcends the Global South. Yet for all the tributes that poured in, there was a eagerness to fit the contribution of the man and the significance of the award into a neat box. Robin Pogrebin’s piece in The New York Times, “Top Architecture Prize Goes to Low-Cost Housing Pioneer From India,” was particularly reductive, if not offensive, to those more familiar with the work. It is not unlike calling Beethoven, “a pioneer in concerto writing from Germany.” While both statements might be true, they betray an incredible myopia toward the breadth of their legacies. When Doshi founded his office in Ahmedabad in 1955, the Indian state was not even a decade old. Mahatma Gandhi and his ashram in Ahmedabad had served as the epicenter of a great struggle against British imperialism. Doshi arrived in this city from Chandigarh, where Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had commissioned Le Corbusier to design a new capital for the state of Punjab. Inevitably, the landmarks of the new nation liberated from European imperialism would now be built according to the doctrines of high modernism. Doshi himself was a product of this movement, having worked for four years in the atelier of Le Corbusier in Paris prior to his arrival in Chandigarh. Even in India, modernism was seen as a tour de force that promised a new egalitarian social order, removed from the shackles of tradition. To be modern meant to embrace an architecture of European modernism and its associated dogmas of rationalist thinking, objectivism and tabula rasa planning, with an unfettered belief in progress and technology. For a nation recovering from colonialism, with great and diverse traditions in art, architecture and city form, reconciling these dogmas of modernist thinking took several decades. Doshi’s work and legacy is a search for this reconciliation, between universalism and place, rationalism and what philosopher Paul Ricoeur calls ‘the mythical nucleus of humankind.” The quest embodied in Doshi’s oeuvre has also been the quest of his peers Charles Correa, Achyut Kanvinde, Anant Raje and Raj Rewal, to name a few. It has been a quest of not one, but several generations of architects from the subcontinent and the Global South at large, to create an ontological and literal framework for an architecture that is modern and yet rooted in place. This involved acknowledging and reinterpreting elements from the rich traditions of Indian architecture –the courtyard, the jali (screen), a layered notion of enclosure, ornament and, very significantly, the plinth or the occupied ground.  The treatment of the ground as a receptacle for the celebration of life is a critical aspect of Doshi’s work.  It marks a clear break from the piloti and the grid–tools of Cartesian planning that favor the automobile’s hegemony over the ground. Doshi’s School of Architecture (1972), Sangath (1980), and The Gufa (1990) reveal an evolution of an autochthonous architecture of the ground, which becomes one of the most significant attributes of these buildings. The School of Architecture presents an activated ground, a constantly changing datum with tactile inhabitation. This is already a distinct shift from the Institute of Indology (1956), one of Doshi's earliest projects, or The Mill Owners Association building by Le Corbusier (1954) (a building that Doshi worked on as a project architect), which establish a strong single datum against the ground plane below. Sangath (which roughly translates as ‘working together through participation’) marks a true departure from the architectural tropes of Corbusier and Louis Kahn–the coming into being of a distinct architecture which is both modern and deeply rooted in place. The ground and the building are now inseparable and symbiotic. Landscape becomes the primary architectural mediator. The building is perceived as a rich topography of occupiable plinths culminating in vaulted porcelain mosaic roof forms that frame the sky. It is an architecture of multiplicity, tactility, ornament and myth. When the project was under construction, Doshi encouraged local craftsmen to leave their own creations in the landscape of the building, giving agency to the artisans. The waste of chiseled stone chips becomes an incredibly beautiful embellishment within the landscape. Upon entering the premises, you enter a haven–a world within a world. Programmatically, the building works not just as a studio but as a real celebration of life–a living ground for exhibitions, performances and festivities. In reflecting on Doshi’s work on housing, the French philosopher Paul Ricœur comes to mind. In History and Truth (1961), Ricoeur says, “The phenomenon of universalization… constitutes a sort of subtle destruction...of the creative nucleus of great cultures…the ethical and mythical nucleus of mankind. Everywhere throughout the world one finds the same bad movie, the same slot machines, the same plastic or aluminum atrocities, the same twisting of language by propaganda.” It is striking how prescient Ricœur is today in an era of fake news and climate change. Everywhere one finds the same twisted architectural forms, the same placelessness, the same erosion of public space and public life, the same universal crisis of housing, and the replacement of housing by speculative real estate in global cities from London and New York to Shanghai, Lagos and Mumbai. It is in this li­ght that Doshi’s low-income housing in Aranya should be considered. The Aranya project is a highly sophisticated design for over 6,500 dwellings. For a site and services project, it breaks from typical gridded layouts that maximize rationalization and efficiency. Instead, the project provides an urban armature where a range of open spaces and pedestrian pathways intersect and connect residential clusters to a central spine. Incrementality is the defining attribute of the project. Users are encouraged to add rooms to the service core of their house over time. Eight demonstration houses were designed by Doshi to illustrate the array of available options, from one-room shelters to more elaborate homes. Cross-subsidies and financial structures were put into place to encourage people to build their homes incrementally. This they did, and Aranya today is a thriving city of over 80,000 people. The project has created common spaces where people from varied castes and diverse religions mix and cooperate. Social cohesion is fostered through the very framework of the project–a crucial aspect that is easily overlooked in its descriptions. That architecture can and should have a socially progressive agenda was, after all, a defining attribute of the modernism–to bring design to the masses, to produce not only a new aesthetic, but also a new egalitarian order.  Form thus became an instrument of reducing social inequity. The canonical architects of the time engaged in feats of social housing, such as Weisenhoff Seidlung, the Unité de Habitation, Byker Wall and PREVI Lima. Aranya belongs to this lineage of architectural agency. Today, an architecture of social cohesion has given way to the architect as a celebrity superstar, complicit with neoliberal agendas, designing condominiums for the one percent. Form has utterly lost its social agency and become the perverse weapon of increased social inequity. Never before has the architect seemed more impotent in the face of global crisis–ecological, political and social. It is clear that architecture today needs less autonomy and greater spatial agency. This means a deeper engagement with forms and practices that offer modes of resistance to neoliberal orders, and less collusion with the forces of capital. For an architect who has completed over one hundred projects in nearly seven decades of practice, Doshi has yet to design a luxury condominium or a glass skyscraper! In belatedly acknowledging Doshi’s legacy, the Pritzker Prize finally brings attention to a great body of work. It also exposes a certain state of contemporary culture where practices of resistance are few and far between. Finally, in an age of toxic work cultures and the erosion of family life, the life of B.V Doshi also has something to teach us. This is reflected in his belief that great architecture is attainable not in spite of family life but because of it. Speaking at the Royal Academy of Arts last year, Doshi said that living together within an extended family remained one of the greatest influences of his life, where he "learnt about cooperation, tolerance, togetherness, humility, generosity, and interdependence." While much is made about Doshi’s associations with the masters, it is the women in his life who need to be celebrated–his three daughters, wife and mother-in-law. He is surely the only Pritzker Prize winner to have lived with his mother-in-law for 38 years. "I learnt so many things from her simplicity, humility...  She was fantastic!" Doshi’s life and work are imbued with an ethos that integrates the quintessential qualities of architecture–form, space and light–with the quintessential attributes that make us human, to create institutions and places of lasting meaning and value; an architecture of place in an age of placelessness.  This, in the end, is perhaps what makes Doshi so relevant to contemporary culture today, both in the east and the west. Sarosh Anklesaria is a Brooklyn based architect and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute. Sarosh spent eight years at CEPT University, which was founded by Doshi, and has worked as an architect at Sangath, the office of B.V. Doshi. 
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Balkrishna Doshi is the 2018 Pritzker Prize winner

Balkrishna Doshi is the 45th Pritzker Prize Laureate and the first architect from India to win the prize. For over seven decades, Doshi has been committed to shaping and nurturing India’s modern architectural milieu and is an important voice in the industry’s global discourse as an architect, urban planner, and educator. He worked closely with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn and completed over 100 projects of varying scales with his firm, Vastu-Shilpa. Doshi deftly integrates the principles of modernism within the realities of the Indian climate and context. His work addresses serious social issues, developing low-cost housing and urban planning throughout India’s cities, particularly in Ahmedabad, India, where he is based. According to the 2018 jury citation: “With a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high quality, authentic architecture, he has created projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients, among others. Doshi is acutely aware of the context in which his buildings are located. His solutions take into account the social, environmental and economic dimensions, and therefore his architecture is totally engaged with sustainability.” After studying architecture in Mumbai, Doshi joined Le Corbusier in Paris in the early 1950s, returning to Ahmedabad to work on several of Corbusier’s buildings there and ultimately overseeing Chandigarh. In 1962, Doshi collaborated with Louis Kahn on the Indian Institute of Management, continuing to work with him into the 1970s. Doshi founded his own practice, Vastu-Shilpa Consultants in 1956, and later established the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1978. He has spent subsequent years developing cities and townships as well as notable educational and cultural facilities. Some of his most iconic projects include Aranya Low Cost Housing (Indore, India), which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1996, ATIRA low-cost housing (Ahmedabad, India), his office, Sangath (Ahmedabad, India), and IFFCO Township (Kalol, India). The works are site-sensitive with protective overhangs and subterranean spaces to mitigate the extreme climate, interlocking volumes and fluid layouts to promote interaction, and overlapping spaces that connect the indoors to the outdoors. “Every object around us, and nature itself—lights, sky, water and storm—everything is in a symphony,” Doshi explained in a statement. “And this symphony is what architecture is all about. My work is the story of my life, continuously evolving, changing and searching...searching to take away the role of architecture, and look only at life.” The 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony will be hosted at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, in May, and Doshi will give a public lecture in partnership with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto on May 16, 2018. For more information, visit the Pritzker Prize website.
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Did Richard Rogers just hint at a Pritzker Prize winner?

In a recent interview with AN, Lord Richard Rogers commented on his recent experience on the Pritzker Prize jury. As we eagerly await the announcement on March 7, our editors are speculating who could be on his mind... "Yesterday I was a judge of the Pritzker Prize and we made the choice—can’t talk about it. But, it was extremely interesting, the number of Indian architects and South American architects, there are architects dealing with problems like housing for the poor and working with immensely exciting new materials and places and responding to this. In that sense, it is better, it is broader. I can phone and e-mail as easily as I can go next door. The digital is global. So on the one hand the world is getting smaller… Politically, well, let’s not discuss it." With Alejandro Aravena as the 2016 Pritzker Prize winner and RCR Arquitectes taking home the prize in 2017, architects from India and South Asia could be a good bet. Who do you think will win the 2018 Pritzker Prize? Read the full interview with Lord Rogers, here.
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Frei Otto Wins the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize

Frei Otto has been given the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The 89 year old architect and engineer known for his daring glass and steel superstructures including the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium. Often compared to Buckminster Fuller, Otto experimented with tensile structures, new materials, and inflatable architecture, and went on the build major buildings including the German Pavilion at Expo '67 and the roof for the Multihalle in Mannheim, Germany. He was the subject of a monographic exhibition at MoMA in 1972. Otto frequently collaborated with other architects and engineers, as noted in the jury citation. The announcement was set for March 23, but he died on Monday. The Prize is given to living architects, so this rushed announcement is a first. According to the Pritzker committee:
Throughout his life, Frei Otto has produced imaginative, fresh, unprecedented spaces and constructions. He has also created knowledge. Herein resides his deep influence: not in forms to be copied, but through the paths that have been opened by his research and discoveries. His contributions to the field of architecture are not only skilled and talented, but also generous. For his visionary ideas, inquiring mind, belief in freely sharing knowledge and inventions, his collaborative spirit and concern for the careful use of resources, the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded to Frei Otto.
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Q&A> Shigeru Ban, The 2014 Pritzker Prize Laureate

The Pritzker Architecture Prize has named Shigeru Ban its 2014 laureate. AN executive editor Alan G. Brake sat down with Ban at the Metal Shutter Houses, a luxury apartment building he designed in Manhattan’s Chelsea gallery district. He discussed influences from California to Finland, the social role of architecture, and what the recognition means for his work. As a former Pritzker juror did you ever expect to be in the position of being a laureate yourself? Not this soon. Also I know I have not made such achievements yet compared to other laureates, so I was not expecting it at all. You are considerably younger than some of the other laureates; tell me where you see yourself in terms of your career. I knew about the reason why I was chosen, and I knew that the reason was quite different from other laureates. It was an encouragement for me to continue to do the kind of social work as well as making projects like museums and others, so I try to keep a balance between other kinds of projects and working in disaster areas. So I’m taking it as an encouragement rather than the award was for such achievement. How did you first begin working in disaster areas? After I became an architect I was quite disappointed in our profession because we are mainly working for privileged people. Even historically this is the same, because money and power are invisible people with money and power hire architects to make a monument—to visualize their power and money for the public. I thought we could solve more for the public, for society, but it was not so. I thought there was an opportunity for me to use my experience, my knowledge for the difficult situations, like natural disasters—though I must say natural disasters are no longer natural. It’s our responsibility, and there were no architects working in disaster situations, because we are too busy working for the privileged. I’m not saying I’m not interested in making monuments, but, as I said, I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to help the people who lost their houses. And I thought we might make even better temporary housing. So the first time I started working in Rwanda in 1994 after the crisis, I proposed the idea of using cardboard tubes, paper tubes for the shelter construction for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. I was contracted to develop this idea further. Do you see other architects beginning to work in this field? Especially in the Northern Japan earthquake and tsunami, many architects started working in the disaster area. But when I was working in Kobe in 1995 there was no one. Also, when I give lectures in many different countries, I get a good reaction from younger architects and from students. They are interested in our activities, they want to join us. The situation is changing. Is that something that you feel is part of your role as an architect, to pull the profession more toward social issues or more toward everyday people? Yes, yes, I do. There’s a wonderful sense of invention in your work and every project is approached in a new way. Can you talk about how you begin? Actually, I don’t invent anything new. I always use an existing material in a new way. Paper tubes are not a new material. In this building we have metal shutters. This is an existing material. So I try to use existing materials differently, with more meaning or more function, instead of just inventing something new. It’s also interesting, learning from context, using local materials. And I always look for a problem to solve through design, instead of making some sculpture. How do you approach space or structure, some of the other fundamental aspects of architecture? Even as a student, I hated to be influenced by others. Always there’s a fashionable style, Baroque, or neoclassicism, or postmodernism. I didn’t like being influenced by the fashionable style, the style of the day. But in history I looked at Buckminster Fuller or Frei Otto, they made their own structural system or developed their own materials to make their own kind architecture. I was dreaming as a student to make my own structural system, this is why when I started using the paper tubes, made of recycled cardboard, even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes, but my buildings made of paper tubes can be permanent. I thought by using weaker materials or humble materials I can make some different type of architecture, taking advantage of the weakness of the material. With steel, it’s very flexible and strong. You can make any shape. With a paper tube, it’s so weak, and you can’t make just any form out of it. You have to find out what is an appropriate way of using it. Louis Kahn used to always ask his students, in his famous lecture, “Mr. Brick, what do you want to be?” And he said, “I want to be an arch.” So with the paper tube, which is a weak material, I have to find an appropriate way of using it. You can’t make everything from paper tubes. It’s not a perfect material. The limitations give me the idea to make an appropriate form out of this kind of material. Looking back on your career thus far, what are the breakthrough buildings for you in terms of developing your thinking about architecture? The Kobe project was kind of an important project for me, in terms of deciding my life’s work on disaster relief work, but I suppose for an architecture style or system, in the earlier period I designed a number of low cost houses, I called them “case study houses.” After I finished high school I came to the U.S. and the first school I went to was Sci-Arc in California. I fell in love with the so-called Case Study Houses, and Schindler, Neutra, Craig Ellwood, and so on. And I felt they had some Japanese influence. Because I didn’t study architecture in Japan, my first kind of Japanese influence came through those Case Study Houses. So in my early period I designed the so-called Curtain Wall House, the Walrus House, the Naked House, the House with a Double Roof. Many of these were low-cost housing with a special way of using an existing material or making a space connect to the inside/outside, so those case study houses helped to make my direction. Because before that I had some influence from Cooper Union, some influence from John Hejduk and the New York Five. But in order to get out from this movement from my school, I started to use the structure and development of materials to establish my own style. So this interest and approach to materials has really been there from the beginning. Yes, yes. Because in the beginning I was working on low-cost houses, I didn’t want to make a cheap house. So working with humble materials I could make something interesting instead of just making a cheap house with a low budget. That’s why I had some ideas of using everyday, low-cost materials differently. You are now the seventh Japanese laureate. That speaks very highly of the culture of architecture in Japan. Can you talk a bit about what you draw from Japanese architecture culture and how you deviate from it? First of all, I don’t know if I should be considered a Japanese architect, because I didn’t go to school in Japan and I’m working every where in the world, and also I’m not part of any school in Japan, and I don’t just mean universities. In Japan there are many schools, the Tange School, for example. And I didn’t work for any Japanese architects, except I worked for Isosaki for one year when I was a student. It was an internship almost. So I’m not part of this society. I didn’t have any public projects. The first opportunity came from France, the Pompidou Centre, and from the U.S., the Aspen Art Museum, and so all of those former Japanese laureates became very famous in Japan, they made public projects and then they started working abroad. But my case is different. Why did you decide to study in the U.S.? When I was in high school, when I was seventeen, I happened to see the Japanese architecture magazine A+U, they had a special feature on John Hejduk and Cooper Union, and I was amazed by his work. So that is why I came to the U.S., without speaking English. But there was no information, no internet, so I had to come to the U.S. to find out that Cooper Union does not accept foreign students. But I found out I could apply as a transfer student, so I had to look for a school I could enter and transfer to Cooper. I happened to find SCI-Arc. It was a brand new school, maybe three years old, founded by Raymond Kappe. It was very exciting how they renovated an old factory into the studio, so I applied, and I was very lucky to be interviewed by Ray Kappe. I didn’t speak English very well and he was very kind to accept me, and then after two and a half years I applied to Cooper Union. What did you do after you graduated? Well, I couldn’t graduate immediately because I had a big fight with Peter Eisenman, and so I had to extend my thesis. But I went back to Japan and began working for a very famous Japanese photographer, Yukio Futagawa, as his assistant. And I went with him to Europe, to visit Alvar Aalto’s projects, which I wasn’t interested in at all at Cooper Union. When I went to Finland to see Aalto it was a big shock to me; his use of local climate, of materials, his craftsmanship. Also, I organized an Aalto exhibition in Japan—and that was when I began working with paper tubes, because wood was too expensive. What was it that was so eye opening? The Villa Mairea. It’s in harmony with the climate, the context, and it takes advantage of many different kinds of warm materials, and also light. The light was so beautiful. But you know, in the International Style context was not so important nor was using natural materials, so Aalto’s was a completely different kind of architecture.   How did you get your first project? After I finished at Cooper Union I wanted to go to graduate school in the U.S., but my mother asked me to design a small building for her boutique, so I decided to go back to Japan just to finish my mother’s building before coming back to the U.S., but I also organized three exhibitions, including the one on Alvar Aalto, which was brought from MoMA. And while I was doing these exhibition designs and working on the building for my mother, I started working on a small villa project and I became too busy, so I gave up coming back to the U.S. Also, it’s interesting in Japan, Japan is the only country, where even the middle class people hire architects to design even a small house. In a developing country or in a developed country, rich people hire architects to design big houses, but in Japan there is so much opportunity for young architects to design small houses. That’s really great training for us. Obviously your interest in disaster relief housing has been very important to you and very important to architecture. What are some other areas where architects should be doing more?  I think in education. Many famous architects don’t teach, but I think teaching is very important. For me I had Raymond Kappe, Tod Williams, Ricardo Scofidio, Diana Agrest, Bernard Tschumi, John Hejduk. It was an incredible experience. And I can’t give them anything back, the only thing I can do is give the same thing to the younger generation. If I didn’t have great professors, I wouldn’t be here.