Published in 2/2023 - Care


In-Depth Talks with Architects

Heljä Nieminen

Todd Saunders interviewed architects running an office in the Nordic countries about what is on their mind right now.

Todd Saunders & Jonathan Bell: Share: Conversations about Contemporary Architecture: The Nordic Countries. Artifice Press 2022. 416 pages.

Share is a compilation of interviews with 33 Nordic architectural practices. It is the first instalment in what is intended as a worldwide series of volumes in which Norway-based Canadian architect Todd Saunders discusses all things architecture with colleagues. At the beginning of the book, Saunders states that the everyday practice of architecture is easily reduced to a repetitive routine. The discussions presented in the book are an attempt to counterbalance the mundane.

The selection of offices and studios interviewed is broad and well-justified. Included are everything from one-person studios to multi-national corporations and from newcomers to established practices spanning several generations. What they all have in common is timely, intriguing and ambitious architecture, although this is approached from very different conditions and angles. Some of the practices have risen to overnight worldwide fame through competition wins, while others state that they do not participate in competitions at all or that competitions are not the main focus of their practice.

As an interviewer, Todd Saunders, who has also founded an architectural practice and taught architecture himself, is able to ask keen and insightful questions, ranging from pragmatic aspects (“How do you maintain a work/life balance?”) to existential musings (“How does your work make the world a better place?”). Saunders maintains a comfortable balance between these extremes and manages to avoid the discussion getting stuck at either end with any of the interviewees. A personal element is added by the photo collages of the architects’ workspaces that are embedded amidst the pages. The discussions are steered by a template of 99 questions, which Saunders is able to merge into the whole quite effortlessly.

The book provides a glimpse of the stimulating things happening in Nordic architecture at the moment: what are people interested in and worried about? This is an aspect to which the medley of practices brings a nice variety, while shared features can also be detected. Reflections on the value of democracy are particularly patent in the words of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian practices. Costs and the search for meaningful projects are on everyone’s mind. Sustainability and the response to the climate crisis are also common themes, but the emphasis on these varies.

The book is best read right now, at this very moment in history, but will probably also work as an interesting period piece later on. The whole reads like the most fruitful discussions at the Architecture Speaks! lecture series by Aalto University – the ones that take off after the lecture itself has ended. ↙

Architecture student at Aalto University. Partner of Yellow Office.