42 Architects was established in 2009 by Johan Berglund, in order to explore the possibilities of a practice that spans between smaller temporary spatial installations to large scale urban projects. Our work is centered around the production of buildings, landscapes and spaces, with a clear under-standing and interest in their relationships within the city.
The relationship between the spatial experience, the built form, and the context is fundamental to our work. We believe that architectural decisions cannot be made in isolation, and we are interested in developing building ideas that are unique to the particular conditions of the project.
We see architecture as an act of realisation; of making something real, which was only previously a brief thought, a vague concept, an utopian dream. Through this act we have the power to transform the world around us, and with that, the responsibility to make sure we leave something positive behind.
We believe that architecture should be both familiar and unfamiliar, challenging the limits of architecture and our sense of habitation. We always strive to create spaces that are enjoyable and practical, but with a sense of wonder and delight that goes beyond the functional, in order to create a truly unique and memorable spatial experience.
Dynamic Sculptural Experiential
- A short history of 42 architects
42 was founded as an idea of an umbrella organisation, under which any project could exist, as long as it had conceptual merit or just tickled our imagination enough to be worth pursuing. The organisation was going to be able to deal with projects about life, the universe and everything.
The idea slowly grew into what is today an architectural practice, with building and landscape projects at its heart, but with an open mind to anything else that might come our way.
Because of this open-mindedness and curiosity, we have in our short existence worked on projects ranging from small temporary fashion events, masterplanning in Greenland, public landscapes, retail projects, office concepts, events structures in China and here and there also a fair number of building projects. We have not actively resisted to do house extensions as many young practices would end up doing in their early years (in fact we really enjoy residential projects!), however we have perhaps more actively sought projects that are public in nature.
We have an evolving interest in the urban spaces we share, and how these can promote creative use and engagement with the cities in which most of us now live. We have chosen to engage with these ideas in several competition proposals, where the suggestion of an active ground plane and unexpected street furniture and light features have been in focus. Interestingly, these ideas have been there from the start. The Gasholder no 8 proposal was one of the first competition proposals we did, and perhaps still one of our favourite projects in the office.
What we are constantly searching for is a more dynamic and creative cityscape. A city that provides truly public and open spaces, for the public to interpret and use at their free will.
Also, a city that is more connected and responsive in an environmentally sensitive way. Not only through high tech means, but also in a manner that responds to climate and weather in a more traditional way while minimising energy use and increasing energy independence. Our challenge lies in the invention of new and creative solutions for these problems, and at the same time in the design of engaging, beautiful and efficient structures to accommodate them.
The proposal for a new water management system in Barcelona is a clear example of this approach. As the water supply is reaching levels that are too low for the maintenance and supply of the city’s parks and heavily planted streets, Barcelona needs to find a more creative solution to this project. Our proposal introduces the idea of a modern aqueduct combined with public pathways and green spaces, which channels grey water from the residential areas on higher altitudes down into the city below through the natural fall of the land. It filters the water through a process of phyto-remediation, which uses plants to draw out the impurities of the water, and UV filters that further cleans the water, which means it is clean enough to be used for watering orchards with fruit trees and other edible plants.
Our building projects are following an exploration of a minimal yet sculptural and playful aesthetic. We enjoy discussing the power of clarity and simplicity in our proposals, and how the building and landscape interventions can respond to and become moulded by the site they are to inhabit.
Our idea of simplicity does not stem from minimalism though, at least not in the quite fashionable sense of the word. We do not believe in this dogmatic way of thinking about our work, or anything else for that matter. Sure we like things clean and simple, but this is not our end goal. Therefore, the projects that falls into this category are more than anything a result of a critical process where tight budget constraints and difficult urban or environmental contexts make anything overtly expressive difficult to achieve.
Our temporary projects have provided us with a platform for experimentation. These projects have been instrumental in how we think about the experiential qualities of spaces. We have used them to develop ideas of an architecture which is responsive, time based, and engaging.
They have dealt with ideas of circulation and flow, synthetic natural phenomena, and plays of perception. Even though the projects are small, the ideas are always operating in an architectural, urban or landscape context, and as such they allow us to translate them into other projects at larger scales. Similarly, many of our large projects tend to inform our small installations, which become mock-ups for testing the bigger ideas.
Some are derivatives of earlier competition or research projects, such as the b Store installation which relates closely to ideas of creating space through the multiplication and repetition of simple objects, which we explored during our studies at the Bartlett. The proposal for a Holocaust memorial in Atlantic City is another relative in this family of ideas.
The Topman and British Fashion Council Show space for their Autumn Winter 13 show, drew inspiration from the powerful experience of visiting Greenland while we were working on our Nuuk masterplan project together with Dahl og Uhre architects. The days were clear and crisp, with white and light blue hues melding into each other, as the landscape, sea and sky all merged into one blindingly bright space. The evenings displayed a transition into a deeply saturated orange/red/purple sky, while the nights offered unbelievable displays of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Together, these experiences informed our design for a large sweeping wall of light, which transitioned from a pale white hue into richly saturated array of colours that mimicked the transition from day into night in the arctic environment.
Testing through building
The challenge for our evolving practice is now to build more of our ideas at a larger scale. We are currently working on the next phase of Hyttgårdsparken, the continuation of our recently completed phase 1 for an urban activity park project in Sweden. Phase 2 aims to complete and expand the park to become an engaging and enjoyable place for all members of the public. This project will continue to inform our discussions about the creation of public space in cities, and we will surely continue to develop these ideas in other projects in the coming years.
We are also focussing more on buildings, especially housing as we find this to be one of the most important challenges for architects to embrace. We worry about the lack of imagination in these projects, and that the quality of the average residential projects have declined in both a physical and creative sense.
We will continue to engage with the fast paced and highly creative fashion events projects, as these will continue to feed our practice with innovative and playful ideas. They have taught us much about how to develop ideas into spatial designs in an incredibly demanding cultural environment, relentlessly driven forward by the need for novelty and innovation. We have learnt to embrace and harness this speed and desire for the new, and will seek to further deploy this skill across all our work in the years to come.
We invite you to join our continued journey into the unknown, it looks to be a fun one!