Amandus Sattler in an interview Reflecting on Investor Architecture

Pasinger Hofgärten Munich
Pasinger Hofgärten Munich | Photo: Jens Passoth

Architecture should not be seen purely as a source of profit maximisation. Amandus Sattler, architect and joint-owner of the architects’ office Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten appeals for intensified dialogue, for greater internationalisation and for a new approach in the discourse between architects, designers and investors.

Mr. Sattler, at a symposium for building culture you talked about the way will be living tomorrow: Your view of current urban development and residential architecture in cities was somewhat critical. You were vehemently opposed to architecture being seen today as a pure investment. Are investors destroying our cities?

No, that would be putting it too simply, and it would also not address the complexity of this issue. Social conditions have always been a decisive factor for the quality of architecture and spatial development. Today, capital and politics coin these conditions more than ever before. There has never been so much capital available for building projects. Institutional investors are buying up property on a large scale. This is an outcome of the financial crisis. An investment in real estate, especially in the steadily growing mega cities is seen as crisis-proof and something that generates value-added. However, this has consequences, not only regarding architectural quality, but also in the development of urban areas. This architecture is less free and open, less socially oriented and imaginative. It merely serves the purpose of increasing the built environment. The traditional model of the European city - defined as an example of social coexistence - is beginning to shake as a result of investor architecture.

The quality, content, form and design of architecture and urban space are only of interest when invested capital accumulates?

When investors are no longer interested in the added value of good architecture and solely focus on individual investment properties then there is trouble ahead for urban structures and developed areas. Building costs money. Without investors and developers there would be no place for architecture. Economic thinking is part of every planning and construction process, not only on the client’s side but also right in the initial stages of our work as architects. In the past our office has worked successfully with many investors. We have planned projects like the Pasinger Hofgärten together with our client, Real Estate Investment Opportunities, for instance. This is a new urban module that is incorporated in the district and is placed between large infrastructural developments such as the ICE railway station and the old centre of Pasing and communicates with them.

Besides establishing a high quality urban development we also provided quality architecture using quality materials for retail business, offices and medical centres in cooperation with the client. A primary school, day-care centre and kindergarten are incorporated in the west part of the complex to create added value for all involved. The interlinking of social, cultural and economic aspects can work if architects and developers pursue a common goal and are aware of their social responsibility. But if there is no overriding idea, if also the municipalities want to avoid a constructive public debate on quality and the focus is merely on making money fast and not on good architecture, then the investment is ignoring the society. This must not be allowed to happen.
 

  • Pasing Arkaden, Munich Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Pasing Arkaden, Munich
  • Pasing Arkaden, Munich Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Pasing Arkaden, Munich
  • Forum Hirschgarten, Munich Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Forum Hirschgarten, Munich
  • Forum Hirschgarten, Munich Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Forum Hirschgarten, Munich
  • Dorniermuseum Friedrichshafen Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Dorniermuseum Friedrichshafen
  • Dorniermuseum Friedrichshafen Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Dorniermuseum Friedrichshafen


If building is dominated by profit-oriented mechanisms alone, what impact will this have on the design of architecture?

The architectural design of buildings has always been dependent on the economic environment. This is not new. Investor architecture, however, seeks more and more to maximise profits. There is a constant demand for new ways to use space. For instance, oriel windows that project into the space above the set-back line, solely with the aim of maximising profits. These tendencies are counterproductive and not sustainable. They question design competence of the architect. The architect’s job is not to focus merely on the design of the building envelope and the maximisation of floor areas that also lack particular quality features. This is not the way into the future. Where are the new ideas, where is the aspect of experiment? This type of profit-oriented action not only has an impact on the architect’s profession, it also affects designers, artists, craftsmen and the entire sector of creative professions. It will destroy our cultural diversity.

Is that a plea for “architecture engagée”?

Yes, that as well. But it is more an appeal to common sense, to the social responsibility of developers, whether these are pubic, private or commercial clients and investors. I think that we should again embark on a process of exchange, like the designers, entrepreneurs and politicians did at the beginning of the 20th century when they founded the German Werkbund. We should aim for greater internationalisation in this discourse. Investors operate on a global scale and, despite cultural diversity, we architects should speak with one voice in order to have an impact on investors. Moreover, we should also consider training investors in matters of design. The lines of communication must be kept open and we must find new ways to convince investors. We should, however, not give up our role as designers and our social, cultural and societal task as architects. We should try to better define these positions with others.
 

Amandus Sattler Amandus Sattler | © Büro Allmann Sattler Wappner Together with Markus Allmann and Ludwig Wappner Amandus Sattler has been running the office of Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten since 1993. With a workforce of 50 from eight countries the architects’ office is internationally established in urban planning, public and commercial buildings, residential buildings and product design. The most prominent projects include the Dornier-Museum in Friedrichshafen, the church Herz-Jesu-Kirche, the experimental house Haus der Gegenwart in Munich as well as the administrative building for Südwestmetall in Reutlingen. The general planning projects for a new corporate architecture of Audi AG are being implemented in more than ten countries. Further projects of Allmann Sattler Wappner are the Stachus shopping mall, the Pasinger Hofgärten, low-energy houses on Piusplatz and the Forum at the Hirschgarten in Munich.