Job: Chair of Architectural Design and Theory + Head of Institute
Institute of Architecture and Planning at the University of Liechtenstein
1. Could you please shortly describe where you live?
I live in Central Europe, I live in Switzerland. In a small town called Rapperswil, beside the Lake of Zurich. I live in a building that was built in the 1291 and I live in 3 rooms with my family on the first floor.
2. Do you feel at home there?
Yes very much. The building that I was talking about is in the Old Town, it’s a medieval town. I think that the Medieval town is a fantastic blueprint for a sustainable way of life in such depth. It comes with a very dense build environment, It comes with a very interesting social configuration where the medieval town everybody has to play a specific role and this is also reflected in the way that the streets are designed and the buildings are designed. And it comes with the Old Town as a public space. So, the streets are really the public space or the gardens or the playgrounds of the city. This is what I really like.
We moved from London, big city with 7 million people, to Rapperswil, tiny little city with 25,000 – 30,000 and it was a start contrast of course, but we are pretty much at home there because now, at this stage of life fills up the boxes of what pretty much where to want to live and what kind of lifestyle we want to have.
3. What do you think is important for people to be able to identify with their region?
This is really difficult. I think it has a lot to do with your background. It has a lot to do with your intuitions, and it has a lot to do with your “stomach feeling”. I am not sure if I now try to translate this into my situation, whether I am entirely able to identify with my region. As I previously said, I spend a lot of time in the UK before, my wife is from Hong Kong so that’s another cultural configuration that maybe goes beyond a specific region where we can identify with, as a family. For me personally, I grew up in the region that we are in actually, so I am not too far from place of where I could feel identified within. It has a lot to do with the landscape where we live in, that we work in and spend our leisure time in. It has to do with language, it has to do with food, it has to do with certain cultural values that people share, and this is really important. It has to do with the kind of perspective in life. I think is very different from other contexts. I think the question of values its probably the one that is most important in our world. Also, giving fare values among the people who live in an area, that make them identify with.
4. Is the local architecture of your region changing because of visitors?
I’m not quite sure weather if you are referring to a style or a typology. I would not simply break it down to visitors or to this “foreign element” if you want to call it. I think Architecture is exposed to perpetual change all the time, and we can maybe celebrate the time in areas… This is modernism, this is post-modernism, this is medieval architecture, but if you look at the history as a whole, I mean there is a constant transformation and yes, there has been always influences from the outside … Today maybe its not the visitors but its the accessibility to all kinds of information, and to all kinds of different types of architecture through the simple mechanism of google.com to start with. So I think maybe the horizon that’s changing, the previous times, up to industrialization maybe we looked at the small field from what inspire ourselves to design architecture. Now, we are talking about global if not interstellar kind of perspectives to develop what we do now. So, yes…Of course it is constantly changing but I see that as a good thing. The question we could ask is the consequences. Does it result in a such homogenization or not? Which would then be for many a very negative aspect. I do think in other tower in Miami, in Mumbai or even Zürich they are not too dissimilar from one another, so be it. But here we talk about the typology. Other typologies are still very specific, the single house is still very different in Mumbai, or in Miami or in Zurich, and that is totally okay.
5. What are the most common reasons for you to travel?
Again, It goes back to my personal history. I have family spread around the world and if you want to see family, it means to jump in a plane. I don´t particularly like it, but it is to choose the importance of family or friends… And that is why I travel. Secondly, I think traveling is really important. I spoke about the pluie horizon, and it is always enriching to see another world, other places, other cultures. I find it very enriching, so yes, travel is great!
6. How do you choose your travel destination?
There is a common pattern. The UK is maybe once every 2-3 months, Hong Kong its once or twice a year and this is my main travel patterns. The rest comes with work I guess, and this is fairly global, mainly European, but this is to conferences, so there is job related usually to travelling there. And if I do have the choice then I would like to go to places I haven’t been to.
7. Do you prepare yourself for the journey? Through which media are your expectations formed?
To be honest, I don’t prepare well enough and I regret it every single time. I think automatically I never do single destination journeys, I don’t want to spend a single week in a resort. I don’t do that.
I guess recommendation is really important. Funny enough because you guys are really important. We meet so many people around the world and they tell me where they come from and if it sounds interesting I want to know more about it. So, I went to Mexico for the first time in January, so I think it comes like this. We are very lucky that we can still choose .. Both politically and financially I think we can do it and that is a privilege that not many have, so I guess it is really by some idea in your head and you want to know more about it. It is hard to say, I don’t have a preference. I’ve been travelling because of family a lot to Africa in my youth. Asia a lot ever since my wife is from Asia, not so much Northern America. Not so much South America. I want to know more about these places too.
8. What do you search for when you visit a new place?
I think I am a bit of a boring person. I think the primary concern for me is to stay in a good place and have good food. If this is given then I am happy to explore everything else, but I think it comes with the sense comfort, I need to have a sense of comfort wherever I go. I’ve done my uncomfortable travelling in my youth, during my time as a student, and I think it comes with the privilege that I or we have, that I am no longer prepared to do it. So, I need to have some sense of stability an I know that this is going to be nice, we would like to spend money on that, so then it is okay. Usually we go by restaurants, I look where is the good food and which area has nice restaurants or the nice markets and then usually the accommodation follows that. Weather it is Airbnb or through a hotel. The whole cultural aspect is also very important but it comes secondary through the chosen destination or place.
9. Where do you stay when you travel?
I just mention, its pretty much it. Hotels or Airbnb, it depends a little bit with the situation. Now with family Airbnb its easier because you get more space, and you can cook yourself and for the kids its just more comfortable. I don’t mind, I mean a luxurious hotel is fantastic too, but it is not worth paying the money if you have two kids shouting and screaming. It depends on who I go with and what kind of hotel or accommodation I chose.
I can’t do tents, I hate tents. I have spend time in the military and I am no longer prepared to spend any minute in a tent, I can not.
10. What do you see interesting and enjoy from Liechtenstein?
Well, primary its my employment, the university, that is why I am here. I think Liechtenstein is very peculiar in the sense that it is so closed as a culture to the region where I am from which its Switzerland, Zurich. Of course it is more agricultural, in the way its history it has been build up, and you can sense this up in the way you see people when they do business , I don’t want to call it “mentality”, and it is not negative at all, but it is very grounded, it is very pragmatic. In a way I enjoy that as a contrast to the big city and the people whom find themselves very important by living in a big city, where everything is bluesy, and here nothing is bluesy, it is very focused and it is combined with the landscape, it is quite crucial here. There is no bullshit here, you know, there is no “hot talk”, everybody speaks straight forward and you can trust people and I think that we can argue about materiality and certain values and so forth, and luxuries that maybe are a bit on the top. But most of the values I really share.
11. Would you live here (FL)?
Yes sure, I can imagine. Actually I wanted to live here the first time I came, but they didn’t want to let me in, so this is why we live now where we live. Now it is more difficult to move because of course we are settle somewhere and we are with the family.
12. Please tell us 6 images that represent what you do here in Liechtenstein, how you see the country, where do you spend most of the time, what is your favourite place, what is your experience here.
Coming back to my first comment, as I am living in Central Europe, I am here to teach and to research and to manage, I think that the heart is very much with the work with the students is what I enjoy the most. I think one aspect is really to provide this global perspective, these sense of responsibility, not only for oneself or a family or a community, but for one planet. The one picture that comes to my mind is the “blue marble”  that was taken by Apollo 17; the picture of earth, when we realize for the first time that actually this planet it is a really creative tiny perception, although we are in a tiny country, I think that this blue marble which is actually its not so tiny, its a nice chaotic plane.
The second element is the view out of the window of our cafeteria  its quite telling because this is what Alberto Alessi would tell you one time that “the moment when you look at the window you see another country”. At the same time if you look a it a bit closer you see a very disjointed built environment. You see huge infrastructure elements like the canal of the Rhine and the highway lines, you don’t see the fantastic landscape which is the agriculture… And if you ask me what do you do here, in a way I try to bring these things together. Students would understand. You can not just focus on a single house or on a huge landscape infrastructure but again, they are all interconnected and I think this is just very important.
I think the other picture would be of the school itself . This is my favourite space and probably its everybody favourite space. So, it my be worth in the postcard, I am not sure. Why?.. Because it is the perfect space for creative distance. We all get on, we all come from different places, we are a small cup of different identities and nationalities and beliefs and its perfect from how it works better than another place I know. I like this very much, this is super rich.
So, yo have the obvious build icons, we can say the castle . I don’t like this pictures that stand for everything, like the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House because tourism made from marketing makes it really important. Sydney Opera House has changed the perception of Sydney forever. I don’t think that the Castle will do the same trick. If you show a guy from Australia the castle he would probably don’t know that it is Liechtenstein. This country doesn’t have these icons, we might know them because we are here but that doesn’t matter. I think what is really powerful is the Alps , again, they don’t stand for Liechtenstein buy every time that I drive and pass through Liechtenstein and I look up, it looks like sugar powder mountains and some huttes dispersed on it; its somehow unbelievable crazy. I don’t know how people how people can do this and inhabit that crazy environment. So, I am very intrigued by it and also very respectful in terms of what it means because of the power of nature. Nature is brutal, is not as pretty as it seems like in the pictures, but I think that is interesting.
The Three Sisters  up here its quite interesting. If we go to Mablun, to the valley, we could also get nice views from there… But I will not break it that much.
A professor that is joining us next year found 4 amazing pictures, and one is this cow next to this highway infrastructure, chewing some grass and in the way is this… It is a super developed country that is very found to its roots, and its agricultural traditions and it is trying to combine both and it is doing it quite successfully. But I don’t know if this is much of just a picture or if its really a cultural identity.