Review | Alexandra Hagen and Barbara Vogt in Stuttgart25.11.2019
For the third lecture evening of the November Series, Alexandra Hagen and Barbara Vogt from White Arkitekter came all the way from Sweden. Mrs. Hagen – CEO since 2018 – started her presentation with the core statement that architecture for her is a perfect interplay of art and science. Furthermore, White Arkitekter attaches particular importance to the question of how architecture can improve the quality of life. It was precisely this question that prompted the company founders Sidney White and P.A. Ekholm in the 1950s to come up with the idea of involving their employees as shareholders in the company. The concept still exists today, and Alexandra Hagen confirmed that 840 of the current 850 employees worldwide have decided to become shareholders of White Arkitekter.
In view of the fact that only female architects are invited to Stuttgart this year, Mrs. Hagen subsequently dealt with the topic of "Women in Architecture". In lectures all over the world, she is often asked how she manages the balancing act between work and family, and then counters, "Men are not asked this question". For the architect, this is an expression of inequality. In order for gender equality and an actual work-life balance to emerge, she named four basic prerequisites: Politics had to guarantee all-day childcare, society had to give fathers who look after their children stronger support, superiors had to focus on promoting talents regardless of their gender, and women themselves had to have more confidence in themselves. For Alexandra Hagen one thing is certain: "Diversity promotes creativity and fearless failure the learning process. According to Hagen, the third core theme of all White Arkitekter projects is the declared goal of only building CO2-neutral buildings by 2030, thus making an active contribution to a sustainable life with their architecture. "For us, sustainability also implements the transformation of buildings and materials," explained the architect, and added, "The further development of building uses is an art in itself that needs to be applied." In order to find the right design and to develop innovative ideas and concepts against this background, crossover collaborations with various disciplines and the cultivation of a constructive culture of error are of central importance.
Barbara Vogt presented what kind of projects White Arkitekter develops under these conditions. The examples included the Carlanderska Hospital in Gothenburg, the Valla Student House at Linköping University and a research project on public spaces for girls. The starting point for the research project was the observation that, from the age of seven, public spaces for children and young people are used 80 percent by boys and only 20 percent by girls. White Arkitekter asked: Where are the girls? What places do they need and what do they have to look like? This was followed by intensive workshops and events with girls aged between 13 and 18. The insights gained have already been incorporated into other projects in order to achieve genuine "urban equality".
Barbara Vogt had asked colleagues at White Arkitekter about the topic of "Women in Architecture". She reported on a conversation with architect Ulla Antonsson (*1953), who held a professorship at Gothenburg University for nine years and has worked for White Arkitekter since 1979: One day, Antonsson had given construction site workers an architectural calendar as a reaction to the pin-up calendar they had hung up; she emphatically recommends never to neglect self-confidence or humour when it comes to things like this.