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Sixty Years of Architecture: Retrospect and Outlook with Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger

Science fiction visions and sustainable living conditions – what do they have in common, and where do Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger see architecture in 60 years from now? The two architects answer our questions briefly and to the point.

Katrin Voermanek: Tell me, Detail is celebrating its 60th anniversary and wants to know how you two how see the legacy of 1960s architecture.

Regine Leibinger: Super, I love the ‘60s, that was exactly my architecture: Breuer, Aalto, Lewerentz, Scharoun – the spaces they created, their fine handling of materials … not to forget the furniture. Werner Düttmann is being celebrated right now too, and quite rightly so.

Frank Barkow (interrupting): NO way, those dried-up Modernists, they don’t represent the most important legacy of the 1960s! That was a time of optimism and utopia, of space travel and revolution. Bucky Fuller and Paolo Soleri wanted to save the world, Hollein, Haus-Rucker-Co, Archigram, Superstudio – those were the heroes who still have something to say to us today.

Katrin Voermanek: Hmmm and how should I unite these differing viewpoints in a single statement?

Regine Leibinger: Frank, when did you get to know Detail? I think we already had it at uni; it was something you had to have.

Frank Barkow: No, for me it was much later, not until I came to Germany.

Katrin Voermanek: Two statements again with little in common. Maybe we should forget the whole thing.

Regine Leibinger and Frank Barkow (at the same time): No, definitely not! Detail is an excellent publication! We’ll try to do better.

Katrin Voermanek: Can you maybe saywhere you think architecture will be 60 years from now?

Frank Barkow: It will be totally performative, adaptive, driven by technology, digitised, automated...

Regine Leibinger (interrupting): Come on now, that’s all science fiction; things are not that different today to sixty years ago! Things won’t change that fast. We can be happy if architecture is climate-responsible and recyclable by then, if people find good living conditions, whether in the city or the country, if there are still places and spaces where community is able to come about.

Katrin Voermanek: Okay, and what should I now say to Detail?

Regine Leibinger and Frank Barkow: Tell it congratulations! And continued success and independence of thought. And that we two have to continue discussing this and reach a good outcome – as always.

Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger founded their American/German office in Berlin in 1993, which today employs some 80 people. The scope of Barkow Leibinger’s projects ranges from public buildings and office buildings to residential and industrial interiors within existing buildings.

The central focus of the firm – building for medium- and large-scale companies – includes, in addition to drawing up long-term master plans for site development, the planning and realization of representative and functional buildings for production, logistics and administration (such as the company restaurant for the Trumpf company in Ditzingen). In recent years, "Tour Total", the German headquarters of the French mineral oil corporation located near Berlin's main train station, the Fellows Pavilion for the American Academy in Berlin and the Serpentine Summer House in London have, among other projects, been completed. Most recently completed were the Trumpf Smart Factory in Chicago and the Harvard ArtLab in Cambridge.

The office's self-understanding is characterized by relays between practice, research and teaching. Recently, all three areas have focused on the question of how digital manufacturing technologies and mechanically, mass-produced elements can be deployed in such a way that they not only complement architecture as surface or accessory, but also contribute to creating constructive, spatial structures.

Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger, Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, Photo: Corinne Rose, Elke Selzle
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