Sami Rintala (born 1969) is both an architect and an artist, apart from being the founding principal of the firm Rintala Eggertsson Architects based in Norway.
Rintala completed his architectural studies in Helsinki, Finland in 1999, following which he established his first architectural office, Casagrande & Rintala.
Casagrande & Rintala produced a series of acknowledged architectural installations around the world during the next few years until 2003. These works combined architecture with a critical insight of society, nature and the real tasks of an architect, all within a cross-over art field using space, light, materials and the human body as tools of expression.
In the Venice Biennale 2000, Sixty Minute Man was realised by Rintala; a ship sailed to Arsenal with a garden inside. The park was planted on sixty minutes of human waste collected from the city of Venice, becoming together with the old boat a three dimensional collage of societal waste, ably commenting on the Biennale theme ‘less aesthetics, more ethics’.
In 2008, Rintala started a new architecture office with Icelandic architect Dagur Eggertsson and called it Rintala Eggertsson Architects. The firms offices are based in Oslo, South Norway and Bodø, North Norway.
What direction has architecture taken today and where should it go in order to remain socially relevant, practically pertinent, and economically competitive? To discuss these issues and others Home Review interviewed Sami Rintala.
What was the genesis of Rintala Eggertsson Architects?
I studied with Dagur Eggertsson my associate and his wife Vibeke Jenssenat at the same time at the Helsinki Architecture School Master Studio under Juhani Pallasmaa. This was a productive time with interesting visiting architects carrying out workshops and lectures. After that we both worked in different places and later met up in Oslo. We started meeting other foreign architects as well. We played football together and had several post game discussions and finally decided to set up an office together. In truth we still remain informed and influenced by Pallasmaa, and this forms our common foundation.
How much of your work is based on sustainable architecture?
This is a complex issue to answer. But briefly, one could say that we believe well designed architecture as such is always automatically sustainable. The longer the users are satisfied with the building, the longer it is kept in use and serviced. This includes the notion of timelessness in architecture.
Additionally, architects should study the local conditions and building traditions correctly to be able to understand the best way to build such structures using local materials and workers, that are compatible with the prevalent weather.
It is also important not to copy forms but to dwell on the reasons behind them, that way it is easier to take care of the human biodiversity of the place. We try to base our work on these values, yet every project is a story of its own.
Are there specific architects (living or dead) whose work has had a particularly significant influence on your designs?
In international seminars we have met many architects who continue to create an exemplary and influential body of work. Experiencing their buildings in real life makes one believe in our possibilities to change things for the better.
Often these people are also fine personalities and great company. I should mention Maurizio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshousen from Chile and Bijoy Jain from India as such people. When it comes to our design philosophy as I have previously mentioned we continue to be inspired by Juhani Pallasmaa.
Besides people I believe reading good text widens our horizons, inspires us and enables us to know our limitations I am currently reading Jared Diamond’s books about human cultures and civilizations, and E.O. Wilsons texts about the biological behavior of us human beings. This I feel is good reading material for architects; we could garner a more objective view about ourselves and our capacities.
Do you typically start by thinking about form, or do you consider form and materials simultaneously?
We start thinking about the site first, as there are no two similar sites on this planet. First in a larger cultural and geographical context, but mostly in human scale, as a collage of forms and materials and natural light and weather. And then there is the mental landscape. Not visible, but present.
One could maintain that there are two different forces forming the project; from inside the building as what the people will do and experience there, and then from outside, as what the weather and light and surrounding forms and textures will want. And then the task is to find a balance, an instrument that connects these two forces.In our case, we try to do this in a straight-forward and robust way, trying to avoid any unnecessary excesses of form and material.
Walk us through your plans for the future. Any dream assignment?
Running parallel to our normal design work we will continue doing research with prototype projects that could shed light on the question of how to build effectively in a situation when our resources are over-used and our activities and waste creation is eliminating other life forms at an unprecedented scale and speed.
The goal is to formulate architecture that provides solutions which are more true to the biological needs of an animal called the human being, the invented commercial ones, for instance just dont suffice. The unforeseen and yet unvisited civilisation that is based on knowledge and learning from past mistakes caused by Western Capitalism should be abandoned immediately as a basis for creating our environment.
It would be very interesting to create a larger community based on ecological principles; a habitat where balances of water, energy, food and waste are the starting points of design, yet still remembering that self-assured and beautiful architecture as such will empower the inhabitants to take care of their own surroundings.
Generally we plan to remain curious and positively constructive. Good architecture is problem solving, and working with these meaningful, life-protecting issues together with dedicated professionals and students is a privileged situation.