Conversation with FRIEDRICH LUDEWIG, ACME Architecture 1 of 2

Blog, CCAD, Conversations, ENGLISH
Friedrich Ludewig studied at the Technical University and Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and the Architectural Association School ofArchitecture, where he received his Diploma in Architecture with Destinction (Honours) in 2001. Between 1999 and 2007 he has worked at Foreign Office Architects, where he was responsible for a wide range of projects. He has lectured internationally and been visiting critic at the AA, UCL Bartlett, TU Karlsruhe, Berlage Institute, Akademie of Fine Arts Vienna and GSD Harvard. In 2007 stablishes ACME Architecture. (http://www.acme.ac)
CCAD- First of all, thank you very much for joining us in this new blog. I’d like to start asking you about the name of your practice: ACME “A Company Making Everything”. What does “Everything” mean for you? (by the way, does ACME have anything to do with the famous American brand?)
FL-The name ACME has a long history and has more then one meaning. It is often used in its greek meaning as ‘the highest, the best possible’, which is something we strive for in the office. But ACME is also used, especially in the American Business school Context, as an abbreviation of ‘a company making everything’, and we are quite happy with that association as we strive to avoid becoming pigeonholed into one type of architecture, one type of buildings or one country of operation. Thirdly, the name ACME was used as the company name from which the road runner’s coyote orders all kinds of amazing products that do incredible things (if only he would use them properly), and we as an office would strive to be as innovate in our work as the designers behind the rocket sleds, dehydrated boulders and earthquake pills.
CCAD- You’ve worked for FOA for many years, being responsible of many competitions and projects. What have you left in FOA? What has FOA left in you?.
FL-FOA was a great company to be part of, especially in my early years with them when it was still small and when some of the best competition work of FOA emerged. A lot of the staff in the early days came from the AA unit, as did I, and there was a pretty seamless transition between the research one did at the School and the work that came out of FOA. I grew with FOA over the years, as the company won larger projects I took on more responsibilities, and I learned a lot about running projects, teams and an office in my later years there.
Did I leave anything at FOA? It seems Farshid & Alejandro will go separate ways in the future, so FOA will become a piece of architectural history, whatever legacy any of us have left behind there over the years will probably disappear with the company.
CCAD- You left FOA and a two other individuals from FOA joined you over time. Why did you decided to work together?
FL- In early 2007 I left my position as Associate Director at Foreign Office Architects to establish ACME, working alone for the first few weeks. Stefano Dal Piva joined me shortly afterwards when ACME had secured it’s second project, Kelvin Chu came a year later. Stefano and Kelvin had worked with me on the Olympic Park while at FOA, with the two of them running the bridges team, so I was delighted when they expressed an interest to join.
CAAD- You’re German, you have people at your office (in London) from all around the world, you work in competitions in Europe, Asia, South America… Do you think Architecture is a kind of international language? How can you explain that a building in China can be projected from London without ever going to the site (at least in the competition stage)?
FL- We don’t believe in an international language, just the opposite. We strongly believe in local languages. We enjoy working in different continents and countries, and it is important to us that staff comes from different places because we believe that each country, each site and each employee bring unique elements to the table. The history, the conflicts and the individual site conditions are important to shape each of our projects. If we would be a bit richer, we would certainly visit each site, even for a competition, but sometimes Google Streetview will have to suffice. The site is not the only element that matters, and we undertake a lot of research on the historic background, local materials etc that do not always require site visits. It’s certainly possible to design buildings that are highly relevant and rooted in their places without going to site, as long as one is armed with curiosity, and internet connection and a few good books.
Art Museum in Seoul, ACME Architecture
CCAD- What’s the criteria in order to choose the competitions in which you spend so many hours? If ACME won a competition in Seoul, how would the office manage this?
FL-Normally, we choose competitions because we are excited by the site, by the programme or because we’re invited. Sometimes, we are excited by the programme because it’s something we are very familiar with, sometimes because it’s something that we have never done before.
Over the last year, we have found that there is little point in entering competitions that are published in English language. There are just too many architects in the world that speak English and that have nothing better to do but entering competitions. We cannot see the point why we would enter into a competition with 400-600 entries. I have judged competitions in the past, and I have found that your brain as a juror kind of switches off after 100 entries, you just cannot seriously judge 600 entries in a day or two, it all becomes a blur. For this reason, we have decided to not enter any open competitions any more unless they are published in a language other then English, which automatically results in a much reduced field of competitors. We have thus focused our energies on competitions in Colombia, Spain, Germany and Korea, but we’re open, any language is fine except English, at least until the economy has picked up a bit. We have worked in the past in a number of international locations where we had to rely on local partners to deliver buildings, and we are quite happy to operate in this way for work outside of Europe. We normally pick our local partners early, mostly during the competition stage, so building something good far away from home is not something that worries us greatly.
End of the first part of the interview.
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