Interview with Helge Lunder

1) Briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your practice. What do you work on? What are the issues you aim to address in your profession?

Our practice tries to touch onto a lot of different tasks and scales, from small cabins to bigscale urban planning. We’re trying to create humble projects that avoid trends and can withstand time, wear and tear.


2) What is a skyscraper in the 21st century and how can a skyscraper incorporate biodiversity without falling into greenwashing? What are the historical, contextual, social, urban, and environmental responsibilities of these mega-structures?

I think the most simple answer is: It needs to be enough of it and has to really work! To really facilitate biodiversity you need a certain surface area. Everything else is doing the right things when designing it: Making good microclimate zones that shelter from wind and sun, choosing the right plants for biodiversity, depth of soil, finding species to introduce, etc. And remember to make it work for humans too – not only bees. I think the skyscraper is a kind of world of its own and the rules and impact it has on its surroundings are almost universal. Those challenges are well known and they need to be addressed whether the skyscraper is “green” or not. I think an interesting challenge is to design a functional and beautiful skyscraper that incorporates biodiversity and vegetation in a significant way without necessarily showing it in an explicit way.


3) Concerning High-rise and densely populated cities, how do we promote biodiversity with scarce land availability?

The most efficient way I would assume is by building policies and establishing different grants and economical support systems when implementing such solutions.  


4) Which tools & disciplines can come into play when designing a more biodiversity-aware built environment? Which technologies can have a key role in this transition?

I think we will see a new breed of urban gardeners and landscape engineers in the future. This shift calls for a lot of new technologies, ex. new, specialized watering and fertilizing systems.  


5) Are there any reference projects you could suggest to inspire our community for this design challenge? Why did you choose this specific example?

 The Ivry-sur-Seine social housing project by Jean Renaudie and Renée Gailhoustet!  

It’s a bit off since it’s not a highrise and not a very advanced “green” building per se, but I really admire this project for its architectural richness and integration of green terraces. It’s a very “human” brutalist complex.  


6) In your experience, what does it take to win an architecture competition? What about this competition in particular?

It’s a cliché to say, but a strong concept with a clear narrative is always important in competitions like this. For a skyscraper competition, I would really focus on rational construction and a strong architectural body. 



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