Understanding the Primary Need

architect Sami Rintala
interviewed by Ana Dana Beroš, Vera Grimmer, Mira Stanić


Interviewed in Zagreb on 25 May 2015


One of the most interesting architects of the younger generation Sami Rintala has not in his work come anywhere near to the operative or commercial practice. His works, such as Kirkenes Hotel or House for Fire, display an ephemeral and conceptual character, and are often the final results of different architectural workshops, because Rintala believes in team work, in exchange of ideas, regardless of the fact if his collaborators are students, local people or his partner Dagur Eggertsson. Educated in Helsinki in the tradition of humane Finnish functionalism, enriched by the phenomenological sensibility of Pallasmaa, Rintala is convinced that our surroundings should be designed with great consideration in order for it to enable better living. Consequently, Rintala approaches the problem of human habitat in the projects such as Element House, Box Home or Cabinet Home with a firm belief that while building somebody’s nest, profit should not be made. The architect also displays a considerable sensibility towards natural phenomena, which he often encounters and experiences firsthand while sailing around the Lofoten Islands. Rintala creates peaceful objects made for observing and experiencing nature such as the Høse bridge that was built above the wild waters within the mountain scenery of Norway. He respects the natural phenomena, but he respects human needs and dreams as well.


ORIS: We could find many arguments against architecture of our time, but it is not all about spectacular buildings which consume a lot of resources and energy. There are some architects who respect nature, respect resources, respect human needs and human dreams. I would like to mention three names: Glenn Murcutt, Smiljan Radić and Rintala Eggertsson? How do you see your relation to the other two architects? 


Rintala: Glenn Murcutt visited the school where I was studying, in Helsinki, in the 1990s. I was in a master’s studio with Dagur Eggertsson, my colleague, under the supervision of Juhani Pallasmaa. Glenn Murcutt is Juhani Pallasmaa’s friend and he came to give a lecture and made a favourable impression on us with his honesty about drawing architecture and building it and being very precise about the choice of materials, natural ventilation, connection to the ground, and all these things. It was a part of our study to understand that we can do the same in our environment. It was before Juhani Pallasmaa that we had been brought up with this Finnish tradition. For the first two to three years, I studied under other professors and I was taught about a kind of functionalist, modernist architecture, so the jump forward – from there to Juhani Pallasmaa’s more pluralistic, more sensitive, art-based and phenomenological world – was not immediate, and Glenn Murcutt was definitely part of that package, so it is nice to hear that there might be some kind of connection. It is there because it is part of our basic information on how we should think about architecture – being light and instrumental. I was not so familiar with the work of Smiljan Radić then, but now that I have started working and giving lectures and seminars in different locations, I am becoming more aware of it. It is about artistic free thinking, and I like that very much. Ecology and sustainability are one thing, but architecture is still so much more on the artistic level.