The Architecture of Empathy

architect Bernardo Bader
interviewed by Vera Grimmer, Tadej Glažar


Interviewed in Piran on 22 November 2014


When Bernardo Bader began working in his native region, Austrian federal state Vorarlberg, the terrain for understanding modern architecture had already been prepared.  The activities of the group of architects known under the name of Vorarlberger Baukünstler ensured the implementation of contemporary architectural opinions regarding sustainability, application of local materials and a certain rational restraint. We might say that Bader respects the tradition and interprets it in his own manner. His famous Islamic cemetery in the town of Altach shows that Bader’s work is not reduced only to the local, but that the local can transform a certain attitude and method into universal values.  Regard and respect towards the client and the associates, regardless if they were craftsmen or artists, characterizes an architectural process by which Bader realizes his unspectacular, but thus useful and justified buildings.


ORIS: As a young architect you show great empathy towards the regional building tradition of Vorarlberg. Do you consider Kenneth Frampton’s theory on critical regionalism, which may be old, but I believe that it is still relevant, encouraging for your work? In this context Frampton discusses the vital forms of regional cultures.


Bernardo Bader: I know his texts; his observations are really accurate. I asked myself these questions relatively early. We have often been told at the university that we have to assume an attitude and defend it relatively consistently. The young were persuaded that they could only be successful as architects if they were extremely tough on the investor in a lonely fight for higher goals. But I have soon realised that cooperation with people is extremely important and that they should be taken very seriously. There is no shame if an architect plans eaves, for example, on the contrary. It is often necessary and it can be beautiful, if we look at old traditional houses. I became interested in these things rather early. I think that it makes a huge difference whether I build something in the Vorderbregenzerwald region, where I come from, or somewhere 25 km away, where there can be over 1 m of snow more during the winter and the winds can be very different. It is recommended and also beautiful that architecture deals with these matters.