Oliver Elser: How did you succeed in producing that efficiency at Adidas?
Jakob Dunkl: We were the only one of the 29 teams to manage to contain the required 5000 square metres of exhibition space in one rectangular box.
Peter Sapp: Which meant we could then afford 4000 square metres of space for free. We presented them a gift, and because of the compact way we built, we were able to do some other things as well.
JD: The additional areas are shaped like an arena, like a stadium. A gigantic foyer.
OE: That was not part of the spatial programme?
Gerd Erhartt: Not in those dimensions. But they got a real events area from us. At first Adidas was almost overwhelmed by the options that the building offers. For instance, they hold General Marketing Meetings. They never imagined they would be able to hold it in that building; now they can.
GE: From the outside, the building radiates timelessness; but inside, we gave Adidas a stage on which they can constantly present themselves anew. There's a 120-metre-long wall serving as a screen, where beamers installed in series can project images, moving images. After all, the wholesale buyers who come there twice a year have to be offered new attractions every time.
JD: It would not have been enough to build something that just says: I am Mercedes; I am Adidas. Calmness has power. The hall is perfect, no expansion joints. Then I open the door and the emotional element breaks out. We had our first brainstorming session with the head of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency. That is how we arrived at the concept: build up tension. All quiet on the outside, but then it discharges.
OE: What do you do nowadays with clients with next to no budget? Do you send them away?
PS: There still are some. We are just now building a private museum for the art collector Liaunig which has the budget of an industrial building.
OE: And the clients who want to have a low-budget single-family home?
PS: Our telephone used to ring non-stop, for years: 'We want a house for half price. You do that, don't you?' We don't do it any more.
JD: We still enjoy these private houses as much as ever. The problem is only the matter of the fee.
JD: We do always try to see whether it's possible to adopt solutions from earlier projects. But it never fits! Whereby it must be said that we don't see our office as an architectural creative studio only, but also very definitely as an economic enterprise. So we would certainly like to have a cash cow, a mass-produced item. After all, the idea of not just making architecture for people with a lot of money but also making something that is affordable for everyone is attractive. But we do believe that quality costs something. It sure is absurd: in architect's fees, the gap between bad architects and superstars such as Zaha Hadid is quite minimal. Nothing comparable to the gap between an average soccer player and David Beckham.
JD: When we sense inequity it really makes our hair stand on end. The profession has a poor reputation, is poorly treated and poorly remunerated. And the professional association is silent about it. We couldn't just stand there and watch this happen, so we and other young offices founded ig-Architektur.
OE: Have any goals been achieved?
GE: Not as far as the restricted access to the profession is concerned. But we have had some success on a broader front: architectural policy has been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. And the first government report on the culture of architecture is in preparation.
PS: We regard it as a long-term social project. To really change something one would have to – of course that is old hat – start with education.
GE: No one has ever tested the effect of popular architecture presentations. When I think of the 100,000 euros we invested in competition entries last year, it's crazy. A single commission, small in comparison to the investment, was the result. If we used those 100,000 euros in a targeted way for marketing, I'm one hundred per cent sure we would be better off.
JD: Although they already say that our office is very much present in the public sphere. But what would someone do who has a similar turnover and twelve co-workers? He advertises, puts on some events. The theatre in Austria receives 120 million a year in government subsidies. Architecture gets a measly six million. If architecture had even fifty million, we wouldn't even know what to do with all that money.
GE: And why not? Because architecture has not been clearly allocated anywhere. Architects receive no promotion for economic or cultural development; architecture falls between two stools.
JD: Architecture is such a simple tool. As a company you have to build a warehouse anyway. For a few per cent more, you could get something that projects an image. It's that simple. Make it a bit better and you have a monument. Two months ago we talked to a consultant on cultural affairs about that, about how to go on from here. Whether we really should labour at one competition after another for the next thirty years. He asked us how we had developed so far and whether we wanted to continue like that. Then we realized: in principle the steady, not spectacular, growth of the last eight years is quite all right by us. Not every architect has this attitude. All three of us have children, have a private life and do not work on weekends or in the evenings. That is not so common.