[…] The second question is: „Are curves better than corners?“ […] It is true that if one considers the sum of our completed and on-the-drawing-board projects, only two out of nine are purely rectilinear in nature – although some are definitely hybrid, and all of them have what we, at least, consider to be very rational plans. In many cases – the GSW Headquarters, the Photonics Centre, the combined Fire and Police Station for example, the curved form of the building is set in deliberate contrast to the immediate surroundings. Whereas with, say, the Brandhorst Museum or the laboratories at Biberach, the site envelope was so incredibly tight that it actually would have been impossible to create curved buildings. In both cases this could have been seen as a restraint, but we regarded it like any other condition of our work, to be exploited in a positive way to contribute to the design.

It is up to the skill of the architect to design a building – be it rund or eckig – with such integrity that in the end nothing else should, or could, take its place. We do not worry about geometric consistency as a means of defining a brand image. In fact, we admire artists like Gerhard Richter who are always trying out new things, who are constantly surprising their audiences – and maybe even themselves.

Regarding the spaces we create, be they external or internal, we find that the use of soft rather than rigid forms can generate spaces that – in our view – are perhaps related more closely to the body and its movement though space. In other words, the biomorphic form allows for some kind of direct association between building and user. (By the way, this is significantly different from a biomorphic language as a concept for representing various scientific phenomena.) We are, in fact, quite suspicious of most of the so-called non-Euclidean spaces that are being generated worldwide today with the aid of ever more complex computer programmes. Whereas many spaces by Häring, Scharoun and Aalto are inspiring. Spaces that invite movement, such as the foyer of the Philharmonie, or that of the Finlandia Hall, which have been perceptively constructed against gravity and out of direct functionality. Incidentally, some of the most interesting spaces by John Soane are those of the servants’ staircases, where he would often insert a curved staircase into a – leftover – trapezoidal space.

We use our aesthetic judgement to study the form of a building through drawings and models until we feel that we have achieved a fit between the context, the programme and the design. Perhaps these curved types of spaces need more testing, more physical modelling in the design process, and perhaps critical intuition should be used to judge them rather than rational logic.

We also enjoy the changing perspectives that curved forms present. On approaching a rectilinear building, in general it will just appear larger as you approach (axially), imparting increasing amounts of information regarding texture and materiality. In contrast, a curved form unfolds around you as you approach; it may be difficult to comprehend the whole at once, there may be no fixed elevations as such, and you cannot avoid becoming corporeally involved as you approach, as with, for example, the Photonic Centre, or the offices for the Federal Environmental Agency.

We think that spaces should invite an intuitive response first of all, they should invite and allow one’s inhabitation in a most natural way – and this applies no matter what formal language is being used. So to answer the question, if I had to choose between eckig and rund, intuitively I would probably take rund. Literally giving space to this kind of intuition may well be a quality worth discussing on a rational level. […]


Lecture given in November 2003 on the occasion of the award of the Fritz Schumacher Prize [excerpt]. Full text published in Sauerbruch Hutton. Archive. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2006