Interview: LAVA

Tuesday 28 Oct 2014

LAVA's Chris Bosse talks to WAN about its flexible network of practices and being "specialists in good ideas of any scale"

Visionary architecture firm LAVA was set up as a network practice, with virtually connected offices across the globe. This gives the firm the flexibility to draw on the latest research and resources specific to the projects being worked on.

Describing its architectural style as a combination of "man, nature and technology", at once "efficient, beautiful and sustainable", LAVA first came into being when Director Chris Bosse met fellow Director Tobias Wallisser at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2004. Both had winning projects (he with the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Bosse with the Beijing Watercube) there. The pair then teamed up with Alexander Rieck - they saw his groundbreaking work at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart as a perfect fit for their goals. Now present in Stuttgart, Berlin and Sydney, with projects across Asia, the Middle East and Germany, the firm continues to operate as a global office network.

We spoke to Chris Bosse, Director at LAVA, to find out more about how the practice works...

Research holds the key to the future
We aim to be specialists in good ideas of any scale - one day we design a piece of furniture or an installation, the next day we design a holiday resort, and after that, a stadium in Ethiopia. We believe the way we work is a model for the future. The world has become smaller and more connected, and the bandwidth and outreach of architectural projects has become much larger over the past decade. It is quite normal to work in Sydney, Hong Kong, Seoul, Berlin, Milan and Addis Ababa at the same time.

We work closely with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and other organisations, where the latest research provides the answers for the future. For example, we recently drew on research into swarming and used algorithms based on those principles to create and optimised route and layout for a trade showroom for Phillips.

Furthermore, all three directors teach and continuously bring new talent into the network. We love working with experts in different fields, such as sustainability, sports, lighting, workplace, marketing, engineering, etc. Collaboration keeps us fresh and curious.

We also see it as important to be part of the global architecture network, through conferences, lectures and meetings. We just joined the Van Alen Institute, which organises annual meetings in different cities with our peers to discuss contemporary pressing questions.

Leaping over hurdles
Sydney is currently experiencing a residential boom, due to the influx of overseas investment and migration, as well as tax concessions for investors. This leads to an inflation of this market segment and other segments, such as culture and education, may suffer from this a bit.

For us, we want to get more work built and get the design quality through all the hurdles of the process. Increasingly, clients are more risk-averse. The Sydney Opera House would have never happened if they had only looked to employ an architect who had already built five opera houses before.

Time and cost are always an issue, but as a visionary network across three time zones, we are perfectly equipped to meet these challenges.

And we have won lots of international design competitions over the years. And more and more clients seem to like our work - the German Youth Hostel Association has just commissioned us to design a new sports youth hostel in Bavaria following our successful renovation of their 1930s hostel. We've had the privilege of designing a residential tower for Michael Schumacher, an entire island for visionary developers in China, a martian embassy in Australia and a research campus in the Middle East.

More with less
If we were to sum up our design philosophy, it would be: More with less. More (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

To achieve this, we try to merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature. Naturally evolving systems, such as bubbles, spider webs and corals, can be the basis for our building typologies and structures - these geometries in nature create both efficiency and beauty.

The local context should have a strong influence on idea development. However, there are families of ideas and solutions that can be applied to different situations.

Good design for me means combining principles that are always true with things that constantly change, nature versus technology.

To that end, I would love to revamp an existing building with a new lightweight skin, completely transforming the way it functions, performs and looks.

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