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interview ISSN 2175-6708


Entrevista com o arquiteto alemão Peter Mehrtens, chefe da equipe de concepção computacional da Bemo Systems e sócio de uma firma de consultoria chamada Design to Fabrication.

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CELANI, Gabriela; BARBOSA NETO, Wilson; MOARA SANTOS FRANCO, Juarez. An interview with architect Peter Mehrtens. From Design to Fabrication. Entrevista, São Paulo, year 16, n. 063.02, Vitruvius, jul. 2015 <>.

Peter Mehrtens durante o workshop "Introduction to Parametric Modelling and Scripting of Building Envelopes for Digital Fabrication" na Unicamp
Foto Gabriela Celani


Gabriela Celani: Do you think this field in which you are acting is a niche for the new generation?

Peter Mehrtens: No, I think it is a niche now, not for the next generation. Actually I would encourage all of you to look into this field (generative design, scripting, modeling out of this) for linking architectural design to fabrication, but also for Structural Engineering (there is a plug in called Karamba for Grasshopper, [for example]). Also, for Industrial Design, and of course Architectural Design itself. So I believe it is at the moment a niche, but it is something I encourage you all to look in, to be top of the market when you are in the market tomorrow. This is what you need for the future.

Wilson Barbosa Neto: We cannot deny that the practical aspects of the profession are very important, but do you think that universities in your scenario prepare students enough to work with parametric and digital fabrication or students still have to take extra courses and get more experience outside of the university?

PM: Students coming out of the university nowadays might have some experience with generative design, but of course to develop details and solutions for building envelopes you also need work experience. But I think that applies to all fields of design and construction. The people working in the design team have some extra training experience of one form or the other, such as parametric design, structural calculations, ventilated façades, technical detailing for roofing, or on-site practical exercises. It’s also important to have a bit of a goal to realize that every part that you design, every bracket, every sub-structure piece, has to be put together on site and even if the parts are pre-fabricated sometimes it is important to keep a practical approach to things that have to be made by hand on the site. If you are working for a specialist design company or a specialist contractor, usually when you finish university you are going to have some further education, which is good, because I think it is important that you never stop that throughout you career. Continuing professional development starts right after school and hopefully doesn’t stop.

WBN: How do you feel coming to Brazil and spreading the word about digital approaches to design and fabrication applied to architecture for students at Unicamp and the community of architects?

PM: The participants of the workshop showed great interest in digital fabrication and also the students and guests who came to the lecture showed that there is an interest in those topics here. The challenges for architects in bringing this into practice is to break the barrier of conventional design methods, overcoming the “no, we’ve done this before and we’ll do this again and again”. And it’s good to see the students have the drive to pick up these new technologies and they are fortunate that Unicamp is offering these facilities and arranging that students have access to these new emerging topics of generative design and digital fabrication.

Gabriela Celani: In Brazil right now there is this big issue about Contemporary Architecture. We have a large tradition in Modern Architecture. From my point of view, Contemporary Architecture has a lot to do with new technologies. What is your point of view regarding present architecture and the use of new technologies?

PM: I believe technology is advancing in the architectural design field, but that does not bring a new style of architecture. It is changing the way we work, and it is changing the speed at which we can create designs, but if it’s employed right, I think it does not influence the style. You can use it for very formal and very rational design at the same time. It can be applied to a formal design or it can be used for rational design. It shouldn’t really become a style in itself because it is actually a question of tooling in the office.

GC: In early Modern Architecture some critics would say it should only be considered modern if it is using industrialized building parts. Otherwise you are doing something to look like modern and industrialized, but you are doing it in a very traditional way. Do you think that an architect that works in the present but is not using any new tools, neither for the generation or the fabrication of a building, should still be called “contemporary”?

PM: Probably the contemporary tools (parametric and generative design tools) are making a new kind of architecture in the sense of the making of that architecture, but I think it shouldn’t be a style itself, because it shouldn’t influence the result; that should be at the hand of the designer. And if it is to be successful than I think generative design tools should liberate the architect, but not influence the design result in terms of style. If it would create a style itself than it would be restricting the architect, because it would mean that if you are using these tools than this leads to this and that style, but that’s not the aim. The aim is to remove constraints and to make more things possible than happened to be before. That is an issue of office performance, working performance.

GC: We know that these technologies could also be used for making design more affordable for everybody. If you automate the design process in principle you can reduce the architect’s fee. However, parametric design and digital fabrication are being used most of the time to add value to buildings, usually through complicated shapes that would be impossible to build otherwise. Why do you think that this is happening?

PM: Generative design is making designs feasible that wouldn’t be feasible in a manual work approach. But it is also making them feasible economically, because they are produced in an acceptable time. I do not think this should reduce fees, neither for the architect, nor for the fabricator. It should be used to facilitate the production and the design of new shapes that have been thought not possible simply because the effort required to create them was exorbitantly high. I think in the future repetitive designs are not going to have a value in terms of additional fees. If you have one design and you reuse that that is not something that is going to be chargeable. But when you look at generative design the result is something that varies, which means that you could charge fees for every different version. However, it would make sense to adapt the way that fees are calculated, by not charging for the design, but for the algorithms developed, so that the scope of work is not defined by the amount of result that comes out form the generative design [system], but by the complexity of the solution. For example, the amount of work required to create the algorithms that are project-specific. So the repetitive use of something that [already] exists is going to be very cheap, and the creation of something that is unique to a project is something that has a value due to its uniqueness.


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original: português

outros: english




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