visiondivision was founded in 2005 by Anders Berensson (b. 1980 in Stockholm) and Ulf Mejergren (b. 1981 in Stockholm). The organisation formed when they won a competition while still at University. Both started their architecture education at Chalmers University in Gothenburg 2001.
While still students, the office operated all over the world – from ITESM in Mexico to OMA in Rotterdam, they mostly did competitions via msn. In 2008, the team reunited in their hometown of Stockholm, and have been working full-time from there ever since. The office has received several prizes in both international and domestic competitions, with many “to-be-built” projects in progress.
visiondivision have a broad and exciting portfolio of built work, it is inspiring to see conceptually driven work at the forefront of their organisation.
1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?
VD: So far, we must say “Capilla para el Tio”; probably the world’s highest located chapel on the altitude of 4200 meters, for a mining cooperative in Potosi, Bolivia. The project took only five days to complete but it was extremely demanding and dangerous as the chapel is located hundreds of meters inside a mine and dynamite was one of our tools.
During the building process we got to experience a really unique mining culture. For example, we had to drink vodka each day in front of a local demon statue inside the mine before starting to build. When the cave was done it felt like we had been running a marathon, and we both got sick during the building process. But the reward afterwards of sitting in the chapel with your fellow miners, embedded in a spellbinding red color that glitters in the light of the headlamps, as a contrast to all the blackness and misery in the cave, is a profound experience that you almost cannot feel in the developed world nowadays.
2. Your recent project the Tornado Tower was well received by major blog sites. What aspects of the project do you think contributed to its success? and will it ever be built?
VD: We like the Tornado a lot, and part of its success might be that it is structurally compelling with ecological features but it has also a poetic dimension as you ascend through pearls to the operas. Even though it didn’t win the competition we hope that some investor would find it interesting to erect.
3. How do you think architecture will change in the next 50 years?
VD: Perhaps we would talk more about landscapes instead of buildings. A building is a very isolated structure; we would perhaps have a more interconnected flow of things.
For example; we are now constructing an extension for two children that will be situated on a steep knoll, almost volcanic in appearance. The hill has a small outdoor cinema and two secret caves that you can reach from each one of the children’s bedrooms. The hill seems to enter the living room which has an undulated artificial grass on the floor. The room can be completely opened at summertime, blending in with the nature surrounding it. The modernistic approach with building versus nature will probably be more about building interlinked with nature.
The division between Architects and other brands concerning built structure will probably merge more and more together into one profession since buildings today often have more complex programs. We often get commissions where the answer lies in expanding our profession as Architects into being artists, economists, ecologists and advertisers to be able to come up with the best concept.
When it comes to the tasks of tomorrow we think that improving old structures will be a bigger part of the Architect’s commissions. There is so much built structure today that could be used in a better way or just look better, and it is much more cost efficient to upgrade an already erected structure then to build a new one.
4. Do you think that Architecture tends to be trendy today?
VD: We think architecture has always been trendy throughout history, however some trends are more rational than others, for example new building techniques. We strive for timelessness by doing our own thing and not trying to be trendy, but at the same time we use these new technologies to make the project better.
5. What would students learn from reviewing the body of architectural projects you have completed? Do you have any advice for upcoming students?
VD: We’re in our late twenties so we have not been around for so long; so our built repertoire is limited, but we have three buildings that will be completed this year and all of them have something to offer anyone interested in Architecture. For students we could be an example that you can do interesting pieces of Architecture even for very small commissions and/or budgets. For example our Secret Sauna was a 4000 Euro commission to build a sauna. Swedish building regulations forced the sauna to look like a traditional house with pointed roof, but we made it possible to open the windowless front façade so the sauna changes appearance completely. And our before mentioned Capilla para el Tio was extremely cheap to build so we could afford paying for the project ourselves.
We strongly believe that the student years are very important. As a student you have more freedom then as an employee so it’s a great opportunity to start a firm, movement or whatever you please. When the school years are over it can be harder to team up with the right people for you and to find time for your own projects.
6. What are you most proud of in your career or any aspect of life?
VD: Career-wise we are proud of having our own office and that we very seldom compromise with our ideas and concepts. It is always a pleasure to go to work at visiondivision.
7. Who do you think is the most overrated architect, and who do you think deserves more credit/recognition?
GR: Architect’s that repeats themselves over and over again lose our attention very fast; we have never been a fan of Zaha Hadid for example. You could compare her work with Frank Gehry’s architecture; which also has a very fluid language and also has a repetitive manner, but his work includes so much more and is quite humorous as well. He has also a nice collection of houses from his early days. He has paid his dues you could say. A Swedish architect that deserves more attention worldwide is Erik Friberger, one of few Swedish architects that experimented with new typologies such as the Deck-house in Gothenburg.
8. What aspect of Architecture do you find most important? What is fundamental to your practice and your design process?
VD: Concept is King. With a strong concept you can allow alterations in appearance and still carry out a good project. Once you have the concept you design it to be as uncompromising as possible, and then perhaps the client can peel of some layers and it won’t matter so much.
9. What inspired you to become involved in Architecture? What inspires you now?
VD: Nature, animals and the world of fiction inspire us more than any building. Inspiration can come from a lot of places, we love for example Uncle Scrooge’s money bin which is exceptional. James Bond villain’s hideouts are also a favorite.
10. What other interests do you have?
VD: We are a traveling office and have a great interest in different cultures and nature phenomenon. We actually have a world guide to inspirational places on our planet that we share from our blog. Some favorites are the impressive Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the tropical islands of Tahiti and the volcanic wonders of Java.
11. What is your favourite time of the day, and why?
VD: Summer in the north of Sweden with its constant sunshine, it allows you to do whatever you want at any time of the day.
12. What would be your ultimate design project?
VD: It would be a total assimilation project with mankind and animals, with different layers and biotopes. Building a capital is also on the list. We actually have a “sundivider” on the drawing board for a competition right now that could be absolutely epic. It’s a giant prism that makes the sunsets even more spectacular. If it gets built we would be quite satisfied too and probably retire as architects.
13. What are you doing at the moment?
VD: We are doing a couple of shoe stores in Reunion Island and are getting to know the building industry with three different building sites running at the same time in Stockholm. We also have a hotel in Colombia that we’re hoping to have built later this year, plus many other projects on the drawing board.
14. Who would you most like to work with on a project?
VD: Rich old dictators seem to build the wonders of our world – if there ever will be a fun loving, humane one with respect for his citizens and with unlimited funds and great taste we would love to work for him.
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