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Lunch with a fascinating architect

BNP Paribas is spectacular, but Dietmar Eberle likes designing small low-tech buildings too.
(Image: agenda.brussels)
BNP Paribas is spectacular, but Dietmar Eberle likes designing small low-tech buildings too. (Image: agenda.brussels)

Yesterday, Forum Press and Communication (Nathalie Zalcman and Kathleen Iweins) invited Dietmar Eberle of Baumschlager Eberrle Architekten (Austria) to address the ‘Lunch with an Architect’ seminar. This was surely one of the most fascinating speakers to have come to Brussels, with a view of architecture that is as refreshing as it is pragmatic. In his own words, architecture is all about “finding the right form for the values that exist and in the right place”.

Currently best known in Brussels for his design for the yet to be built BNP Paribas headquarters close to Bozar, Dietmar Eberle prefers to put the emphasis on smaller buildings, and very often residential. He describes architecture as falling into two categories – that for Sunday (museum, church, sports stadium…) and that for the rest of the week. This latter category is what he likes best, everyday, useful, unspectacular buildings which serve a real purpose in people’s lives.

In the early days of his career, Dietmar Eberle designed houses, usually in wood, and his pragmatic approach already served well: “The client for a house is usually a woman.If the man came to my office on his own, I asked where his wife was. This saves a great deal of time”.

Returning to the subject of large (office) buildings, he is also realistic. “I don’t care what is inside, offices, meeting rooms… because it will all change one day anyway. And in fact by the time a building is ready, the original client might not be there any more. In fact if the interior is not changed within five years, it’s probably time to change the management, who would not appear to be dynamic enough”.

One small but very ambitious building responds to another of Dietmar Eberle’s principles – that architecture and buildings should be simple. Named ‘22-26’, this wooden office building has no heating, no cooling, just sensors which can turn the lights on and off and open or close the windows depending on interior conditions. There is no other so-called high tech equipment at all. Why 22-26? Because the temperature is never below 22° and never above 26°. Dietmar Eberle says he knew that no developer would pay for such a radical low-tech concept, so he paid for it himself… And now people are queuing up at his office to get one for themselves.
Tim Harrup
05-06-2018


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