Axel Christian Borhaven & Armelle Breuil
Stockholm in a parallel world: Axel and I would meet in a studio of architecture at KTH. We would start a long and fertile collaboration winning a lot of prices and among them the competition for the Lilvevalchs Gallery. But as it is known, architects don’t have easy lifes and Axel would perish in his own building. Stockholm in a parallel world could be darker.
We decided to think about the five projects as a whole, as a story in which actions would happen, composed with cinematic spaces. Each one of them would house stories and plots, gossip would flourish in the common spaces. Our five projects were thought as an interaction with their context and at a larger scale the swedish capital. Since the methodology of the studio was to work on the five projects at the same time, we analyzed the program of each of them, did research and decided to start to work on KTH and the Nobel Prize Center – which was the only project not including any existing structure on the site. Even though the functions were different, both required atriums and large open spaces. Therefore we explored the typology of the stair as a means of circulation and as a meeting space.
Going through this process taught us the importance of the context and the existing architecture. Indeed for each projects our choice was to keep the existing building and incorporate it into the structure of the new one. We do not believe in the future with a past erased from memories, a tabula rasa. We believe in using the beauty of the past and adapt it to our needs.
We started to think the projects as original buildings to keep and rationalize, of functions to develop and meeting places to create. The grid was a start, since all the building had strong geometric shapes.
We added and removed with the conscience of the problematic of authenticity. At the same time of this studio we both followed the seminar course “Ideology and Architecture”, which strongly influenced us.
Who influences you graphically?
The graphical expression of the comic was a combination of a personal style of drawing and a tight schedule. Photoshop was used to multiply textures, and add people and details, in order to be able to finish before the deadline. The comic was made in a sitting of 33 consecutive hours.
Among external influences we are very fond of the illustrations of Tove Jansson (the authour of the Moomin troll books) and the Norwegian cartoonist Anders Kvammen, who has an expression we feel a familiarity with.
How does the format of a comic book reinforce the thesis?
The aim of the studio was to find a coherent answer to five recent, but programmatically and contextually widely differing, competition briefs. Our approach was using the circulation as the main formative element and connection to the city, a few of the buildings are practically giant stairs or ramps, and we wanted to show how these worked as public spaces.
How would the use of colour change the way the images are perceived?
It would first of all give the opportunity to change the mood and of the comic. The comic is monochrome mostly because we were most comfortable with only using black ink. Maybe the next one will be an explosion of bright colors!
To what extent might a short movie explore this idea of communication a bit more through the animation of the people on the still background?
In all the projects we explored a certain cinematography, how one would move through the buildings. Through a movie the buildings would have been the set and not the background.
You talk about context as being vital to the way architecture is shaped, however you neglect to show too much of this in your images. why so?
For the final jury we had to produce at least four interior illustrations for each project, and the comic was a way of bringing life into these illustrations. Actually the immediate architectural context is integrated through adaptive reuse, both the library and the crematorium are transformations of the existing buildings. However in the chosen format of the comic the new additions and the characters, us, is in the forefront. We used models and axonometric drawings to show the extended context.