In a recent interview, Spiegel speaks candidly with three architects who have one thing in common: projects in Germany plagued by severe delays and spiralling costs. Christoph Ingenhoven is head of Ingenhoven Architects, designers of train station Stuttgart 21. Meinhard von Gerkan of Gerkan, Marg and Partners is responsible for the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, and finally Pierre de Meuron represents Herzog & de Meuron, designers of Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie.
These projects are well known in Germany as much for their designs as for their construction costs, and Spiegel is not shy about getting to the bottom of these controversies. Of course, the architects themselves have their own ideas about the bad press (namely that they're being unjustly blamed). Meinhard von Gerkan, for example, says:
"It's a big mistake to voluntarily serve as a figurehead, because then everyone knows whom to target. We are these figureheads, not the clients and not the construction companies. And we are liable for everything."
More of these gems from the architects, after the break....
Pierre de Meuron gives an idea of what causes these problems to happen in the first place:
"Look at this cup in front of me. Let's say it represents the Elbphilharmonie. They initially said it had to be white and somehow contain tea. That was roughly what was stated in the call for bids at the time. But no one said how big it should be, that it also needed a saucer and possibly even a spoon."
De Meuron believes that it is important to stick with a difficult situation:
"We are courageous because we stayed with the project. We have assumed an obligation - not just to the client, but also to the city."
Von Gerkan has a further suggestion as to the root cause of the problem - the political system that commissions them:
"Developing and expressing solutions is one thing. Putting them into practice in a political landscape that's tied to a four-year cycle is another. Politicians depend on making a name for themselves with major projects during their terms in office."
Ingenhoven suggests that "the solution is to plan more intensively in advance", however von Gerkan disagrees:
"The pure truth doesn't get you far in this business. The opera house in Sydney would never have been approved if they had known how much it would cost from the start. It only works with fake documents."
"With a lie at the very beginning?"
"Yes. Only with a lie."
After taking persisting courageously and taking responsibility for the blame, how do these situations affect the architects themselves? Christoph Ingenhoven has the answer:
"The three of us are not cynics. We are making an honest effort to do the right thing. And it's difficult to experience what we're going through."
Read the full interview at the Spiegel