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7 questions to Joseph Grima

Joseph Grima is the International Friend of Habitare in 2021. He is the creative director at Design Academy Eindhoven, the chief curator of design at Triennale di Milano and a former editor-in-chief of Domus magazine. The International Friend explores Habitare and the field of Finnish design through global eyes, selects the most interesting content available at the event, and enters into dialogue with Habitare.

We asked seven questions from this British architect, curator, researcher and editor – dive in and get to know Joseph!

1. What kind of wishes and expectations do you have for Habitare and Helsinki? What do you wish to see at the fair?

Habitare hosts a wide array of designers to connect and curate these conversations. Here we find new expressions for the extraordinary legacy of legendary designers such as Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen. I hope to see works that continue to learn from traditional Finnish methods while incorporating new technologies and material sciences.

 

2. What is your connection to Finland, Finnish design and Finnish architecture?

I’ve had the good fortune of visiting Finland several times over the years. It is a very beautiful country, that I think one sees strongly reflected in its design history. The landscape becomes part of the design project – its materiality forging a strong connection to the surrounding environment. Finland is also home to many important design hubs, Aalto University being one of these centers, here I have seen very interesting explorations from a new generation of designers that emerge.

 

3. What do you see to be the biggest changes in and shifts in architecture and design in the last 50 years?

Both have become far more complex and diversified – architects and designers have become pioneers of new technologies, grappling with complexities deriving from urban boom, climate change, and geopolitical shifts. Designers today are strongly engaged in social practice and the public realm. The spatial, social and environmental conditions we live in demand agency from all of us.

 

4. What do you think is the most interesting design and architecture phenomenon at the moment?

New material cultures and technologies are being deployed to rethink our built environment. Here architecture can be understood as a system of resource flows and management, at the scale of our planet. At a time with increasing environmental challenges and resource depletion, new timber technologies offer a potential for some of the most high-performance materials – such as cross laminated timber, forming alternative categories of non-extractive design and a new vernacular.

 

5. What design item or architectural site do you find the most interesting and/or inspiring? (Is there some object or place which has a special meaning for you and/or your work?)

It’s difficult to select a single place – there are too many! If I had to pick one place it would be all of Italy, where I’ve lived for most of my professional life. It’s an incredible example of how art and creativity have shaped culture and society century after century, and one generation has inspired the next. Much like in Finland, the geography of the region informs its design, food, and art of living.

Often alternative perspectives are needed, some design can only be seen from particular vantage points. Personally I find inspiration out at sea, discovering architectures that inform navigation, trade ports, and holidays.

 

6. What is the role of design, art and architecture education in creating design and architecture that lasts? What is the role of education in the future?

Architecture and design are dynamic subjects that deal with different topics and different urgencies at different moments in time. Today design has a huge responsibility in a world of rapid change – environmental struggles, questions of social justice, the advent of incredibly powerful and potentially socially disruptive new technologies. Education is fundamental in shaping this condition, in designing how we design, as this will inform the world we live in.

 

7. You have been part of many successful art end design biennials, how do you see the future or biennials, events and fairs when it comes to the fields of art, design and architecture?

We live in a digital hyperconnected world, but we also like to meet in person. Biennials are opportunities to experience new ideas and new forms of practice in design and architecture, and opportunities to learn directly, “on the ground”. Much the way that knowledge and the exchange of ideas happened through influential magazines like AD, Domus, Architecture d’Ajou d’hui in the poswar era, today we are far more mobile and exchange points of view and debate positions through exhibitions. As a conseqience fairs and biennials have become more and more important as vehicles of cultural production.