Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles The public debate about architecture quite often just stays on contemplating the final result, the architectural object. Is the latest tower in London a gherkin or a sausage or a sex tool? So recently, we asked ourselves if we could invent a format that could actually tell the stories behind the projects, maybe combining images and drawings and words to actually sort of tell stories about architecture. And we discovered that we didn't have to invent it, it already existed in the form of a comic book. So we basically copied the format of the comic book to actually tell the stories of behind the scenes, how our projects actually evolve through adaptation and improvisation. Sort of through the turmoil and the opportunities and the incidents of the real world. We call this comic book "Yes is More," which is obviously a sort of evolution of the ideas of some of our heroes. In this case it's Mies van der Rohe's Less is More. He triggered the modernist revolution. After him followed the post-modern counter-revolution, Robert Venturi saying, "Less is a bore." After him, Philip Johnson sort of introduced (Laughter) you could say promiscuity, or at least openness to new ideas with, "I am a whore." Recently, Obama has introduced optimism at a sort of time of global financial crisis. And what we'd like to say with "Yes is More" is basically trying to question this idea that the architectural avant-garde is almost always negatively defined, as who or what we are against. The cliche of the radical architect is the sort of angry young man rebelling against the establishment. Or this idea of the misunderstood genius, frustrated that the world doesn't fit in with his or her ideas. Rather than revolution, we're much more interested in evolution, this idea that things gradually evolve by adapting and improvising to the changes of the world. In fact, I actually think that Darwin is one of the people who best explains our design process. His famous evolutionary tree could almost be a diagram of the way we work. As you can see, a project evolves through a series of generations of design meetings. At each meeting, there's way too many ideas. Only the best ones can survive. And through a process of architectural selection, we might choose a really beautiful model or we might have a very functional model. We mate them. They have sort of mutant offspring. And through these sort of generations of design meetings we arrive at a design. A very literal way of showing it is a project we did for a library and a hotel in Copenhagen. The design process was really tough, almost like a struggle for survival, but gradually an idea evolved: this sort of idea of a rational tower that melts together with the surrounding city, sort of expanding the public space onto what we refer to as a Scandinavian version of the Spanish Steps in Rome, but sort of public on the outside, as well as on the inside, with the library. But Darwin doesn't only explain the evolution of a single idea. As you can see, sometimes a subspecies branches off. And quite often we sit in a design meeting and we discover that there is this great idea. It doesn't really work in this context. But for another client in another culture, it could really be the right answer to a different question. So as a result, we never throw anything out. We keep our office almost like an archive of architectural biodiversity. You never know when you might need it. And what I'd like to do now, in an act of warp-speed storytelling, is tell the story of how two projects evolved by adapting and improvising to the happenstance of the world. The first story starts last year when we went to Shanghai to do the competition for the Danish National Pavilion for the World Expo in 2010. And we saw this guy, Haibao. He's the mascot of the expo, and he looks strangely familiar. In fact he looked like a building we had designed for a hotel in the north of Sweden. When we submitted it for the Swedish competition we thought it was a really cool scheme, but it didn't exactly look like something from the north of Sweden. The Swedish jury didn't think so either. So we lost. But then we had a meeting with a Chinese businessman who saw our design and said, "Wow, that's the Chinese character for the word 'people.'" (Laughter) So, apparently this is how you write "people," as in the People's Republic of China. We even double checked. And at the same time, we got invited to exhibit at the Shanghai Creative Industry Week. So we thought like, this is too much of an opportunity, so we hired a feng shui master. We scaled the building up three times to Chinese proportions, and went to China. (Laughter) So the People's Building, as we called it. This is our two interpreters, sort of reading the architecture. It went on the cover of the Wen Wei Po newspaper, which got Mr. Liangyu Chen, the mayor of Shanghai, to visit the exhibition. And we had the chance to explain the project. And he said, "Shanghai is the city in the world with most skyscrapers," but to him it was as if the connection to the roots had been cut over. And with the People's Building, he saw an architecture that could bridge the gap between the ancient wisdom of China and the progressive future of China. So we obviously profoundly agreed with him. (Laughter) (Applause) Unfortunately, Mr. Chen is now in prison for corruption. (Laughter) But like I said, Haibao looked very familiar, because he is actually the Chinese character for "people." And they chose this mascot because the theme of the expo is "Better City, Better Life." Sustainability. And we thought, sustainability has grown into being this sort of neo-Protestant idea that it has to hurt in order to do good. You know, you're not supposed to take long, warm showers. You're not supposed to fly on holidays because it's bad for the environment. Gradually, you get this idea that sustainable life is less fun than normal life. So we thought that maybe it could be interesting to focus on examples where a sustainable city actually increases the quality of life. We also asked ourselves, what could Denmark possibly show China that would be relevant? You know, it's one of the biggest countries in the world, one of the smallest. China symbolized by the dragon. Denmark, we have a national bird, the swan. (Laughter) China has many great poets, but we discovered that in the People's Republic public school curriculum, they have three fairy tales by An Tu Sheng, or Hans Christian Anderson, as we call him. So that means that all 1.3 billion Chinese have grown up with "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Matchstick Girl" and "The Little Mermaid." It's almost like a fragment of Danish culture integrated into Chinese culture. The biggest tourist attraction in China is the Great Wall. The Great Wall is the only thing that can be seen from the moon. The big tourist attraction in Denmark is The Little Mermaid. That can actually hardly be seen from the canal tours. (Laughter) And it sort of shows the difference between these two cities. Copenhagen, Shanghai, modern, European. But then we looked at recent urban development, and we noticed that this is like a Shanghai street, 30 years ago. All bikes, no cars. This is how it looks today; all traffic jam. Bicycles have become forbidden many places. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen we're actually expanding the bicycle lanes. A third of all the people commute by bike. We have a free system of bicycles called the City Bike that you can borrow if you visit the city. So we thought, why don't we reintroduce the bicycle in China? We donate 1,000 bikes to Shanghai. So if you come to the expo, go straight to the Danish pavilion, get a Danish bike, and then continue on that to visit the other pavilions. Like I said, Shanghai and Copenhagen are both port cities, but in Copenhagen the water has gotten so clean that you can actually swim in it. One of the first projects we ever did was the harbor bath in Copenhagen, sort of continuing the public realm into the water. So we thought that these expos quite often have a lot of state financed propaganda, images, statements, but no real experience. So just like with a bike, we don't talk about it. You can try it. Like with the water, instead of talking about it, we're going to sail a million liters of harbor water from Copenhagen to Shanghai, so the Chinese who have the courage can actually dive in and feel how clean it is. This is where people normally object that it doesn't sound very sustainable to sail water from Copenhagen to China. But in fact, the container ships go full of goods from China to Denmark, and then they sail empty back. So quite often you load water for ballast. So we can actually hitch a ride for free. And in the middle of this sort of harbor bath, we're actually going to put the actual Little Mermaid. So the real Mermaid, the real water, and the real bikes. And when she's gone, we're going to invite a Chinese artist to reinterpret her. The architecture of the pavilion is this sort of loop of exhibition and bikes. When you go to the exhibition, you'll see the Mermaid and the pool. You'll walk around, start looking for a bicycle on the roof, jump on your ride and then continue out into the rest of the expo. So when we actually won the competition we had to do an exhibition in China explaining the project. And to our surprise we got one of our boards back with corrections from the Chinese state censorship. The first thing, the China map missed Taiwan. It's a very serious political issue in China. We will add on. The second thing, we had compared the swan to the dragon, and then the Chinese state said, "Suggest change to panda." (Laughter) (Applause) So, when it came out in Denmark that we were actually going to move our national monument, the National People's Party sort of rebelled against it. They tried to pass a law against moving the Mermaid. So for the first time, I got invited to speak at the National Parliament. It was kind of interesting because in the morning, from 9 to 11, they were discussing the bailout package -- how many billions to invest in saving the Danish economy. And then at 11 o'clock they stopped talking about these little issues. And then from 11 to 1, they were debating whether or not to send the Mermaid to China. (Laughter) (Applause) But to conclude, if you want to see the Mermaid from May to December next year, don't come to Copenhagen, because she's going to be in Shanghai. If you do come to Copenhagen, you will probably see an installation by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist. But if the Chinese government intervenes, it might even be a panda. (Laughter) So the second story that I'd like to tell is, actually starts in my own house. This is my apartment.