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  • 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.