What are the strongest links between Berlin and Los Angeles and where are the differences? GRAFT Architects tell about their experiences.
The founders of Graft - Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz and Thomas Willemeit - are doing great. They no longer have to compare every city to find out where they would prefer to live and work. The three architects from Berlin hang out all over the world and in the upcoming year, they also curate with Marianne Birthler, the German Pavilion of Architecture for Biennale.
Nevertheless, to Los Angeles, the Berliners have a special relationship. The founding of Graft took place here in 1998 and each day they together looked at the buildings of a city, which at the time was still considered as a Hollywood desert and for most Europeans as ugly. In 2001 they took care of Berlin and later Bejing. And sure, since Graft worked for Brad Pitt, people outside of the architecture world took notice of the three founders. But Graft has long been regarded as a celebration of their own: they stand for new ideas in design, architecture, urban planning and music, and above all for the "pursuit of happiness".
With us, the three talked about our favorite subject. Los Angeles versus Berlin or Berlin versus Los Angeles ...
Berlin and LA have one thing in common: they do not receive one with open arms, they are no cities in which one has the feeling to have to adapt. They are both cities that communicate very strongly, that you can leave a trace, they are open enough for you to start something that you really believe in. And that’s what Berlin and Los Angeles communicate and what makes them attractive.
Wenn man in Berlin diese Subkultur, den Berlin-Style, den wir international kennen, erlebt, dann ist es in LA eigentlich so, dass es hier sogar ein Teil der offiziellen Kultur geworden ist. Es iIf you experience this subculture in Berlin, the Berlin style that is known internationally, it is actually in LA that it has even become part of the official culture. There is lightness there, a vitality, it is an official curiosity for a break that one has to look for in the official Berlin sometimes. In comparison, Angelenos looks to Berlin and say "Hey, these opportunities, the low prices, these empty spaces - that is fantastic".
What Berlin can learn from LA is a bit more serenity dealing with aesthetics, allowing things to happen, coexistences that can mutually stimulate each other. All that Berlin actually has, but not officially. Only in an urban area, with people. Officially – meaning with buildings - this could become even more ambitious, but also more relaxed, allowing for diversity. What LA can learn from Berlin is the urbanity. Angelenos are coming to Berlin asking "Where is the big architecture?", but what they immediately understand is, what Wolfram says, living together and the urbanity. There are not so many places in LA - we are now here in the middle of downtown. It has developed into a totally cool, walkable area, which means a lot for Los Angeles. In Los Angeles you are always inside, either in the office or at home or in the car. And that it is so urban in Berlin and everyone can participate, you do not even have to speak German, is something the Angelenos instantly understand, extremely well, this enormous concentration of urbanity. They do not have that.
What is also thrilling is that there is such a competition of positivity in Los Angeles. It is almost annoying in what a good mood most people are, or at least believe to be. But when you get into a cab after landing in Berlin Tegel and you hear "Where do you want to go?" (grumpy voice), then you think "Come on, put a little more sunshine in your radio!" That's great that it' s rather a competition of optimism here.
GRAFT was established in 1998 in Los Angeles, California by Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz and Thomas Willemeit. Further offices followed in Berlin, Germany in 2001 and Beijing, China in 2004. GRAFT was conceived as a ‘Label’ for Architecture, Urban Planning, Design, Music and the “pursuit of happiness”. Since the firm was established, it has been commissioned to design and manage a wide range of projects in multiple disciplines and locations. With the core of the firm’s enterprises gravitating around the field of architecture and the built environment, GRAFT has always maintained an interest in crossing the boundaries between disciplines and “grafting” the creative potentials and methodologies of different realities. This is reflected in the firm’s expansion into the fields of exhibition design and product design, art installations, academic projects and “events” as well as in the variety of project locations in Germany, China, UAE, Russia, Georgia, in the U.S. and Mexico, to name a few.
M.Arch., Dipl.-Ing., Architekt, BDA, Founding Partner of GRAFT born March 17, 1967, in Hannover, Germany, residing in Berlin. Lars Krückeberg studied architecture at the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany, where he graduated with a Dipl.-Ing. Arch. He received his Master of Architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles, USA.
M.Arch., Dipl.-Ing., Architekt, BDA, Founding Partner of GRAFT born June 16, 1968, in Kiel, Germany, residing in Berlin. Wolfram Putz studied architecture at the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany, where he graduated with a Dipl.-Ing. Arch. He received his Master of Architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles, USA.
Dipl.-Ing. Architekt, BDA, Founding Partner of GRAFT born March 3, 1968, in Braunschweig, Germany, residing in Berlin. Thomas Willemeit studied architecture at the Technical University Braunschweig where he graduated with a Dipl.-Ing. Arch. Besides his successful career in the architectural field, he won numerous national prizes as a violin player and a chorister.