Archi­tect Leopold Ban­chi­ni has just begun his tenure as the new head of the Stu­dio for Imme­di­ate Spaces at the Sand­berg. He is Swiss and loves nature, snow, stones and water­falls. Togeth­er with Daniel Zamar­bide he estab­lished Bureau A, which earned a rep­u­ta­tion with a num­ber of uncon­ven­tion­al projects that push and cross the bound­aries of the pro­fes­sion in the free­dom of the tem­po­rary. But’, says Ban­chi­ni, always with­in and based upon the field of archi­tec­ture. Our main goal is to answer the best way to a pro­gram. We start­ed the office three years ago and now we work as an offi­cial com­pa­ny and also par­tic­i­pate in com­pe­ti­tions. At the moment we are work­ing on a big pub­lic space in Gene­va that will be fin­ished in 2017.’

The small­er projects always begin with a study to devel­op ref­er­ences that serve as anchor points for the solu­tion. These ref­er­ences reveal a desire to con­nect archi­tec­ture with the every­day and the contemporary.

We like to open up our influ­ences and ref­er­ences to almost every­thing, to folk art and pop­u­lar cul­ture. It could be hip-hop, beer drink­ing, snow­board­ing or DIY cul­ture; the social prac­tice of peo­ple rather than that of insti­tu­tions. We like tra­di­tion if it is still going in in the now.

Antoine is a cab­in con­cealed with­in an arti­fi­cial rock which blends into the land­scape. In the pop­u­lar book Der­borence (When the Moun­tain Fell) by C. F. Ramuz, a vil­lage boy is buried by an avalanche and has to sur­vive under the snow. After months he returns to the vil­lage where every­one thinks that he is a ghost. Antoine is a hut with a fire­place, bed, table, stool and win­dow, which is used inten­sive­ly by snow­board­ers. A space that works.

The sto­ry is indica­tive of their inter­est in hid­ing’, in the typol­o­gy of a bunker, in the fake and the real. The small­er projects serve as guide­lines for the offi­cial assign­ments that have been set out, to test what we real­ly want to do with­in archi­tec­ture. We try to work from the same atti­tude for the more offi­cial assign­ments. We seek clients that are com­pat­i­ble with us and pre­fer projects that take place in the pub­lic domain. Our main goal is not to get blocked, for exam­ple by the word archi­tec­ture. We like to open up.’

Leopold Ban­chi­ni was edu­cat­ed as an archi­tect, but the way in which archi­tec­ture was pre­sent­ed was too strict for him and so he began a Mas­ter study at the school of art in Glas­gow, which includ­ed an intern­ship at Ate­lier van Lieshout.

I have always been impressed by exact­ly this rela­tion between design and archi­tec­ture but also art, pol­i­tics and a crit­i­cal vision. I look back at an intense expe­ri­ence, although it was not what I expect­ed. It was both dis­ap­point­ing and amaz­ing. AVL, which once start­ed as a free state”, turned out to be a strong and impres­sive machine and sur­pris­ing­ly hier­at­ic. At the same time it was exact­ly what I was look­ing for: under­stand­ing how those peo­ple can work and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly be organ­ised and pro­duce inter­est­ing work. And the crazi­ness of the guy.’

Ate­lier van Lieshout uses art to present his dystopi­an vision in ambi­tious projects, such as Tech­no­crat and The New Trib­al Labyrinth in which humankind is trapped with­in a larg­er eco­nom­ic and social sys­tem. Ban­chi­ni seeks the utopi­an rather than the pes­simistic view of art. He does bring with him a crit­i­cal view of space in our soci­ety to the SIS, as an archi­tect who is ana­lyt­i­cal and search­es for solutions.

Ban­chi­ni: We are not telling a sto­ry of our thoughts; we nev­er see it as a work of art. As art a work could be a con­cept, fic­tion but in our vision as archi­tects it should be a fin­ished piece.

I am enthralled by the mate­r­i­al ges­ture’ (to take the mate­r­i­al itself as a start­ing point in the course as intro­duced by Anne Holtrop, the for­mer direc­tor) and that is what I want to con­tin­ue, and to build on top our own pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. That is a reflec­tion on space, the pol­i­tics behind space. Behind every space is a strug­gle and ten­sion. The city could be a start­ing point to look at those issues.’

He men­tions Sask­ia Sassen as a pos­si­ble guest that he would like to bring in: The most crit­i­cal chal­lenge today is the fact that cities are becom­ing less a place for cit­i­zens – broad­ly under­stood to include immi­grants and migrants – and more a place for cor­po­rate invest­ments. (..) You know, this whole notion that I have about the pow­er­less being able to make his­to­ry in cities – that doesn’t hap­pen in an office park. There is now less and less pub­lic space for most peo­ple to come togeth­er and shape the cul­tur­al fab­ric of their city.’

So on top of the mate­r­i­al ges­ture”, I’d like stu­dents to be able to talk about space and get them to under­stand the social issue of space: through a the­o­ret­i­cal edu­ca­tion, maybe by bring­ing more social geog­ra­phy into the course, through field­work and by allow­ing them to trav­el. (but trav­el­ing not as the pur­pose of the school.) If we trav­el as a group, it would be to go to Calais or Les­bos to con­tribute to a camp for ille­gal refugees.

I would like to use the school to teach stu­dents dif­fer­ent meth­ods, to intro­duce work­shops all year round so they devel­op a method­ol­o­gy in a very short time. For me it’s about the plea­sure of a build­ing, they have to make it, a con­struc­tion, test­ing and build­ing in hands-on workshops.’

Con­sis­tent with their pref­er­ence for utopias, Bureau A con­ceived the scenog­ra­phy of the play Can one be a rev­o­lu­tion­ary and love flow­ers? about Monte Ver­ità, a cre­ative com­mu­ni­ty that exper­i­ment­ed with new forms of liv­ing in the first decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry. The whole design could be eas­i­ly dis­man­tled and stored to trav­el around, archi­tec­ture at its min­i­mum. Now they have been asked to bring the research to an exhi­bi­tion. They will show, analyse and cel­e­brate a moment of utopi­an gathering.