Feature:Tom Dixon talks about how he'd like
to be an architect when he grows up!
Tom Dixon Creative Director of Habitat in conversation in 2003 with Rachel Loos, then Editor of Elle Decoration.
RL: How would you define architecture?
TD: I would call it 'the conquest of space.
RL: Ooh, very grand. On a more local level...
TD: At its best, architecture is about defining how you live in a space, whether that be your own space, your work-space, or even your garden. I think the desire to create our own environment, to build something is a primitive one and one that must come from a deep urge we have to put a mark on our surroundings: the wish to build and shelter ourselves.
RL: When it comes to a building, what makes a good piece of architecture?
TD:A sense of place. I don't mean that it has to challenge everything it's surrounded by or conversely integrate with it. It just has to have a reason for being there.
RL: What is the architecture you love?
TD: I'm a big fan of everything. I love serious engineering structures, the bridge in Porto by Eiffel, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Post Office Tower in London. And the big globe at Disney World - I enjoy the charm and the effect it has on people. On a more domestic scale, some of the buildings that Le Corbusier did in India - in particular one house where the child living in it asked for a slide from his bedroom on the second floor to the swimming pool. So he did it! It's that mix of the personal touch with a grand concept that I particularly like. But I also like medieval architecture, huts on the beach in Goa, the Mir space station. I like all sorts of things from the humble to the grand.
RL: What, in your opinion, is bad architecture?
TD: Bad is pastiche, it's faking it, pretending you are of another time. Restoration is fine but creating new pastiche is bad - like the buildings next to the old Tate Gallery where Prince Charles has reconstructed some fake Georgian with fibreglass mouldings. Bad is non-variety as well, working to a formula. Bad is new towns where there's no mix of old and new.
RL: If you were to create a building, what would you do?
TD:I've never been an architect but I would like to be one when I grow up! It's my next step. If I were to create a building I would want to challenge how it was made from the very beginning. It still perplexes me that there aren't prefabricated parts for a house like there are for ships and cars. It's much easier to create a house in a factory than on a building site. So I would challenge everything from the materials to the technology. Then, I would definitely want a view, so the building would have to be tall. I'd want a garden too but I'd quite like it high up. So it would be kind of a tower shape with a garden on the roof.
RL: The inside?
TD: Integrated. I would like my windows to go up and down at the press of a button, like they do in a car. I would also like central locking. These are things that are easy to do but for some reason have not permeated buildings. I'd like to have a bit of nature too, some running water and an indoor garden of some sort. A moss wall to keep the room moisturised, to counteract central heating. A cool, practical building but also a flexible one so we can add on another room or take it away.
RL: So, would you ever, or have you ever, used an architect?
TD: Yes, a couple of times and it has been well worth it.
TD: People think it's a scary thing to get involved in but actually architects are one of the most intensely and broadly educated groups of people so why not use them more? They're good at maths, they're good at culture, at art, at space planning. It is a phenomenal skill to be able to look at someone's space and sort out all of their sins and everyday problems. Tap into this knowledge, use them, they're a fantastic resource!