A humane high-tech: Interview with Werner Sobek
You combine research and teaching while also carrying out design work as a structural engineer and as an architect. How did you come to be a man of so many parts? And what would you describe as your principal sphere of interests?
Lightweight structures are my main sphere of interests. This means the reduction of materials and the cutting of our consumption of natural resources, as well as a reduction of the expenditure of man-hours and energy on the manufacture and transport of materials (what is known as ‘grey resp. embodied energy’). As for what has made me such a multi-faceted individual, that is probably my innate dualism. Part of me is a designer who wants to create forms and images, be that buildings, everyday objects or cars. But then again, I also bene ted from a superb grounding and education in the natural sciences. And it is the eld of lightweight construction that provides the best opportunity to bring together these two strands.
Did you realise right from an early age what you would do when you grow up?
No, not in the slightest. As I child I dreamed about living in a soap bubble. During my student years I forgot about that, but later on the idea came back to me. And subsequently I was able to realise it. I always wanted to live in a space lled with light that was uncon ned by any walls, where there were balconies without balustrades — in other words, in an unrestricted space at one with nature. What today is termed sustainability is something for which I have always had an af nity.
Where did this need come from?
I find it difficult to pin-point that exactly. Perhaps from the surroundings where I grew up, from my home town of Aalen in the east of Württemberg. The oldest industrial site in the world is to be found there. The region was always relatively poor, and yet at the same time very rich — rich in the quality of the products that were manufactured there. Another typical feature is the untarnished beauty of the landscape as well as the silence to be found there. Of course, all that had a big in uence on me. I should also mention the large amount of travelling that I did while still a student.
Audi exhibition stand. Architect: Christoph Ingenhoven. 2000 © Hisao Suzuki
Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart/ Germany. Architects: Hascher, Jehle & Assoziierte, Berlin. 2004 © Roland Halbe
H 16. Emission-free, zero-energy house. Tieringen, Germany, 2000 © Zooey Braun
Main images © Christoph Reichelt, Dresden/Germany / Rainer Viertlböck