You are both an architect and an engineer, but you're surprising: you've been talking about your "research," but in a sense, you mean your art. Art seems to be where these strands come together. How do you describe yourself?

I would like to emphasize that if you look back into history, you will see architecture has been considered as art. If you study the history of art, you see a pure understanding that architecture is art, [and I think this] needs to be strongly emphasized. Engineers and architects belong to the same [profession], but there is not a clear independence between the two.

So if we consider that architecture is art, and engineering as part of that or a branch of architecture, then engineering could ultimately be considered as art. But I want to go even further. We have lost the perspective of time.

You are unusual in the way that you combine architecture and engineering, because contemporary life has tended to compartmentalize the various disciplines so much so that people seem to see things in segments.

This is an important question that I would also analyze by looking back into history. Effectively, in the twentieth century, we have inherited the encyclopedic heritage from the nineteenth and the late eighteenth centuries. We are all a consequence of the ideas of the French Revolution. In that system, they classify insects, just putting names on things, you know. The insects are so complex, really, but once you say this is a lepidoptera or this is a mosquito then you get wise. In fact, you have just created a grid that identifies your mental structure with a possible interpretation of nature. I think this is more or less obsolete now.

There is a beautiful example of this with the computer. You just know that when you press a button wondrous things happen on your screen. The effect of surprise is even more dematerialized, and because of that I think we are progressing to a more synthetic understanding of things.

This is the era of high technology and the computer, a [time where] certain people understand the [evolution of ideas] from their origins into global ideas. Maybe these people are called artists! I don't know, but it is new group emerging in which everything is classified.

In the world of museums, each painting hangs and represents an ism--Impressionism, Expressionism--but then you have a huge need for eclecticism. Picasso is unbelievable. He is just continuously evolving, getting out his sexual dreams or getting into his children's dreams--the young painter, the old painter--it's so beautiful. Making self-portraits of himself, like Rembrandt, and exploring the most intimate parts of his own personality.

You've discussed intuition. Here's a very rational question. Do you use the computer?

Oh, yes.

Do you use the computer yourself?

Myself, I don't use the computer. I draw everything by hand or I sketch.

You do use your hand to sketch and to draw. What's the relationship between your mental process and the physical act of drawing?

In the end, the problem of an idea is not only having the idea, but bringing the clarity to express this idea. So the sketch as the translation of the idea has, in my eyes, by itself a very high value. When Matisse speaks about his drawing, sketches have a very intimate use for him. Sketches are usually done only between you and yourself; a sketch can clarify what has happened in your mind; so it is like a letter to oneself. I think this intimacy is very important. Sketches can become bigger or more detailed, until you solve a joint or a connection problem, or you [become able to] describe this or that.

Let's say for example a project exists in your mind and you want to do an esquisse [sketch] on the project. Then the sketch is a way to materialize the idea, like a photograph. It's like getting into a building and photographing the door, the portico, the roof. You can almost do, let's say, an endoscopy. You understand the word "endoscopy?" [It means] looking inside.

There is certainly in the very beginning a representation of the image that you are trying to capture in the sketch. There are many things that are in your brain and that you have to rediscover through the sketch.

I want to give you a more contemporary example of sketching. There are two filmmakers, one is Fellini and the other Akira Kurosawa, and both used to do sketches of their movie shots.

I think those people try to show through the sketches not only what they want, but also to show what they are envisioning, i.e., get an aesthetic feeling that [transcends] the power of words. Certain ideas are internal, but if two people look at a common object, they both get an aesthetic vibration that is not only pure design, but more than that--a message of emotion.

What about your own work in relationship to this moment? How do you think it relates to the late twentieth century?

We should look at [the question] not from my point of view versus the object, but [from the point of view] of those who have generated the object. For example, the major part of my career [has been devoted to] public buildings, [which have mostly been designed] here in Europe. This shows you that at the end of the twentieth century, the public authority took a lot of responsibility as a promoter of architecture and the major part of this work emerged from competitions. We have done 120 competitions, something like that. [This demonstrates] how important the system of competitions is for this public authority, for promoting arts and also for someone like me. Competing with other architects immediately contextualizes the architecture, because you are competing with others who are contemporary.

The people who chose those projects very often look for the new idea. I am obsessed with the idea of getting just one or two steps ahead, but it doesn't always matter. Other people, sometimes when they judge, are looking for something completely new, you understand.

The fact that the buildings are public very much represents an ideological moment in which the public authorities take a part of the consciousness. The fact that the projects are chosen by competition shows you another particular [point of view]. Many of them are bridges, stations, museums or music buildings. All of them are related to the city.

I try very hard to bring dignity to forgotten buildings like bridges. I think the fifties, sixties and seventies have been very bad years for bridges, because they were all purely controlled by economics. Bringing a little bit of the dignity that existed before to bridges in the twentieth century was an important goal. You can say the same about railroad stations.

Another word [commonly] used especially at the end of in the twentieth century is culture. The word culture comes from the Latin cultus, and means a "cult to the gods," in this case "cult to the muses," since culture is accessible [not only to the gods but to everyone, so] we have public museums.

I love music and I've been lucky to build several [performing arts facilities]. On the other hand, even if I don't have a driving permit, I have still built several bridges.

If you look at the city of the twentieth century, we have these urban periphera. I'm not speaking about suburbia where wealthy people live in villas. Very often the peripheral areas can be terrible, very ugly. Bridges, concert halls, museums deserve [good design] because they help to restructure these areas and create new experiences. I am very proud of the [dimension of urban renewal] in my projects. Also, many of these projects increase mobility, such as airports, rail or bus stations/shelters, which is useful.