Let me ask you about development. I refer to the development of ideas, but also we're at a moment of technological development. The computer [is obviously a great part of this], but also there have been developments in materials and systems that allow us to do things we could have not have done before. We're seeing things done with glass, for instance, and with thin construction and building types we've not seen in the past. I see many buildings now with glass that strain the credibility, [the durability of such materials].

[In discussing] the material part of the building, a lot of rhetoric in architecture is very much related to space. You will find the word "space" used many times. I like to counterpose the idea of material. Not the idea of space, or the idea of light, but the idea of material. Material in the building is exciting because it permits you to understand the building. For example, we understand a room and its qualities by going from the surface of one wall to the surface of the other. But it's interesting to think about the interior of the wall itself and see that this is a wall done in stone, this is a wall done in concrete, this is a wall done in brick, or a wall in stucco--you understand what I mean?

Looking at the material context of the building, as just a succession of void places considers the building as a successful whole full of material elements that define these places. This is very important [in expanding our] point of view to consider the material context in modulating the voids.

And then also you get more concentrated in the repetition, in the problems of rhythm, so your building may become more musical. The paradigm of music can play a major role.

In contraposition to this very materialistic understanding of the building is the phenomenon of light. I refer both to sunlight and artificial light, and the shadows they create. The building [must be sympathetic] to the quality of the light outdoors; if it is foggy or if it is full of light, if it is sunny, or if you are on the north or south side--[all these are elements to consider].

Another very important idea [is that of] time. [What I refer to is how changes in duration affect space], how the light shines through a window and lights one part of the material, and then if you come to it an hour later, the light has moved. Or if you there are trees outside patterns of light will change. We are surrounded, we are living in an universe in which things are continuously changing.

Maybe the most permanent example of this change is the time that we notice. Each second is unique and as we dwell on this second then along comes another. The most static, most stable parts of the building are the materials, but an understanding of a building could also be represented by the idea of change. I think this is very revolutionary and very modern. This basic idea of time versus change. This idea is so natural, like the shadows that move when the sun moves, you know. Like the sun moves, the seasons change, the wind shifts, or the waves [diminish]. The material representation of parts in a building can move and react to those circumstances.

And I think this is, in my eyes, a key to understanding modernity and change in relation to architecture. Today, we have all the technological equipment [we need] to understand architecture. We can find materials in the industry that give buildings a new dimension. I understand technology as a support for the lyricism of architecture. Do you understand what I mean? Technique and technology are not a goal but a support to recreate more poetic things, so there is a huge field of possibilities for the future generation to change architecture.

That's fascinating. And yet most building that we see lacks the spiritual quality that you mentioned, the lyricism. Most building lacks that because we don't require an architect or an engineer to bring that to their craft. [We don't require them] to be the priest or the priestess; to be responsible for the soul [of a building].

Yes, yes yes.

It requires an interpreter.

I like the idea of seeing design as not only the will of a single person, but like a religious idea, like binding things together, [because technology and automation liberate the architect to this realm].

If you look at the works of Calder, if you look at the works of Tenguily, or if you look at the works of [some other great] sculptors, you can see the idea of the kinetic. We are living in a universe in which we use [automation to do] everything. What we didn't have until now is the poetic, because in the last number of years, architecture has looked to technology as the goal.

Everybody's always thinking about time and the flexibility of time. The most advanced, let's say, cosmological studies today are very much [concerned with] the idea of time. Trying to define how old our universe is and how necessary the memory is to understand what happens from one second to the next--things like that are fascinating to investigate.

Let's talk about your ongoing work right now very specifically. Maybe you could tell me about the projects that you have underway or one or two that you think readers would like to know about.

There are projects that have been in development for several years, and several years means ten years, you know. We are building a major project in Valencia, my home town, a city of science and art. It is a [group of] buildings that includes an opera house, a conservatory, a school of music and dance. There is [also a] bridge. Then there is a planetarium and a big IMAX theater. There is a parking and bus station for the kids, who will arrive on buses from school. There is a major museum dedicated to technology, a building we are concluding now. There is also a big square and another bridge.

After that we will plan the area in which an ocean park will be built. We have almost concluded the IMAX and the museum is almost finished, the parking is underway, so we are a little bit like in the [middle] of site development. This is one project.

Then we are doing another opera house in Tenerife. This is the second auditorium for music on which I am working at this moment. Then we are doing a project in a very beautiful city in France called Avignon. We are traversing the Loire River with a major bridge.

Then we will start with a new train station in Liege for the high speed and regular trains. The relationship with the city is very important in this project. We are renovating and recreating a new plaza and a second plaza, and we are designing several buildings close to the plaza. It is a very interesting project because it resumes the experience I [developed in designing] other stations. It is a grandiose space, very well situated in relation to the city.

Who's the client?

The specific client is called Euro-Leige Station. We have another site here in Switzerland which is very prominent. It is a cloister [where] we are adding two tiny buildings. We are transforming the cellars of the cloister for exhibition, and creating a new auditorium. It is kind of a small museum, and we also have a building for the police in the cloister area. It is very interesting [historically] because our neighbors are Renaissance and Baroque buildings.

Why don't we take one of those projects, [maybe the Milwaukee project], and describe how it has progressed; how it came to be and where you are with it.

Milwaukee was for me a long process. I won the competition, they selected me as an architect but I presented very vague ideas. Then we started a process with the client of trying to implement a program and a building at the same time. Through many visits to Milwaukee, [I came to] not only know the client very well, which I think is fundamental, but also to get familiar with the site. And I have to say the site is very beautiful. It looks out over Lake Michigan and is very dramatic and beautiful.

And so my idea was, first of all, to [understand] the city and in reading about the city I came to the conclusion that because we were building close to a very, very strong building of Saarinen...

What is the Saarinen building?

It is a war memorial. And there is a very simple and minimal extension to the memorial done by a local architect called David Kahler. So, the dramatic character of the Saarinen building was a very prominent element [that influenced me].

So my suggestion was to [not] add something more to this building, [but to] add something more to the lake front. So at the end of Wisconsin Avenue, which is a very prominent avenue, I recreated another kind of pavilion-like building and linked it [to the existing building] with a bridge. But the characters of the two buildings are completely independent; one is compact and massive, and the other, the new one, is completely transparent and very light. The bridge also links [the new building] with the city. I was thinking that this would create a pattern of events on the lake front that could be repeated, if other public buildings are added.

So I think in these terms, the solution was very appropriate for the actual situation of the city. I created a very shallow building. In Milwaukee the topography is very particular; the city is up [on hilltop terraces that descend] to the lake and you recognize the whole shore, the old lake shore that has been filled in. So it is possible, from the level of the city, from the terraces that are around the existing museum, to see over the new building into the lake. Only the two pavilions, the Saarinen building and the new one that we are doing, interrupt the silhouette of the horizon of the lake.

On the one hand, [the building] is very much city-related and [on the other hand, we have] an unbelievable degree of freedom because we can do something completely different, and it will still be related to the Saarinen building, in terms of the position of the city.

I have to say the client was very much interested in getting a significant building. So we started first of all working with the interiors. [Considerable] discussion about the character of the exhibition areas, the corridors, the meeting rooms and all the [various program elements took place, with the intention of] complementing the existing museum. When I feel sure enough in knowing the client, [I would] introduce, let's say, what I will call a modern touch to the building. And I was so excited by the fact that the people accepted the idea. And so we eventually started the building, which had one of the biggest roofs ever built.

I was extremely surprised to see how much support I got from the technical point of view. Today I have the conviction that the real country of high-tech is the United States because high-tech is part of everyday life. I am thinking of NASA or the beautiful airplanes or things like that; high-tech is very much understood. We decided to do a brise-soleil in carbon fiber, according to the proposition from the local engineer, which is, I think, one of the most revolutionary achievements in the building from the material point of view.

Not only are we building a very daring construction, but we are also overcoming technical problems. You know that I was accustomed to solving [problems] with steel or aluminum--not using such a beautiful material as carbon fiber, a modern material.

I tried very much to influence the building with a certain sensibility for the culture of the lake, for the boats, the sails, the always-changing landscape because the lake has a very changing physiognomy. In hours it can metamorphose. You go from a blue sky into a very, very dramatic gray, silver light. You really feel you are in the presence of an interior ocean almost. I would very much like the building to respond to those things.

Very good input was given by the local architects who proposed landscaping of the exterior areas in cooperation with a magnificent landscape architect, Dan Kiley. It was a huge pleasure to have his experience and all his wisdom [on the project]. For me, it was a personal discovery. Everybody was so lucky that he designed this beautiful plaza in front of the building.

I wanted to [design] a piece of the city, not only a building, even if [only] a tiny piece. I consider Milwaukee a young city, not like cities here in Europe where you recognize the traces of Roman times. Here in Milwaukee is huge potential. I was thinking this is an [opportunity to] not only create a building but articulate this building as well as possible for the city. I can see an unbelievable response from the local authorities through the building committee and directors of the museum. We received a permit to move away a preexisting bridge that was disturbing and [create] a new one. We also received land in order to create an outdoor sculpture garden.

I very much hope when the building is concluded that we show not only a building which takes into consideration things like that the major portion of people will arrive by car, but also that the light, the form, the structure, the movement, will make a unique and authentic building.

And what status is it in at this moment?

We are still in concrete works but by the end of the summer we will finish the concrete and start closing the building. We want to open in September 2001, so the building should be ready in June 2001.

So a year from now, really?

A year from now, yes.

Okay. How, in relative terms, from your other work, does this work differ? Obviously it moves, I mean that's one thing, the roof is different, the material is different. How is the building's organization different? How is it as an evolution?

Well, I think this building is different from any other experience I have had because the process of designing was completely different. We worked very closely with the client, which makes a huge difference because you really get the idea you are doing a building for someone.

I think everything is understated in this building, for example, its relation with the city. We wanted to create a piece of the city. We also wanted to link the building with the Saarinen building in terms of establishing a certain distance to get that freedom. I think that a major effort to do a building in which the whole structure and shape is the result of the pure expression of the material needs of construction was done. [On the other hand], it's unique in terms of the fact that the building can metamorphosize--can change its shape.

You know, I think we've done it.

Very good, I am very pleased.