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Matthias J. Goetz wants to change our world - and will definitely succeed

“It becomes natural to fight for the things we love”, Matthias J. Goetz – sustainability-focused architect and model for our latest campaign – explains when asked about why he invests time and effort into taking care of the environment.

It was through his par­ents, biol­o­gist and chem­i­cal engi­neer, that Matt learned how the co-depen­den­cy between all liv­ing crea­tures on earth is key to bal­anc­ing its com­plex ecosys­tem. Inspired by this, the Bavaria-native took flight out into the world: From Europe to South Amer­i­ca, all the way to India and back. Fol­low­ing this jour­ney of glo­be­trot­ting, the 32-year old has since set­tled down in Huesca, a Span­ish small town at the foot of the Pyre­nees, where he prac­tices his craft. His def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess? When you can focus on what you are best at while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly fol­low­ing a holis­tic, sus­tain­able approach.”
Fol­low­ing our shoot in Barcelona, we had a chat with Matthias and had him share the changes he wish­es to see in the world, his con­tri­bu­tion and what moti­vat­ed him to get start­ed in the first place.

How must one pic­ture sus­tain­abil­i­ty-focused archi­tec­ture? How does it dis­tin­guish itself from aver­age architecture?

Start­ing with the sec­ond ques­tion, I would like to chal­lenge the term aver­age archi­tec­ture”. When we look at the his­to­ry of archi­tec­ture we will find that for most of the time build­ings were pret­ty sus­tain­able. Back in the day for the most part local build­ing mate­ri­als were used and the main ener­gy source for heat­ing was wood. This was done pri­mar­i­ly out of neces­si­ty, but it also meant that the archi­tec­ture tend­ed to be large­ly sus­tain­able. In the so-called devel­oped world this changed with the dis­cov­ery of fos­sil fuels and the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion a lit­tle more than 200 years ago. Mean­ing that the his­to­ry of non-sus­tain­able build­ings is very young and also has not even reached every cor­ner of the world yet. So prob­a­bly the aver­age archi­tec­ture” for a high per­cent­age of the world’s pop­u­la­tion is still sus­tain­able com­pared to our glass palaces in the west­ern world. Hav­ing said that, I would say that sus­tain­abil­i­ty-focused archi­tec­ture takes into account that some resources on plan­et earth are lim­it­ed or even haz­ardous for us and future gen­er­a­tions. Hence renew­able resources and car­bon neu­tral ener­gy play an impor­tant role in this field.

What moti­vat­ed you to go into the field you’re in?

For me work­ing in sus­tain­able devel­op­ment makes kind of intu­itive sense. Why would I be inter­est­ed in work­ing in a field that is doomed to fail in the long run? Non-sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture is def­i­nite­ly not the future, as the word itself already implies.

Also I like to chal­lenge the way we do things. I have nev­er iden­ti­fied with peo­ple who would say, or think We do it this way, because we have always done it this way.” This approach is way too easy and lacks any sense of inno­va­tion or imag­i­na­tion. Do we want to be heroes in the eyes of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren or do we want to be remem­bered as the ego­ma­ni­ac gen­er­a­tions that par­tied on plan­et earth as if there was no tomorrow?

Final­ly, I would say that my main moti­va­tion is that I love humankind and plan­et earth with all of its diverse flo­ra and fau­na, as cheesy as that might sound. It would be great if our species could stay a lit­tle longer on this pale blue dot spin­ning through space, and pre­serve the things of beau­ty on it.

What would you say might’ve been your biggest accom­plish­ment in this field? How have you made your mark?

That is a tough one, since I do not tend to look back a lot, in gen­er­al more focus­ing on the marks that I want to make in the future. But on a per­son­al lev­el I would say that my vision helped a few busi­ness plans and ini­tia­tives in the past to kick-off and that my lack of fear to fail helped us inno­vate in some of our archi­tec­tur­al projects in Ger­many and Chile.

On a big­ger scale – in terms of impact in the field of sus­tain­abil­i­ty – I’m quite proud of what we have achieved with the Ele­phant Pod­cast over the last two years, where we man­aged to spread cli­mate change aware­ness to an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence through inter­views with lead­ing thinkers, experts, jour­nal­ists and scientists.

I also have great hope that our soft­ware project called CAALA, which brings togeth­er archi­tec­tur­al design and para­met­ric life-cycle analy­sis in at a very ear­ly stage, will change the way we will devel­op build­ings in the future. If the soft­ware works out as we envi­sion it, and suc­cess­ful­ly brings life-cycle con­sid­er­a­tions to the first stages of archi­tec­tur­al design, non-sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture will only appear in his­to­ry books in a few decades from now.

As can be seen on the pages of our look book you’re also a mod­el – what change would you like to see in the fash­ion and beau­ty indus­try when it comes to sustainability?

There are actu­al­ly a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties between the fash­ion and beau­ty indus­try and archi­tec­ture. For instance, cre­at­ing some­thing aes­thet­i­cal appeal­ing is arguably one of the key dri­vers in those fields. When it comes to sus­tain­abil­i­ty in fash­ion I often hear the myth, that you can either have great design or a sus­tain­able prod­uct. This is sim­ply not true and there are count­less exam­ples that prove this state­ment wrong. In fact, with the dis­pos­able cul­ture, and fast fash­ion that dom­i­nates so much of the indus­try at the moment, you could even say the oppo­site is true, lead­ing us to con­sume more and more clothes and acces­sories which sim­ply do not last, and weren’t designed to last.

I would like to see peo­ple work­ing in those indus­tries chal­lenge them­selves more, to look at the whole life-cycle of their prod­ucts and add sus­tain­abil­i­ty as a basic para­me­ter. If it is pos­si­ble for this gen­er­a­tion to accept tough chal­lenges in phys­i­cal work­outs and clean eat­ing, it should sure­ly be pos­si­ble to set the bars high­er in our pro­fes­sion­al lives as well. Also it would be great if we could move back from quan­ti­ty to qual­i­ty. Less is more.

In many ways, neubau eye­wear is about com­bin­ing con­scious­ness and style. Where would you say does this shim­mer through with­in this cam­paign and the brand as a whole? So, in your opin­ion, where and how does neubau suc­ceed in terms of sustainability?

I believe the best part about the con­scious­ness cam­paign of neubau eye­wear is that the sus­tain­abil­i­ty top­ic is actu­al­ly not obvi­ous­ly shim­mer­ing through when you look at the prod­uct. When I saw glass­es designed by neubau eye­wear for the first time, it was the style and qual­i­ty that caught my atten­tion. I was actu­al­ly not aware that sus­tain­abil­i­ty was a dri­ving fac­tor behind the prod­uct. This is the def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess for me, when you can still focus on what you are best at – design­ing great glass­es in this case – while fol­low­ing a holis­tic sus­tain­able approach.

What are your favorite places in Spain — archi­tec­ture-wise — and why?

That was a big coin­ci­dence dur­ing the neubau eye­wear cam­paign shoot­ing at the Caix­aFo­rum Barcelona. My favorite spot is right next to it, the Barcelona pavil­ion by Mies van der Rohe. I vis­it the pavil­ion sev­er­al times a year and I always leave inspired and moti­vat­ed to become a bet­ter architect.

I would also say that Barcelona in gen­er­al is my favorite city in Spain, because it is such a col­or­ful and play­ful place, with the spir­it of Gau­di around every cor­ner. Maybe it is because my wife is from here, but it real­ly feels like a gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive place to me. For archi­tec­tur­al lovers com­ing to Barcelona I would also rec­om­mend to look at the works of Bofill and RCR Arqui­tectes, but there are many more things to discover.

Where would you like to go? What country/​city/​building would you like to visit/​see in person?

There are too many places and build­ings, which I would like to vis­it to name them all. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing I’m inter­est­ed in places where I’m not famil­iar with the local cul­ture yet. Dif­fer­ent approach­es to life often lead to dif­fer­ent approach­es in design and archi­tec­ture and I find that to be quite fascinating.

I’m think­ing about places like Astana (Kaza­khstan), Teheran (Iran) or Detroit (USA) to just give a few examples.

Accord­ing to your résumé, one might say you’re gen­er­al­ly con­cerned about envi­ron­men­tal issues — where does that stir from?

I believe that it was the influ­ence of my par­ents and their pas­sions which set me on this track of car­ing for our envi­ron­ment. My moth­er is a biol­o­gist and my father is a chem­i­cal engi­neer who actu­al­ly also orig­i­nal­ly want­ed to become a biol­o­gist. When I was lit­tle we would walk in nature togeth­er and they would always take the time to explain to me how the dif­fer­ent plants and ani­mals are depen­dent on each oth­er, while also mak­ing me aware of which actions could poten­tial­ly harm our ecosystems.

Nature felt like a big theme park to me and I was espe­cial­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the trans­for­ma­tion of cater­pil­lars into but­ter­flies – a fas­ci­na­tion that remains with me up to the present day. I guess it comes nat­ur­al to fight for things that you love. At the same time I have to admit that I nev­er man­aged to be real­ly rad­i­cal in lead­ing a sus­tain­able lifestyle. There are still tons of things that I could change about my own life that would ben­e­fit the envi­ron­ment, start­ing with fly­ing less for exam­ple. I’m try­ing hard to lead a more sus­tain­able life, but I do not want to sell myself as the green knight here.

Are there sus­tain­abil­i­ty-engaged peo­ple or brands you look up to or feel inspired by?

In our Ele­phant Pod­cast we spoke to quite a num­ber of peo­ple that I tru­ly look up to, like Nao­mi Klein, Bill McK­ibben and Alan Rus­bridger. It’s encour­ag­ing because in almost every field you will find an inspir­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty-engaged per­son, because it tru­ly is a top­ic that knows no bor­ders. We also spoke to Green­peace activists and NASA astro­nauts and sci­en­tists that all had excit­ing sto­ries to tell. I would encour­age inter­est­ed read­ers to fol­low our pod­cast as it fea­tures inter­views with a whole bunch of inspir­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty-engaged peo­ple from a diverse range of backgrounds.

When it comes to brands the first name that comes to my mind is PATAG­O­NIA. I was real­ly impressed by their approach to encour­age their clients to repair old gear instead of buy­ing some­thing new. They seem to ask them­selves the right ques­tions and their prod­ucts are still great and meant to last. I’ve trav­elled with one of their water­proof bags for many years.

If you’re not at work or mod­el­ing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

There are so many things that it would be ridicu­lous to name them all, espe­cial­ly because every year I find some­thing new that excites me. Last year I ded­i­cat­ed my week­ends to a glid­ing club Akaflieg Berlin”, because I always dreamed of becom­ing a pilot and glid­ing is quite a sus­tain­able way to get up in the air. Here in Huesca my pos­si­bil­i­ties are lim­it­ed com­pared to Berlin and I’m going back to my roots. I was just accept­ed by a local bas­ket­ball club Juven­tud Osca” and I’m work­ing out hard to keep up with the play­ers who are 8 – 10 years younger than me. On the week­ends my wife and I are most­ly going hik­ing in the Pyre­nees. It is a small town life we are liv­ing here.

Where do you see your­self and the world 10 years from now?

I envi­sion a sce­nario where in 10 years from now, the first super­hu­man AI will be pre­sent­ed to the world. One of the first advices the super­hu­man AI will have for us will be to not destroy our own habi­tat, which will come as a sur­prise for many. Nev­er­the­less, humankind will fol­low the advice, since it is not a human being study­ing this field for decades telling us to take care of our plan­et, but some­thing super­nat­ur­al that can fore­see things we could just nev­er under­stand (per­haps because we are too invest­ed in the status-quo).

As for me, it’s hard to say foresure if archi­tects are still need­ed when super­hu­man AIs are around, but I hope that I’ll be con­tin­u­ing to be enjoy­ing life, spend­ing it with the peo­ple I love, and in my pro­fes­sion­al life doing my best in any small ways I can, to con­tribute pos­i­tive­ly to soci­ety, sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture, and the man­ner in which we live in the planet.

03 Apr 2018 · neubau eyewear