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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
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