When walking through your offices, you instantly notice that art and design play a major role here. Do you have a favourite item in your office?
There's not one, but a whole host of favourite pictures and sculptures that adorn our office. I'm more emotionally attached to some of them as they were birthday gifts from artist friends. However, this also applies to the art that has a connection with our work. I'd particularly like to mention some of the sculptures and paintings by Matthias Köster.
Volker, you played a major role in the redevelopment of the site and realisation of the Schwanenhöfe, which is now also the home of Aa in Düsseldorf. What makes the project so special for you?
The Schwanenhöfe are like a dream, the perfect city district. It already had substance: a great industrial architecture that we only needed to make small structural changes to. Almost the perfect campus. An ensemble was created in which people can work, learn, eat and celebrate as well as do sport, take their children to the nursery and visit a hairdresser - for us it was the blueprint of the district per se. We were also able to transfer our office to the Schwanenhöfe and create the perfect creative environment as a result. The development of this district has greatly influenced the way we think and work.
Office space at the Schwanenhöfe
You and Friedrich seem like a well-coordinated team, but upon closer reflection you're really quite different. What connects you and what can you still learn from one another?
Yes, we’re very different. That's the basic concept of Aa: two different personalities, a significant age difference, sometimes differing opinions, different education, etc. - yet still a well-functioning team after three years. How does it work? Since we were both born in Westphalia we share an understanding of necessity. We'll continue to learn lots from each other in the coming years, whatever that may be, but will stay true to our motto: for truth, good and beauty.
Residential and working space in large cities is a valuable and rare commodity. Demand never ceases to stop. Do urban spaces need new ideas and what might these look like?
Of course we need new ideas and concepts. Firstly, the fetish ‘car’ needs to be banned in cities. In Germany, we're currently still living in a car-centric city; cars, rather than people, are the focus of urban development. However, there are great concepts that have been implemented in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. Removing cars from the city gives you plenty of space to be used otherwise.
Work and home should also be better connected. New districts shouldn't be planned and built with a sole purpose. We also believe that it's important to think about denser districts, including high-rise buildings. We’re currently working on a variety of concepts but most of our ideas are hampered by restrictive building regulations.
You've been working in the industry for a long time and have implemented some major projects. At Aa, you're now working with a younger generation. How do you see the future of the real estate sector?