‘Many of Our Larger Mixed-Use Projects Have Stopped or Slowed Down Due to Shortage of Capital’

Chris Haegglund, AIA, is Principal and LEED AP at the San Francisco-based BAR Architects. The firm recently moved into the first renovated green office building in San Francisco and 50 percent of the firm’s architects are LEED accredited. Haegglund is influenced by Scandinavian architecture and employs European models of housing and urban planning that offer innovative methods for developing a sense of place and community. He has been with the firm since 1989.Haegglund talks to MHN Online News Editor, Anuradha Kher about what architects can do to reduce the carbon footprint, about challenges facing architecture today and his most satisfying project to date.MHN: Can you give an example of how an architect and a developer can collaborate to build something unique?Haegglund: There needs to be as much interaction between the architect and developer as possible. If a developer is able to think past what has been done before and can consider new possibilities that he might not have seen and he allows an architect to try multiple options to get to the essence of the building and site, something unique can come out of this partnership. MHN: What are the biggest challenges facing architecture today?Haegglund: Currently, we have several great and established clients who are having trouble accessing money. The lending system has turned 180 degrees from giving money to anyone to now very few. This has caused several of our larger mixed-use projects to stop in their tracks or to slow down. The developers seem to have confidence in the future but only if they could get the loans necessary to move forward.MHN: How can architects contribute to reducing the carbon footprint? Haegglund: I think the greatest opportunities for reducing carbon footprint come with density and mixed-use projects. I don’t think the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system gives enough credit/points to projects that contribute to the urbanization of an area. This will ultimately allow for mass transit, walking, greenbelts, etc.MHN: What is the most creative and satisfying project you have worked on?Haegglund: Santana Row in San Jose, Calif. would be one. It was a great team of consultants and a great client working to make an exceptional place. I think it helped open the development community’s eyes to large-scale mixed-use projects and helped make it interesting and acceptable to retail tenants. And it’s in my hometown!MHN: Where in the world would you like to work, other than the United States?Haegglund: We are currently working in China, Japan, Costa Rica, Canada and Russia. I am very excited by our project in Canada. It seems that developers, the local community and the local jurisdictions are much more progressive than in the U.S. about sustainability, density, contemporary design and minimizing the dependence on cars. Our project in Russia should also be very interesting and challenging. They are looking toward the U.S. for help as they now move into privatized development. They want to really study the site planning and unit layouts as well as the aesthetic of the community. They are keen to learn from the U.S., but adapt the ideas to fit the Russian people and the geography of the place. MHN: What kind of architecture do you admire the most?Haegglund: I admire architecture that is of its place and time. Something that is contemporary, but not trendy. Thoughtful, well situated and integrated into a community and architecture that goes beyond only the exterior aesthetic and really examines the way people experience and live in a place.