Craig Dykers is founder of acclaimed Norwegian-American practice, Snøhetta, famous for monumental projects such as the Alexandria Library in Egypt, the Oslo Opera House in Norway, and now the World Trade Centre Museum in New York. (On the polar opposite end of the scale, they’ve also created the ‘Urban-est’ bird’s nest and the dinky ‘Bloombury Dollhouse’.)
Craig describes Snøhetta’s work as ‘a little bit off the radar’. Listening to his story, as told to WAN’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Hammond, it seems that the description applies just as much to Craig’s own career.
His father was in the US army medical core and his mother was a seamstress in London when they met at the end of World War II, so no obvious ‘architecture gene’ there. However, inspired by his father, Craig went to university to start studying medicine.
His professors quickly noticed the quality of his medical drawings and suggested he study medical illustration, which he did. Art fascinated him, and Craig’s father suggested architecture as a good mix between medicine and art and science. The rest is history.
Craig tells Michael: “I often say that architecture is an extension of the human body – and understanding of the human body is essential.” He also gives his views on the state of the profession today, pointing out that architects have always faced huge challenges and that they still had ‘some meaning in society’, but conceding that they are ‘more or less strangling themselves out of existence’.
During the interview, Craig speaks about the experience of winning the competition for the $350 million Alexandria Library aged just 28, and how the old Frank Sinatra number ‘That’s Life’ became a metaphor for the studio’s dealings with the world at that time.
He also tells of the extraordinarily beneficial effects on safety and crime levels one of his current New York projects is having. (Hard to imagine Broadway without cars – but Craig has banished them!)
To hear more of Craig’s fascinating account of Snøhetta’s stellar rise to success – and how he got rid of those cars – listen to the ShopTalk podcast now.