The brand-new director of the Alvar Aalto Academy, professor Markku Hedman, is now piloting his first Design Seminar. We asked him for some last-minute seminar pointers and about the Academy’s plans for the next two years.

This year’s theme is MAXIMAL I MINIMAL. What does this mean to you?
The theme chosen by seminar chair Simo Heikkilä is interestingly ambiguous. MAXIMAL I MINIMAL prompts me to think about the values underlying design work, and especially issues involving ecology, being economical, fitness for purpose, and global responsibility.

Which speakers do you find particularly interesting this year?
We will be hearing ten very different lectures that explore the theme from the individual speaker’s own starting points. Together they constitute an interesting whole. I am looking forward with great interest, for example, to Hans Lensvelt’s talk. Most of the speakers are designers, while Lensvelt comes from the corporate world. It will be fascinating to hear what issues an entrepreneur will bring up in response to the theme, and to see whether the wishes and goals of designers and the corporate world coincide.

What is your favourite memory of events put on by the Alvar Aalto Academy and Foundation?
I had just graduated as an architect when I participated in the Soundings for Architecture event arranged by Esa Laaksonen. About a dozen young architects from different countries took part. We talked about architecture, did small-scale design tasks, and, of course, we partied a bit. It was really enjoyable. The event offered a great arena for conversation and a meeting place for both young and experienced players.

What can we expect next? What sort of events will there be during your term in office?
Alvar Aalto Seminars have a decades-long tradition and an established position as one of the most important events in architecture and design. Maintaining this tradition is precious. But, on the other hand, these occasions are only kept alive and interesting if we can continue to come up with both timely subjects and interesting speakers. Subjects that are close to my heart are sustainable construction, user-centredness and innovative use of new technologies. I hope I can develop future events that are also more participatory and more interactive.