Interview with MAIO

MAIO is a studio based in Barcelona formed by Maria Chameco, Alfredo Lérida, Guillermo López and Anna Puigjaner. With a casual start, they began to collaborate once a year in ephemeral installations. They found their own studio, as they tell us, from these “festive rituals”, and win their first award. This teamwork conceptualises and agrees on its common projects. They always leave room for the development of specific abilities of each gradient. That is how they create their own personality.entrevista-maio-maio-interview-more-with-less-design-magazine-7

MAIO in their studio in Barcelona.

 

Maio understands architecture as a systematic and inclusive process that transforms itself over the time. Also, they involve the user as an agent able to modify the space within the parameters of the proposed design. This same rule is applied to their model of office, where they work together with different collaborators through each project. Today, just over five years ago, MAIO is consolidated as a work office, still considering design as something festive and constantly changing.

It is important for MAIO that a mix between theory and practice happens. We do not understand them separately and do not believe practice can be developed without a clear foundation, and vice versa.

Your multidisciplinary and active character is something that defines you. Apart from Maio studio, you develop individually different activities. You teach in the Architecture School of Barcelona, and we know Anna gives lessons in a Master’s degree of ELISAVA. She has been also awarded by the University of Harvard for her project “Kitchenless city”. Besides, Guillermo is part of the editorial team of QUADERNS. What does this multidisciplinary way of working contribute to you?
It is important for Maio that a mix between theory and practice happens. We do not understand them separately and do not believe practice can be developed without a clear foundation, and vice versa. This point of view has led us not only to develop our academic, researcher or editorial approach, but also to set up some projects, more theoretical or conceptual, that have considerably influenced our more orthodox practice. A lot of Biennials and Triennials, like the ones from Chicago or Lisbon, or the special weekends during the Biennial of Venice of 2014 curated by Koolhaas – where we participated – have been perfect places for reflexion.

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 MAIO office designed by the studio itself, for more info here.

Studio MAIO’s yard . More info here

 

We could say that one of the things that defines you is your interest to give value to the public space and exploit it. We can perceive this in the project you made for the Association of Architects through an outdoor exhibition, bringing architecture closer to the public. This can be also seen in Carrer Parc, your project for Puerta 3 – Sarrià. What kind of project are needed to promote public space? What do you think is your responsibility as architects?
Public space is an extremely interesting and complex location at the same time as for its management and design. Barcelona, our city, has a great tradition in that regard.
When we have had to face it, we have been very interested in the idea of perceiving the public space as something incomplete, continuously evolving. We like to think projects are moments frozen in time. We prefer to design systems able to evolve and adapt to changeable needs. The chance to involve the possible users, or the citizens who will use it, lies in what is unfinished. This is of course an agonist process, a construction from the consensus and dissensus.

“We like to think projects are moments frozen in time. We prefer to design systems able to evolve and adapt to changeable needs.”

In the project of your studio in the neighbourhood of Gràcia you give to the patio another functional aspect, besides of bringing light to the interior. In the working area, you arrange a table of 12.5 metres where you and other professionals work together. How is your studio run? Who works there? As a design studio, what does working with other professionals contribute to you?
When we designed our studio, what we were substantially doing, conscious or unconsciously, was to design our own practice, the way we understand architecture. The space is not neutral, neither its format. Maio works with that concept of format. In this case, the idea was to put a one piece continuous table, without spatial separation of any kind, around which people with different academic and professional background sit down. The format and the fact we have different but complementary professions help to create collaborations or synergies. We collaborate in some projects with the designers, technical architects or greensman who sit down with us. In other cases we act in a more free way, though there are always synergies. Apart from being enriching, this horizontal format is extremely flexible, and that is why it has worked so well for us, in a relatively complicated moment.
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 MAIO exposition of “species of spaces” in MACBA.

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 MAIO exposition of “species of spaces” in MACBA.

The space is not neutral, neither its format. Maio works with that concept of format.

In your project for the exhibition of MACBA (Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona) “Species of Spaces”, you transform the general space of the Richard Meier’s building, creating a homogeneous grid with walls painted in a very subtle pink, completely transforming the sensation of the interior. How do you remember this project?
We felt very comfortable both working with the commissioner, Frederic Montornés, and with the name and essence of the exhibition, inspired by Perec. The starting point allowed us to work with concepts like generic, usual, the importance of objects to define the specificity of a place, order and disorder, the concept of system and how this faces, by opposition, such a marked pre-existence like the building of Meier… Very good memories.

The Spanish Pavilion of the Biennial of Venecia 2016 named “Unfinished”, a critic to the housing bubble that left a landscape of naked and unfinished buildings around Spain, was awarded with the Golden Lion. What does it mean for MAIO to have participated in the award-winning Spanish pavilion of the Biennial?
It is always a reason of joy when Spanish architecture is internationally recognised. It is logical that architecture should answer to the vicissitudes of its time, to its era and context. But, at the same time, we also believe one of the main challenges and dangers we have to face is that certain gestures are aestheticized and start representing things that they are not. We should avoid some trends and perversions- a false arte povera – that had sense in certain moments or places, but they have been finally aestheticized or trivialized by repeating as mere clichés.

We believe that at least it is interesting to reflect on the always more vague limits between public and private, individual and collective, in a world and moment in which all these concepts are being reformulated.

This year the University of Harvard awarded Anna in their Wheelwright Prize for her project named “Kitchenless city: Architectural Systems for Social Welfare”. Thanks to this award, she’s going to study for 2 years cases of collective houses in different countries. Quite an experience.

We know there were collective houses in New York at the end of XIX, where the users of these buildings had collective kitchens, giving to the kitchen a sense of external service. Today kitchen is loaded with values, do you think this kind of houses are possible today?
It is not only possible, but there are lots of examples in different parts of the world. It is true, and it is a very controversial topic, as kitchen, and by extension the way we live, is something we have fully assimilated, a very internalized cultural construction, and any alternative can seem suspicious. Yet, we have seen how this typology is reproduced nowadays – and for a long time – under very different political, and above all economical systems. They exist in such a different places like Canada, Switzerland, but also in Africa, South America, Asia or India, all under very different lights. What it seems to be evident is that collective has systematically failed when it is implemented as an ideological imposition. In any case, beyond the extremes, it is important to verify that there are multitude of gradients, hints, methods and formats between individual and collective kitchen. We believe that at least it is interesting to reflect on the always more vague limits between public and private, individual and collective, in a world and moment in which all these concepts are being reformulated.

 

Bar nou, en Barcelona

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Casas bloque. Viviendas en Barcelona.

 

Taking into account that today lots of young people are considering to form a team work and create a studio, it would be interesting to know from you what are the strengths and difficulties to face. What advices would you give to the young entrepreneurs?
We give them a strong encouragement and advise them to escape from the closed format of hierarchical studio-author, and bet on the more flexible and inclusive work in collaboration.

What is your vision of architecture nowadays? Should we change anything?
There is always something to change. Regarding architecture, we live more than ever in/ a broad division of trends and ways to understand practice. We will see what the historiography of the future tell us.

What does More with Less mean to you? Is it reflected in your work?
Contemporary culture and media have completely changed the way we access to information. We like to know what is happening and follow platforms like yours. Seeing what is happening allows to take position.

Interview: Ángela Montague
Translation: Carmen Gómez
Photos: José Hevia & Maio