Sauquet Arquitectes is a study that has learned to re-invent itself through the years and the experience. Created in 1964 by Xavier Sauquet, it is Roger Sauquet who sets the pace since 2011. As an architectural practice it has been building works of many meters along with Xavier, to build less meters but focusing much more in each of their millimeters.
Sauquet Arquitectes team with Roger Sauquet at the right.
Besides being an architect in Sauquet, Roger is linked to teaching as a professor of Projects in the ETSAV. This facet allows him to enrich with a lot of ideas, language and concerns,or as he says: ‘stay tuned with what’s going on’. Research and search in the research group HABITAR of what he is part, allow him to do something he would not do if he only devoted himself to the study, which is to be in constant development. As an architect, researcher and teacher, we dialogue with Roger Sauquet on issues that concern him as democratization and architecture or selfcontruction and Re-living.
‘At Sauquet we work with the model and computer but we continue thinking with the hand.’
As architectural Studio, each of you who are part of the team has its role in each project process. When a project comes, how do you complement each other?
We have a very different kind of scale, we have always one or two very large projects on the table, which last years and we do them little by little. It is like we taste them as candy.
The crisis has been very good because there has not been a rush and we have been able to have more time and dedication for the big projects. On the other hand, we have small projects, small refurbishments of people who have become independent and have the economic possibility (thanks to the crisis) to buy a house. These refurbishments or smaller projects sometimes they have gone more in a hurry.
Depending on the nature of projects entering, there is a responsible person. Berta Fuster takes the daily tasks of these big projects. Ana, who is a designer, is more concerned with interior design and refurbishments. And I take all decisions in a level of design and being there, I´m in each project site.
Is the model essential To Sauquet?
When we started it was not, but now instead it is becoming more and more essential. Also because we have more contributors and we can afford it. Now when we can, we make a lot of them but also we do it by hand, with which would be the drawing because we love to draw. We work with the model and computer but we continue thinking with the hand.
In fact we always carry a notebook and everything just happens in this notebook, the role of the computer in the end is a only to check. When we work on refurbishments, as we are very close, what is essential is to visit the house. So we visit the house and we put our interest in its history.
For example in the House in Gurrea street is a very nice kind of refurbishment. They are emptying and cleaning operations to then modify the least to have more light entering. They are very small things that cause the House to have a diferent life. In these cases the visit is essential. If we have any doubt, we ask for the keys and during the process of the project we go back to the site. Those things we can do it in small projects, in a competition of a new building is no longer possible. In all these small refurbishments, which we would make our líving from if we could, it is more important the visit than the model.
‘We must make them understand that it won’t be a house a la carte, it will be the house they want but at the same time the house that the existing space lets you’
As you said, in the restoration of Gurrea House you tell a story through another one already finished. The scale as a spatial knot remains intact along with the hydraulic tile flooring, and on the other hand, the path, almost transfer of light to each room invites us to know the new story of the house. What are the essential points to consider in re-living?
In House Gurrea in particular, the essential was first to recognize what we had and at the same time to have some empathy with what it was there. If you think that what it is there will not have any value you will be disrespectful. In this case it was a house that had a ground floor completely subdivided with small rooms that had been done over time. The first step was to recognize the space. Seeing the possibilities that a place has is something that architects and designers know how to do, not the client. In the moment in which you, as an architect or designer, say that there are possibilities, the client gets on your hands and trusts you (something very important).
Therefore the essential points are: to recognize the place, to recognize the space, to know that it has some value and in parallel, to know what kind of home and what kind of space the client want to live in. But also to make him understand that he also puts himself in a shell, such as a the hermit crab that uses the shell to get inside. We must make them understand that it won’t be a house a la carte, it will be the house they want but at the same time the house that the existing space lets you. If all that is true is very easy to re-living.
In most of your projects you can see a certain vocation to recover spaces and a large interest in social architecture. What do you think is the role of architecture today?
I think the role of the architect today is no different from the role of architect and teachers from previous times. It is adapting the space to make what happens in it as comfortable and pleasant as possible. You can do things in a thousand ways, you can be surrounded by music that distorts you or music that gives you peace… This music translated into space I think that’s what we architects do. What changes is the society.
And it is so important to adapt when we do social líving that we are designing social housing for some people with economic difficulties, such as when a client with money who wants to fix his home. This is the role of the architect, to adapt.
Speaking about ‘adjust’ or ‘adapt’, creating versatile interiors for the user to self-construct the interior and practice somehow the Do It Yourself. Do you think it is something necessary? Should we actively incorporate the user in the process of building the house?
I think there are two types of projects: the anonymous and those with a name and a surname. The latter are when you comeone comes to find you to make a house for him. So here is the architect is the one who was measuring the person. It is like making a tailored suit.
However when the project is anonymous, if you have to speak to a wider audience, here I think we should give cause to a type of architecture that accepts the growth and adaptation and that accepts parts of space which are or may be self-constructed or adapted to the user.
In your article ‘self-construction as a system’ you quote Charles Eames when he was questioned about who was the target of design, his response was ‘to the need’. How do you negotiate with the user on wishes and needs? How far do you think the wishes of the customer should be fulfilled?
What we are used to say is that wishes must come in the form of actions, not images. The image is our thing but if we can we askthem to explain what actions they want to develop and how they imagine them. And that, more than giving me a límit, gives me wings, because that means he has interpreted that space and he has already begun to make him yours.
From this point it is always the time to imagine life. Not imagine the house, that is very different. Imagine life is done through a correlation of actions made in a space. And space will be adapted to these actions. When they imagine a specific house they often think that the house is like a collage, but we must make them understand that the house is not a collage of images but of ideas.
‘You can be surrounded by music that distorts you or music that gives you peace… This music translated into space I think that’s what we architects do.’
What is your vision of architecture today? What do you think we should change and how do you think we could get it?
I believe a lot in Schumacher’s book ‘Small is beautiful. What has hurt us in some way is that memory is limited and therefore they have only been left a few characters. In this sense I think we should talk more about architecture than about architects. I think that in the future it can be an interesting trend.
I like this idea that they should be more and smaller offices rather than larger firms who make iconic things. And at the same time it saddens me that the world still give much value to some frivolities that at least I’m not interested in. I always use the analogy of music. Music in the early century was what it was but now, is a very different thing. Now there are the Grammy and as in music, in architecture we could say that there are Grammy architect, but ultimately what interests me is the good music, in this case the good architecture.
Entrevista: Paula Font & Angela Montagud
Traducción: Miren León