Interview with Arquitectura G, a studio with a restless spirit

The studio Arquitectura-G was started by architects Jonathan Arnabat, Jordi Ayala-Bril, Igor Urdampilleta and Aitor Fuentes in 2006. Since then, they have been working not only in architecture-related projects but also in the fields of research and teaching. They have received recognition for their extraordinary work, awarded the ASCER prize of interior design in 2013 and the Mies van der Rohe Prize for best emerging architect in 2015.

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_team_studio

Above Arquitectura G team at their studio and below a  part of their studio.

These four architects were the creators of ‘indoors‘ in 2011, a brand that produces and sells everyday objects from other designers. Since 2008 they have also been collaborating in the architecture section of ‘Apartamento‘, an essential publication that couldn’t be further from the traditional interior design magazine.

Their designs show their curiosity and a certain Mediterranean freshness that turns their work into an ode to light and simplicity. Their many interests and the special character of their projects made us want to know them more. The following interview with Arquitectura G reflects the character and dedication of these four architects.

 

‘More than meeting the client’s desires we try to meet their needs, ignoring fancies and paying more attention to real needs’

 

How did the idea for Arquitectura-G originate? Does the letter G have a special meaning?

We met when we were architecture students and used to work together on university projects and competitions for students. When we were about to start our final projects, we rented a space near the university so that we could work together, and as we were finishing our studies we started to get small assignments. The letter G is just a letter with no special meaning.

How do you complement each other as a team?

We usually organize our projects so that one or two of us have more responsibility, managing its production. We all do a little bit of everything.

Do you have a work methodology for each of your projects?

We make a rather accurate list of our functional needs according to the client. Once the commission is official, we visit the space that needs intervention. If it is a preexistence, we decide what needs to be kept and what is superfluous, depending on its potential and the functional needs stated on the brief from the client. Once we have a clear idea of that space or the area where we are going to work, we start working on a draft, always including the construction of a 1:20 mock-up that is very helpful when deciding on a specific strategy.

 

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_masiaThe refurbishment of a ‘masía’ – Read more here

Your work consists of developing ideas made to fit the client’s needs and objectives, looking for a personal communication that makes trust last. How do you deal with this? How far do you think you have to go in order to meet the needs of the client?

More than meeting the client’s desires we try to meet their needs, ignoring fancies and paying more attention to real needs. In any case, if the client really fancies something, it will end up being a necessity, so it has to be integrated in the project somehow. Clients do not usually have a clear vision of the whole project, but only a list of things they would like to happen. Our work focuses on making all these things happen in a unitary way and getting the most out of the space where we are working on.

We know materials play an important role in the transmission of a concept or experience. How do you decide on a particular material and which features do you consider to be most important?

We specially think about the atmosphere that we consider that a particular space should have, and how each material contributes to that. Obviously the cost of the material is a determining factor that increases or reduces the range of the elements we use.

Even though your studio works as a team, is there a possibility for the members of the team to leave a more personal contribution in the projects?

To a certain extent we think that this is inevitable, since the projects end up being under the supervision of one or two of us. Unconsciously, we express our will, our obsessions and references in a specific moment.

 

‘When deciding on a material we specially think about the atmosphere that we consider that a particular space should have’

 

The material aspect seems essential for you and you consider it a field of research. What do you mean by “material aspect” and why is a field of research for you?

We refer to the tangible, to physical realities like the mock-ups, which allow us to work on the material aspects of a project considering a unitary, not a partial, vision of the whole. Many of the decisions we make are based on trying materials on the mock-up itself.

We have seen that you have directed the course “Object design” in the School of Architecture ESARQ, and we would like you to tell us more about this project. How has it been to work in the field of teaching?

Historically, architects have not only projected a building and its interior, but also furniture and objects. Sometimes these elements go beyond their own function and help to shape the surrounding space. So this is a course that focuses on the smallest scale of the designs traditionally made by architects: the object. The first year we suggested the fireplace, which is a meeting place in the traditional home, thus defining the room and the surrounding space. We wanted to question if this idea was still valid.
When it comes to the teaching aspect, we enjoy it and we have been teaching other courses.

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_reforma_putxet_barcelona_Apartment in ‘el Putxet’

Escritos-G is a project created in 2008 as a learning tool for critical discourse and debate in the topic of contemporary architecture. Why did you decide to create this space? So far you have been able to generate debate around the discipline.

It started as a common idea with Apartamento Magazine, with which we usually collaborate in their architecture section. The texts are not essays but a compilation of the conversations we have had with different architects for the magazine. We think that the construction of a personal discourse is something that can only be created over time, and these conversations give us the chance to debate about issues we can’t usually stop and think about. Regarding debate, it’s been more of an internal thing, and we think of it as something very enriching.

Apartamento Magazine is considered to be indispensable for those who enjoy natural and honest interiors, or so we see it. How did you get the chance to collaborate with Apartamento?

Apartamento Magazine is a reference and we are more than happy to collaborate with them, which we have done since their beginning. The people running the magazine were, and are, people that feel close to us. They understood that the magazine needed a section more focused on architecture and they suggested our collaboration because they trusted our vision as something that would complement the contents of the publication.

 

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_apartmentAn apartment in Barcelona

Have the projects of Escritos-G influenced or somehow transformed the way you work in the studio Arquitectura-G or are they completely different projects?

The projects are not related, but some of the conversations serve as inspiration for what we do in Arquitectura-G.

What does it mean for Arquitectura-G to have won the Mies van der Rohe prize for best emerging architect?

It has been a huge surprise and means great joy. It’s an unexpected recognition to the work that we’ve been making in these last years and it really backs us up in order to keep doing what we do.

‘Indoors’ is another proposal inside Arquitectura-G, where you commit to the edition and sale of furniture, not only designed by you but also from other highly regarded designers. What is this project about? Why did you decide to work on a field that is a bit far from construction and architecture?

It is not really that far. As we said, object design is not at all alien to the architect. In fact, many archuitects have produced furniture.

This project originated because we have always liked object design, which led us to design several products. When we thought of the possibility of selling these pieces, we thought is would be better to do it together with pieces designed by other desingers, and so indoors became a platform with a clear personality instead of the shop of ARQUITECTURA-G.

 

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_claudia_chair_indoorsClaudio chair at indoors

Who can sell his designs through Indoors?

It is not a selling platform or a shop where you sell your pieces. Designers don’t sell ‘through’ Indoors, it is Indoors that sells the products, selects the designs, produces them and sells them under its brand.

Indoors is to product design what Arquitectura-G is to architecture: unique and honest design, with projects with a personality of their own without trying to look too perfect. How do you select the designs? Do designers themselves send you their design proposals or is it Indoors that contacts a particular designer?

Indoors has its origin in ARQUITECTURA-G but there is a substantial difference, and that is that Indoors offers designs that have been created by others whereas in ARQUITECTURA-G it is us who design everything. So usually we are interested in a particular product and contact the designer, although sometimes we want to rescue objects that are no longer being produced and which, for whatever reason, we consider to fit our Indoors collection. It is also possible that the designer sends a proposal so there is not really a specific procedure when it comes to the selection.

interview_with_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_casa_luzCasa Luz  in a traditional town of Cáceres, Spain – Read more here

Which project of yours makes you feel most proud and why?

That’s a difficult question. We could maybe say that Casa Luz, because it has meant so much to the studio. [Read about Casa Luz]

Do you have some new project or plan for the future?

We are currently working on some projects. Interiors, refurbishments of country houses and a couple of detached houses built from scratch.

Many young designers would like to start a studio. From your experience, what was the most difficult and the easiest that you had to deal with? Could you give some advice to the young entrepeneur?

On a practical level, the advice would be to assume as little fixed costs as possible in the beginning. According to our philosophy, we would recommend to work intensely on any project that comes through, however small it may be. To face the refurbishment of their grandmother’s kitchen with the same energy and attention as they would do with a building.

 

entrevista_arquitectura_g_more_with_less_beigeApartment in Barcelona – Read more here

Which book or author would you recommend us to have in our personal library?

The answer to this question is also hard. We would rather recommend to analyse and understand the books you already have. This is what gives clues to what you can add to your library, and find out more about the path to follow.

Which documentary film is not to be missed?

Kon Tiki, for instance, just because we’ve watched it recently. It tells the story about Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition on a raft from Peru to Polynesia.

Which city has the latest trends design and architecture? Where would you like to propose a project and why?

We don’t think there is any city above others. Despite there being local architecture, trends are a global phenomenon today.

 

‘Sometimes we try to make a lot, or reach a lot, with very few means. Although we believe in the virtues of simplicity, we don’t refuse to use other strategies’

 

How is your perspective about architecture and design today? What should be different and how could we change it?

It is way too bureaucratized.

What does ‘more with less’ mean to you? Is it somehow reflected on what you do?

We don’t believe in it as a dogma, but sometimes we try to make a lot, or reach a lot, with very few means. Although we believe in the virtues of simplicity, we don’t refuse to use other strategies. What’s clear to us that we aim for, and that is spaces with a personality, comfortable, and which at the same time meet the functional needs of the client.

 Interview: Diana Hurtado & Angela Montagud

Translation: Laïa Argüelles

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