I loved this interview with spanish architects mansilla + tunon on design boom
luis mansilla and emilio tunon alvarez were born in madrid in 1959 and 1958 respectively. both studied architecture at the
escuela técnica superior in arquitectura di madrid graduating in 1981/82. in 1992 the duo established mansilla + tunon
architectural firm and have since designed numerous public and private buildings worldwide.
their award winning projects include 'energy dome' in soria, spain, 'migration/territory' museum in algeciras, spain,
'museum of cantabria' spain and mudac, the contemporary art museum of castllia y leon, spain, who received the prestigious mies van der rohe award on 2007.most recently they gained worldwide attention for their
first prize winning design of the madrid international convention center.
designboom met mansilla + tunon architects
in vicenza, italy on december 12th, 2008.
(answers by emilio tunon alvarez)
what is the best moment of the day? when I finish working at my office and I have the chance
to walk home, spending 20 minutes reflecting on what I have done during the day and what I think I will do.
what kind of music do you listen to at the moment? music by rick sutton. once I turned 40 I started learning piano and tried to play that kind of music. so now I don't just listen, I study it.
do you listen to the radio? no, well I hear the radio but I don't listen to it . when I'm at work I am not able to listen to anything,
the sound just disappears around my head. what books do you have on your bedside table?
a book from john berger, whom I found to be an incredible writer. he puts together social consciousness of the world in a sensitive and high quality manner. I particularly love when you can enjoy literature and at the same time reflect about the world.
where do you get news from? usually from newspapers - we buy two or three papers a day.
I assume you notice how women dress. do you have any preferences?there is a famous designer called sybilla that works
also in japan and I think she a wonderful designer for women.
what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing? I never think about that, its something I'm not concerned about. maybe I prefer comfortable clothing.
do you have any pets?
no we don't, we have daughters (laughs).
when you were a child, did you want to become a architect? I wanted to be an engineer.
where do you work on your designs and projects? just in the office.
do you discuss your work with other architects? we don't mainly discuss architecture with our friends,
we discuss life and all those other things. describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.
every project needs a surprise and we would like to discover that, lets say through the form, the materials and the relationship we have with it. our work is the pursue of equality and diversity. it's a subtle game of differences and similarities.
this allows flexible use by either groups or individuals. often space is defined by a double presence, a border that exists as two spaces, fluid and gentle. instead of presenting an architecture of physical constraints, we like a design that creates intermediacy.
please describe an evolution in your work, from your first projects to the present day. nowadays I would say there is much more interest in 'social concerns'. the geometry we use are more focused on people's live rather than a structure. we are very concerned with the environmental process but in classic terms. for us it has been important to learn from 20 years ago how buildings were constructed, insulated and with what durable materials. that's the direction we are heading into.
why do you show suitcases in your playground exhibition in vicenza? the exhibition project started in harvard, where we were
teaching, 3 years ago. we thought about our work, and we thought we might want to change it. what happens if we relocate? we thought of our work in terms of a sort of retrospective. what would happen if we put each of our project in a 'duchamp box'? how do ecology and sustainability play a role in your work? just an example, once, we used compacted discarded cars to build the facade of an automotive museum. this project represents our attitude towards a recycling process, towards a more creative re-use of discards.the automotive museum in torrejon de la calzada, spain is located next to a big car recycling factory. each piece of sheet metal making up the outside frame is made of the recycled remains of car bodies, which, at the end of their useful lives, and after having the engine and other recoverable parts removed, were cleaned and crushed to become an essential part of the cladding. links it to the past, the history of cars.
who would you like to design something for? we never expect anything in particular. well, or better, we like to expect the unexpected. we do our work just like a shoemaker makes shoes.
do you only work for and with people you like? practically all of our projects are results of competitions.
when you work through competitions, you have previously chosen the client sector you wish to work with. you can
pose a problem and elaborate the first idea, an idea in which we believe strongly, within a certain freedom.
you have a longer time frame for that. and last but not least we have a more democratic
access to projects. to us it seems to be the best way of working.
is there any designer and/or architect from the past, you appreciate a lot? we love le corbusier and the smithsons (alison and peter smithson) but if we have to tell you what buildings we love
the most it would be the mosque in cordoba and the alhambra in granada, yes, both in spain.
and those still working / contemporary? kazuyo sejima, we always look carefully at what she is doing.
please define in the field of architecture 'professionalism'. for us there are three main fields of architecture.
there is the production of architecture itself, the process and final building;there is the communication of both, publications
and conferences; and there is the educational aspect - teaching architecture. also 'professional' architecture means that you have to consider many spaces, not only the physical space, but also the cultural, intellectual, social, political
space. quality lies in elaborating a simple concept which can unify all those spaces.
what advice would you give to the young? first of all, to feel comfortable with life.
then to open your eyes and open your ears that is essential. observe and reflect about what you are seeing.
what are you afraid of regarding the future?
its better to not to live with fear.