Enric Massip-Bosch on Architecture
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You have created the architectural office of EMBA architects, based in Barcelona. Spain is a country with great history. Designing a modern building within this context is a complex procedure. Is critical regionalism an approach to your architecture?
Critical regionalism was just a way of explaining that modern architecture could have different derivations that could be applied in different ways. I don’t think that it exists as a movement at all; I don’t think it is really a style, I think that it was only a way of explaining a diversity of that time; when Kenneth Frampton, for instance, started talking about the critical regionalism that was one of the highest moments of post modernism. He found in different places, which were not central in the debate of international architecture like Spain or Finland and other places that were actually outside the main discussion, a short of firm believe in the possibilities of modern architecture to be developed further and that is what he called basically critical regionalism. But nowadays it is meaningless to talk about it, we are all sharing global information and we are all trying to apply all these ideas that come from all over the place into specific situations. It is the time of glocalisation; that could be called critical glocalism?
We are used nowadays to deal with star architects whose brand names are over exposed. How does your network structure exactly work and can it be competitive to this huge star architecture firms?
It cannot be competitive. It’s a matter of either chance or either good connections to get into these star systems; I don’t think architecture nowadays is based in meritocracy, which I believe it should be like the case right? It’s quite a close system when we talk about this media tic international superstars and when you look beyond the image it’s hard to find something that it is really moving or compelling or basically interesting. It is just noise that repeats itself which actually has profound consequences because they take all the main competitions or they are invited to the main projects and don’t live much room behind. So I don’t think that we are living now in a system that promotes evolution in architecture. It is a very conservative and very mean and limitated system. If we compare with the Siam times or other times when it seemed to be a more open approach to development, then nowadays, it’s a closed system basically using images as a language and we should work beyond this in other spheres. The work of you journalists in architecture is to find these other spheres and try to bring them up into the public consciousness.
Do you think that during this world financial crisis we can find the way to reconsider the ways that we design and construct the buildings and the urban environment?
Living in one of countries that has been most discredit by the crisis is that it will be useless, it will be painful, it would be devastating for many people, for many companies, for many societies but it will not be hygienic, it will not be an opportunity for this meritocracy I was talking about before that to bring forward. Only those that have the chance to survive will do so but I don’t see a chance in paradigm, everybody is talking about changes and paradigms but they don’t think if they are happening and I don’t think it is possible that they will happen. If you look at the way that capitalism has been involving in the last decades, you can realize that there is no change in this direction because those countries that are actually leading the economy now are Brazil, China, and India; they are trying to pursue the same goals and we have Africa which is growing spectacularly in the last years. The last five yeas Africa has been growing enormously and this is the future of capitalism, so probably in fifty or sixty years we can talk about the change of paradigm but not yet and this crisis will just be over with lots of pain, lots of suffering. In the meantime I don’t think that things will change the basic things that generate the city or create the opportunities of architecture to happen.
In recent years attention turns to green urban regeneration. Do you think that it is imperative for the city or it’s just a new fashion with economic outcomes and covertly interests?
It is absolutely imperative; to the point that it has to become irrelevant to define architecture. Just because it is so important it has to be one of the mainstreams for concepts of any architecture, for any city planning, whatever. It is like structural design. Nobody is explaining the qualities of certain architecture through the structural design. In a very near future I hope nobody will ever explain the quality of an architecture talking about its’ sustainable features or green design. It should be just standard and this is an opportunity we have to take, we have to work very hard to make this green sustainable standards become mainstream but in the same time we have to start rethinking architecture outside of these standards. The quality of architecture is not depending in these standards; it is another thing. The qualities of architecture don’t depend on the qualities of the structural design or the qualities of facilities that are implanted; it’s another thing. There will be reconsideration; at least this is the way we are working in my office. We started fifteen years ago with sustainable issues in our projects and now we are one of the first to built one sustainable building for polytechnic university fifteen years ago. I became quite disappointed or quite disillusion about these possibilities about green architecture to be the main concept for a project. That’s when I thought it should be beyond that and I’m pretty sure now that it would be like this. Of course in the meantime many people are pushing forward their ideas and their projects with a label of sustainable architecture and so many of these are probably very sustainable but they are very bad. I don’t see the point of this sustainable bad architecture. Actually I would prefer that bad architecture is unsustainable and can be replaced immediately; this is our challenge. This is the real challenge. It is more intellectual than economical or biological; it’s really a challenge that has to find the soul of architecture in the 21rst century.
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ENRIC MASSIP-BOSCH CURRICULUM VITAE. Born in Barcelona. Architect graduated from ESCOLA D’ARQUITECTURA DE BARCELONA — UPC-BarcelonaTECH. Associate Professor, Design Department — UPC-BarcelonaTECH. Obtained a Japanese Government Monbusho Scholarship to do research at Tokyo Institute of Technology— TokyoTECH and worked at Shinohara Atelier (1987-1989). He has lectured and participated in multiple seminars in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Saragossa, Seville, Vigo, Tokyo, Kawasaki, Chiba, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Rosario, Rafaela, New York, Miami, Budapest, Amsterdam, Maastricht, Vienna, Paris, Bergamo, Milan, Piacenza, Pescara, Venice, Porto and Bucharest. His theoretical work has been widely published in magazines and books, among which are: Experimental Dwellings, 1971-1994 (Barcelona: Edicions UPC, 1996), Architecture on the Horizon (London: RIBA, 1996), Concealed Complexities (Tokyo: Toto, 1999), Diagonal ZeroZero (Barcelona: Lunwerg, 2011). He was co-founder and member of the editorial board of WAM-Web Architecture Magazine (1996-2001). Currently he is Member of the Advisory Committee to the City of Barcelona, Member of the Commissione finale di Dottorato in Progettazione Architettonica e Urbana—Politecnico di Milano (Italty) and of the Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del sistema Universitario e della Ricerca (Italian Government).
In 1990 founded EMBA_ESTUDI MASSIP-BOSCH ARQUITECTES with which he has won many awards and competitions. EMBA is an internationally-oriented practice developing projects of a wide range of scales and typologies for both public and private clients worldwide, offering a highly singular and integral service of architectural and urban design. Works and research by EMBA have been shown in many exhibitions and have been published in international magazines and, among others, in the books Top Young European Architects (New York: ATRIUM GROUP, 2006), ArqCat (Barcelona: COAC, 2008), Guia d’arquitectura moderna. Catalunya: 1880-2007 (Barcelona: COAC, 2007), Arquitectures dels equipaments públics a Catalunya 2000-2010 (Barcelona: GISA, 2010), Diagonal ZeroZero (Barcelona: LUNWERG, 2011), Office Architecture, (Hong Kong: RIHAN INTERNATIONAL CULTURE CO. 2012) and Skyscrapers (Salenstein (CH): BRAUN PUBLISHING AG, 2012).
Among the most recent projects by EMBA we can point out, by their geographical and typological diversity: Diagonal ZeroZero Telefonica Tower, Barcelona (FIRST PRIZE LEAF AWARDS 2011, PREMI CONTINUARÀ 2011, SHORTLISTED EMPORIS AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW SKYSCRAPER 2010, 2011, NOMINEE COUNCIL ON TALL BUILDINGS AND URBAN HABITAT CTBUH 2011 BEST TALL BUILDING AWARDS, WINNER PREMIO QUATRIUM 2010, WINNER PREMIO ACTUALIDAD ECONÓMICA 2009); Volpelleres-West mixed-use building (market, commercial centre, offices, housing, car park) St. Cugat del Vallès (Catalonia. SHORTLISTED LEAF AWARDS 2010, FIRST PRIZE competition 2003); 5-star Hotel and Commercial Centre, Ar Riyadh (Saudi Arabia, 2010); 110 dwellings, Sant Boi, (Catalonia. FIRST PRIZE competition 2009); Renovation of Place de la République, Leucate (France. first prize international COMPETITION ABITARE IL MEDITERRANEO, 2009; SHORLISTED 5TH BIENNAL DEL PAISATGE, PREMI ROSA BARBA, 2008; FIRST PRIZE competition 2005); 87 dwellings, elderly housing and civic centers, Barcelona (FIRST PRIZE competition 2008); Headquarters and Logistic Centre, Moscow (Russia. FIRST PRIZE competition 2007); Secondary school, Girona (Catalonia. RUNNER-UP BIENNAL D’ARQUITECTURA DE GIRONA 2007. FIRST PRIZE competition 2003); Urban planning and housing for a new residential area, Cunit (FIRST PRIZE competition 2006); New Penitentiary, Tàrrega (FIRST PRIZE) 2006); Medical centre, Sabadell (FIRST PRIZE. RUNNER-UP THIRD BIENNAL D’ARQUITECTURA DEL VALLÈS) 2005. FIRST PRIZE competition 2001); Secondary school, Artés (Catalonia. SELECTED PREMIS FAD 2004. FIRST PRIZE competition 2000); New general access and Traumatology building extension, Vall d’Hebron Hospital, Barcelona (FIRST PRIZE 2004); Riverside park and Pla de les Hortes Master plan, La Roca del Vallès (Catalonia. FIRST PRIZE 2004); Renovation of the Square Gambetta, Carcassonne, (France. FIRST PRIZE competition 2003).