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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