Should the human being be at the center of architectural creation? Does the genius architect exist? Interior design and architecture are two different disciplines that compete with each other? These are some of the questions that arose in this meeting of the cycle of talks Building futures of La Roca Village.
The fourth talk of the cycle, which talks about major issues such as women, talent or gastronomy, featured architecture and interior design. A talk moderated by the journalist Bibiana Ballbé, with 6 great professionals from these disciplines: Gabriele Schiavon, co-founder and partner of LaGranja Design, Cristina Mas Mir, founder of the interior design firm Masmir, Benjamín Iborra, partner and creative director of Mesura, Javier Framis, architect and managing partner of L35, Ignasi Bisbe, exterior designer and project manager for Teodora, Gianni Ruggiero, architect and founder of ToolStudio, and Elena Foguet, business Director Value Retail Spain.
The meeting took place in The Apartment, the most intimate and personal space in La Roca Village that invites highly interesting conversations and debates. An ideal and cozy space to put reflections on architecture and interior design on the table. Great topics were discussed during a pleasant and fun conversation but with a lot of content.
Elena Foguet broke the ice by explaining how design is at the center of the La Roca Village experience: “We have an obsession with detail, creativity and differentiation. We wanted to create a place with human quality in each of the experiences. That emotion that touches your skin – a plant, a balcony, a shop window. Those sensations are in a box that is the largest space. For us the box is just as important as the sale to a customer. Every detail counts."
To join in this human experience, Bibiana Ballbé opened the debate with a quote from the interior designer Isle Crawford: “For many, interior design is pure appearance. But we spend 87% of our lives inside buildings, their design affects how we feel and how we behave. Design isn't just visual, it's a thoughtful process, a skill. Ultimately, design is a tool to enhance our humanity. It is a framework for life”
Gabriele Schiavon wanted to downplay the significance of the quote, remarking “Once you have made the recipe for the next project, you have to change, you cannot do the same for everyone.” For Javier Framis, life is not improved only through architecture or interior design, but it is a component that helps that. “I don't believe in the genius designer, but I do believe in the person who collects the needs around him, he knows how to redirect them, reinterprets them and transforms them into spaces (houses, outdoor spaces, parks or museums). The main axis is the person.” For Ignasi Bisbe – who registered the word exteriorista to define the need to also design in outdoor spaces – this reflection is also valid. For him it is essential to observe the living space of his clients to understand how and with whom they live “when you enter someone's house you know them by how they live: if they are an orderly person, if they like to read, if they have children. By observing his house you can define the essence of the project”.
With these reflections, a new series of questions was raised: how do you plan a project that is not simply for a person or a family? How do you approach a work that is for a community of people? Gianni Ruggiero responded very simply “You have to put yourself in the shoes of those people, you have to be the child, the grandfather or be in a wheelchair, put yourself in the shoes of all the people. Not only think about the space as an architect, but to cover the needs of everyone and create a useful and practical place.” For Javier Framis, versatility is also important and, therefore, the sustainability of large works. He gave the example of the remodeling of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, which is being carried out with L35. A stadium is theoretically only used once a week, but across a series of platforms the intention is for it to have more functionality, be used daily, by a larger community of citizens, and be much more functional.
Bibiana wanted to continue the debate by inquiring more about the clients. Are they more aware of what design means? Gabriele, from La Granja, answered humorously: "Customers should be taken away from Pinterest." Today it is easier to know everything, but it is difficult to find a genuine interest. For Cristina Mas, an administrative problem also enters, the regulations clip the wings. “Today you are faced with the problem of strict regulations, tight budgets and tight schedules that are not realistic, and this does not allow you to create in the same way.” Benjamin Iborra, from Mesura, stressed that “For us the time factor is very important. The few occasions that the client has left us longer have been success stories. Architecture requires a certain maturation, which is ceasing to exist, and affects the quality of the work.”
This period of meditation, of short pause to see everything more clearly, is just as relevant for the designer as for the client. Gianni Ruggiero emphasized this reflection by saying that a good project also makes a good client. “You have to know what the customer wants – as Framis remarked. We have a point for psychologists, why the client can intuit what he wants, but not know how to transmit it verbally 100%. You are not making a creation to have a medal, but to create and perfect a customer need. The divo architect creates an object, a brand, but that is not at the service of the public.” For Benjamin Iborra, the figure of the architect has changed a lot in this sense “the figure of genius no longer exists, now they are teams that work for a purpose. The vision of creatives who do what they want is obsolete and that must be transmitted. Now we work to adapt to the client. For me, the bad client, deep down, is the one who does not trust you.”
Cristina Mas wanted to emphasize the importance of the teams at this point, as these are complex projects, a great team is needed, and to think of the works as a single work, without separating the architect from the interior designer. Not everything depends on one person, but on a team that goes from the architect, the engineer to the mason. They joked that the architect knows everything, but he knows nothing, in the end he is like the figure of the conductor.
The debate continued with the idea of iconic buildings, those buildings that identify a city and are the fetish of any instagramer. They are no longer looking for a "star" but rather buildings with their own character that adapt and transmit the essence of the territory. An iconic building today has to understand the local and adapt the tradition of the past to the modern, and above all have a sense for the citizenry. For Javier Framis, La Sagrada Familia is the perfect example "Whether you like it or not, it is a building that is culturally related to the city, and which is unique because it represents the essence of Barcelona".
Elena Foguet had a point of curiosity about a very specific topic: "What link do you have with your projects?" Gabriele continued with her sense of humor saying “I enjoy it for 5 minutes, and I begin to see her flaws, and I move on to something else”. On the other hand, Javier Framis is passionate about being able to go see his works, such as La Roca Village, but especially to see how people move within them, "Architecture as a stage, a background that supports human activity."
The debate closed with a question from the public: What weighs more in the design? Aesthetics, functionality or passion? Everyone agreed on the answer: it is a question of balance and there are a thousand types of balance. Benjamín remarked that “passion is not like that of a painter who gets inspired and gives a brushstroke. In our case, it is the result of a very rigorous study”, and Gabriele Schiavon concluded by saying: “The root is the study, but this does not make you fall in love. The foundations have to be those of analysis, but in the end comes the intangible. We have to take weight off our profession, we have to design for the comedy of life. You have to be aware of the basics, but you also have to enjoy life and be generous.”
After these beautiful words full of joie de vivre by Gabriele Schiavon, the talk came to a close. It was time for toasts and an exchange of telephone numbers by the participants. We eagerly await the next talk.