Spanish firm Ensamble Studio has always captivated me with the high level of experimentation found in their built works. Their construction processes are unique, and their projects elegantly explore the tension between structure, matter and space with impeccable technical execution--as seen at the award-winning Hemeroscopium House’s delicately balanced intersected prefab elements.
From the small Truffle in the Mediterranean coast, to the delicate roof of the Cervantes Theater in Mexico City, their work is always reinterpreting materials. The Cervantes Theater roof, for example, stands elegantly between projects by FR-EE and Chipperfield, marking the location of an underground venue below through a carefully balanced steel structure. From certain angles, though, one sees a laminar structure that lets light pass through.
The firm is based in Madrid, and is directed by architects Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa, together with Javier Cuesta. Antón is currently full-professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT.
In this interview Antón tells us that architecture is part science, part poetry, and that Ensamble has found success by treating their practice as a laboratory, academy and consultancy company. Read the full transcript after the break.
ArchDaily: What is Architecture?
Antón García-Abril: Architecture is about constructing--putting parts together and providing some kind of order. This order has spatial consequences and to go beyond this through a poetic or spiritual approach of these spatial consequences is what we can call architecture as "the art of building."
ArchDaily: What should be the role of architects in society?
Antón García-Abril: The architects need to serve the public, the communal needs and some desires of the people. I think this role is a generous mission that architects have to give to society.
ArchDaily: What is the importance of innovation in your office?
Antón García-Abril: Innovation is the basis of architecture. innovation is our daily practice; innovation is our substrate and our goal. This innovation could be materialized in a built project or as just part of this base over which we maintain our office. I also think that architecture is not about design. Architecture is about innovation and finding the opportunities to transfer this knowledge to society.
ArchDaily: What is the importance of networking for your office?
Antón García-Abril: It's a very efficient system to optimize the individual work and talent. It's not about growing, the way architects should work. It's about being able to connect with other people's minds, abilities and sensibilities. So I think [networking] is essential to understand contemporary practice and research in architecture.
ArchDaily: What is the importance of the internet for your work?
Antón García-Abril: I think the internet is something essential to understand that interface where we receive the information that we need, and also that we project our work. It's has a bi-directionally that makes it so efficient and so interesting. In practical terms, it is a tool that has made possible the de-localization of the physical space of knowledge. It's essential to understand our world.
ArchDaily: What would you recommend to someone who wants to study architecture?
Antón García-Abril: Life is what shows and teaches the most to an architect--to be able to complete this vision of the contemporary world. In terms of education I think that a young student also needs inspiration: inspiration from the professor that would show him the science that is beyond architecture and also the poetry that is part of architecture.
ArchDaily: What can you tell us about running an architecture office?
Antón García-Abril: I don't think running an architecture office is different from running another kind of business. To work with the things that you are willing, you need to move, you need to carry on and be active. You cannot stop. And maybe the particularity of an architecture office is that it's something between a lab, an academy and a consultant company. All that can be a contemporary office. In our case, the lab is a physical lab, an outdoor lab that we construct. The academy is all the research that we share with different schools with the research projects we do in-house. And the consultancy is the service that you have to give and deliver to those that require your projects. All these different activities could be the particularities of an architecture office today.