Past, Present, Future is an interview project by Itinerant Office, asking acclaimed architects to share their perspectives on the constantly evolving world of architecture. Each interview is split into three video segments: Past, Present, and Future, in which interviewees discuss their thoughts and experiences of architecture through each of those lenses. The first episode of the project featured 11 architects from Italy and the Netherlands and Episode II is comprised of interviews with 13 architects from Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium.
The goal of the series is to research these successful firms and attempt to understand their methods and approaches. By hopefully gaining a clearer picture of what it means to be an architect in the 21st century, the videos can also serve as inspiration for the next generation of up-and-coming architects and students as they enter the field.
Award-winning Spanish architect and activist Atxu Amann graduated from at the Superior Technical School of Architecture of Madrid with a degree in architecture in 1987. Within the same year, she co-founded Amann-Cánovas-Maruri with Andrés Cánovas and Nicolás Maruri, focusing on creating new housing units types and configurations according to contemporary public space and urban issues. She has directed and taught several postgraduate courses across Madrid, and has obtained a distinction cum laude for her thesis El espacio doméstico: La mujer y la casa, a study on the relationship between gender and architecture. In 2018, she was selected to curate the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
Following are the videos and selected quotes from Atxu Amann's interview.
Atxu Amann talks about her early beginning, co-founding the firm at the age of 18, and how she became the go-to architect for gender-related projects.
GIANPIERO VENTURINI: When you finished your studies till today, can your career be described through phases or very important moments that defined your career?
ATXU AMANN:“Nicolás, Andrés and I founded the studio for love, for the need to innovate, for the need to get our ideas out, and for the need to combine different things. It was thirty years ago, but it is still the same now. We are three friends with a very affectionate connection, which means that we can fight with each other in a project one day and do a competition together the next one. We were amateurs, we didn’t know anything about the future. Perhaps, this was the most important moment to remember. The second was my PhD research, I studied first the industrial design of the 60s and then it changed, from the kitchen to a gender subject. It was the first work here in the projects department with a gender focus and, ever since then, I have been linked to gender approach in everything - in our competitions, in our teaching, in the Biennale, everywhere. So, perhaps, these were the most important points in the trajectory of our architecture career.”
Amann describes her design approach and evaluates her work with gender, speeches, activism, and working on the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
GV: What do you think about the role of the architect today?
AA: “ An architect is no longer the professional that decides when he is separated from the reality or the society. He or she needs to work with other professionals in a work that is synergically produced. In this sense, I also want to say that there is a
gender approach to this answer. The architects here in the university used to say, “To become an architect, you have to work 24 hours a day. You cannot sleep, you cannot eat, you cannot fall in love. Nothing.” So, it was clear, women couldn’t become architects or top architects, because they had to get pregnant, give milk, take care of the children. Really? Architects are not so important, an architect also has to go to the cinema, to the theatre, to look serious, to write, to read. And you can be an architect two hours a day, just like any other profession.”
The architect on the expectations vs reality of being an architect in the past, present, and future.
GV: Similar to what you have done in the Spanish Pavilion for the Biennale di Venezia - choosing terms and defining them - are there any urgent themes or interests that for you are very important to talk about for the future of architecture?
AA: “ The first word that appears there when you enter the pavilion is “critical”, joined to “social” and to “political” and in the corner, you see “affirmative”. These are the four words that summarise the spirit of the pavilion because architecture has always had criticisms about others but has never been too critical of ourselves. When this “critical” is joined to “social” and “political”, it means that architecture and ideology work together and is something that neither architects nor our teachers taught us, it’s like architecture is a neutral activity. There is no neutrality in our world. You do a home that is 20 square metres for black people to dwell in and at the same time you build dwellings that are 1000 square metres, there is ideology there”.
A project by Itinerant Office
Curated by Gianpiero Venturini
Videos by Luca Chiaudano