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.
AIRES MATEUS architecture firm has almost 30 years of experience in architectural design, urban planning and rehabilitation of historically significant buildings. Founded by Portuguese brothers Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, the firm consists of more than 30 professionals, working on large master-plans to the design of the smallest details, and every scope in between. Co-founder Francisco Aires Mateus graduated from Lisbon with a degree in architecture and currently works as an architect and university professor, giving lectures and seminars in universities all around the globe.
Following are the videos and selected quotes from the interview of Francisco Aires Mateus.
The architect explains his early beginnings in design school, and how gaining work experience with his 1-year older brother in an architecture firm gradually gave them the opportunity to grow into independent architects, founding their own architecture studio.
GV: Are there any references or inspiring people you met that impacted you strongly in those years?
FRANCISCO AIRES MATEUS:“ Actually there was this very good teacher at the school, who is called Manuel Tainha. He was a very, very good architect. What we learnt from him is basically the human values that architecture should reproduce and transmit and also the values of culture. It’s amazing, he went with us to see movies that talked about human experiences, he talked a lot about subjects in the most diverse aspects - art, music, other things, not directly on architecture - so that we
could connect architecture with life. This was very, very important for us because this was also one of the aspects that Gonçalo Byrne always embraced in his career - these aspects and the extreme detail to a place which means also, an extreme attention to the people occupying these places. So this is basically what I picked up from this period between the school and the beginning of our practice at Gonçalo Byrne’s office. We always tried to pay attention to these things - and we still do - when we do our work.”
Mateus describes his office's approach to architecture, and how working with students and putting themselves in a position of crisis helps them find different means to developing a project.
GV: Is there any peculiar thing that represent the organisation or the way your office works?
FAM: “ We like to think of our profession as a research. And research is like being in a chemistry company, you always have to be prepared for an error - to go back again, to let go everything you’ve researched and saying: “I’m wrong, I have to get back.” And this uncertainty is actually what moves us and makes us go further on our research. This doesn’t mean that every project is completely different from the other, but every project is either different or a reinterpretation or an evolution of the precedent project.”
The architect points out fundamental themes and details in architecture that architects should focus on in order to create spaces that improve the lives of people using them.
GV: Could you introduce some key concepts or urgent matters of today that as architects, we should address and what would happen in this profession in the next few years?
FAM: “ For me, there’s a big problem these days, and that is speed. We live in a time where it’s fast and furious, made of images that pass by rapidly and everybody is trying to do an icon. And in this urgency of creating icons and visible monuments
made of very fast images, we tend to forget everything else. For me, this is the danger of our times. Fortunately, there are also lots of people that are looking at the conservation of the environment and our common house, that is, earth. So maybe in
these two worlds, we will find some peace. Of course, I’m an optimist. I think we will be able to revert this situation. And those in architecture, it is very curious to see lots of projects already keeping up - adding value to pre-existing buildings, respecting
A project by Itinerant Office
Curated by Gianpiero Venturini
Videos by Luca Chiaudano