Since 2008, the BAAG Studio, or Buenos Aires Architectura Grupal, has demonstrated that taking the time to collectively think, experiment, and rethink, not only reinforces architecture as a discipline, it advances it. The group's projects and research have added to the shared-practice-driven critical thinking that has become increasingly essential within the profession.
We sat down with BAAG to hear more about their inspiration, processes, education, and their predictions going forward.
FD: What inspired you all to start working with group-based architecture design?
BAAG: Since the studio's inception we imagined it as a melting pot of viewpoints. We believed, from the start, that we wanted our work to be the fruit of discussions from among a variety of professionals. We believe that BAAG is the poster child for the ideology that we are building. Buenos Aires is the place we work from, architecture is our profession, and group-driven is the manner in which we work.
It seems that exploring materials is a principal focus of your work. Can you tell us about the inner workings of your office with regards to your research processes?
Materials research is perhaps our greatest interest, especially since there are so many issues stemming from how materials are produced and procured for a project. The materialization of a work of architecture and the building strategy behind it is defined by its materials. We're not only interested in how materials are used but also the supply chain behind them, from the person who produces it, to the person who extracts it, to the person who exports it, and, finally, to the person who sells it. Taking this into consideration, on top of a material's durability and wear, allows us a better idea of its ecological footprint as well.
This elements tie into, not only the building site, but the economy and sociopolitical system as well. We feel it's important to research these processes so that we can apply our beliefs to our work. It's essential that we be mindful of the resources we use and focus on a socio-economic structure that rethinks the established processes within our profession.
Within our studio, we are beginning to systemize some of these research processes. At first, they were very intuitive; using the project itself as a site for research, which allowed us the opportunity to visit factories and glimpse other areas of production. Afterwards, we put a workshop inside the studio, where our research in materials became an important element of the design process. Lately, we've been forming research teams that trace the various processes that go into producing a material. Right now, we are focused on broadening this area of our work.
You all have a marked presence within the universities. Can you tell us more about this area of your work and whether you consider this to be an extension of your professional of academic practice? Will you have to alter your teaching methods to fit the needs of virtual learning?
We believe that architectural workshops serve as hotbeds for new ways of building within the community. It's within the workshops that we think about how we will live together and apply these ideas.
It's true that there is often a gap between the academic and professional end of our work, and it's actually pretty beneficial. We don't see the university as a place to broadcast the work done with the professional research but rather an environment for generating critical thinking. The gap keeps the two areas out of each other's way.
In these times of pandemic and shutdowns, it's essential that we rethink architectural practices and reimagine our models of urbanity and city living if we are to address humanity's future needs. There is fierce social inequality within our countries. In many ways, COVID-19 magnified an already grave problem in terms of the divides within our society. Addressing these issues would prove invaluable work for the universities that rise to the challenge of imagining new modes of urban integration.
In terms of instructional models, the University of Buenos Aires started shifting its instruction to virtual at the end of June; however, various other institutions had already started giving virtual presentation and recommending lectures to help students stay connected.
One of the candidates for our 2020 Building of the Year award is an apartment complex in Argentina. The creator said that "with these kinds of opportunities, the ones presented by ordinary buildings, you get the chance to completely transform the space." This is a concept we see a lot in your work as well. Can you give us your opinion on the matter?
Since the studio was started we focused on the possibilities offered by residential buildings that, nowadays, house many families yet occupy a minimal portion of the urban landscape. In the majority of cities, this buildings fall under strict regulations, due to both economic factors and restrictive housing codes. These regulations, usually created a priori, often go against what we believe necessary to live and thrive within the urban environment; however, we have taken it upon ourselves to question the needs of the market and reinterpret the restrictions established by housing authorities. For this reason, we strive to create projects that cover, not only basic needs like natural ventilation and adequate insulation, but favorable social conditions such as enjoyable common and multi-use spaces that facilitate and encourage connections between residents.
Today, we've been invited by Hashim Sarkis and his team with the Biennale of Venice where the latest theme centers on the question: How Will We Live Together? in a attempt to "...negotiate space within a context driven by every-widening socio-economic and political divides."
We detect a valuable opportunity to continue reflecting on the transformation shaping our surroundings.
What are your predictions for the future of architecture in Argentina?
Argentina has many up and coming architectural and design studios. We have the pleasure of working closely with many of them through discussions, debates, and research while, with others, such as the studios in Santa Fe, Cordoba, Rosario, and Tucumán, we collaborate from afar.
We love discovering architecture that blends local context with global ideas within our work. We also love seeing or reading about colleagues that are taking a theoretical approach to the profession, and allowing digital technology to guide their exploration. The world of architecture contains a myriad of viewpoints and we believe that, the more able we are to hear them, the better able we are to expand our own work to meet the social, local, and global demands driving our profession.