The millenarianists


A. The name of your studio – EQUIP (TEAM) – says a lot about your work philosophy. How important are synergies between different professionals to you?
If you do not expand you do not progress. We are an EQUIP (team) of different professionals but we are not always the same ones, each project calls for the participation of a new professional. Things have to be shared out, and we need to know how to find the people we need at a given moment. Our philosophy is to let the person who knows best get on with it, and if that is not one of us, then we have to locate that person.

B. This is highly related to the fact that EQUIP divides its functions into an agency and a laboratory. How did you get the idea of creating a department for experimentation? Do they provide each other with feedback? Do they ever worry that many of the uncommissioned projects you create never find a sponsor?
The Laboratory and the Agency were created out of the desire to find a place in the world, from a situation of unease about our professional future, and after observing people’s unsatisfied needs. There are questions that are just there and have to be answered. Maybe the client that commissions you with asking them has not come along yet, but the situation is there. The Lab was born of this visionary tendency and propositional attitude, which works on needs that have been detected, regardless of whether we have been contracted to answer them.
For example, now the Lab is developing what we call SmartLiving or a way to build affordable but quality housing.

C. Are there limits to architecture? Are there architects with limits?
We do not see limits as a stable frontier. The development of a client’s needs through our proposals is what determines the point that one wants to reach or can reach, and this is always variable.

D. Companies in Spain have great or little capacity to invest in design and risk in general.
In this country, there is a certain tendency to think that 2+2 = 4 and people tend to act to make 2+2 equal 73. But it is neither one thing nor the other. We think that anything in which people participate require strategies with a great deal of flexibility and the ability to change pre-conceived ideas which are difficult to explain as a whole, and sometimes 2+2 = bright green. The lack of a risk-taking attitude is the result of a structural laziness in the way people in this country think, and of many deeply-rooted hang-ups. The idea of “let others do the inventing” still prevails.

E. And talking of risks taken on and overcome, in the beginning your Galactic Suite project sounded like a utopia, but it has come through. How did the idea of making a hotel in space come about? There is no aeronautics tradition in Spain, how did you go about finding a sponsor?
The idea came from the realisation of a basic fact: a lot of people are interested in going into space. From this point you have to find the people and resources and prepare the context to achieve your objective. Galactic Suite came from the Lab, based on technological innocence and a total lack of inhibition. Once we got started on it we had a twofold surprise. On the one hand we discovered that there were people that wanted to develop an aerospace industry in Catalonia and Spain. And secondly, we discovered that the technology to implement the project actually existed in the world. As of that moment, the world economic crisis made it more difficult to find an investor, but now it is up and running.
You start thinking about what you need, what people want and then you find a way to make it come true. The first stage is to stave off the criticism from people who say it is impossible, but who then go all quiet when someone says that it is feasible. If you keep on pushing it eventually happens.

F. How does it work? Six weeks of training for 3 days in space. How important is the experience factor in architecture?
You need physical and psychological preparation, then you have a unique experience, and the result has to be a person with another vision of our planet and its fragility. Realising the obvious sometimes calls for a major effort. When the tourists return they will have to help to communicate what they have discovered about themselves and the planet up there.
We work for people, and in any project, be it industrial design, jewellery or architecture, the main objective is to invite the user to do something, to participate, to act in order to make the product, the jewel or space their own. Our projects are increasingly more about proposing experiences that people can really have.

G. Tell us about the inside of this orbital hotel. What other space installations have you created?
Galactic Suite Design, a company that promotes aerospace experiences, was created from the orbital hotel. The idea is to be able to provide a recreational experience for people at any height, from the seabed to a future space trip to colonise Mars. Galactic Suite is part of this line, but there is also a suborbital balloon, an airship, a shelter in the Himalayas…

H. Aren’t you afraid that the success of the project in the media might detract from the rest of your projects?
You should never be afraid of anything! Projects aim to solve needs; they are not about achieving notoriety. However, there are some very ambitious projects that require a lot of notoriety to attract the greatest possible number of people to develop and fund them. This is why Galactic Suite needs a great deal of notoriety; it has to be popular. First of all because one of its objectives is to inform people about space, and secondly because it needs exposure to generate confidence among investors and possible industrial participants. Sometimes making noise is fundamental.

I. How does Xavier Claramunt picture the city of the future? Do you feel that you are a millenarianist, do you believe that we will eventually colonise the other planets?
Yes, we will eventually colonise planets. There are already projects on Mars, and Galactic Suite Design has also participated in some of them. And the fashion is back with us again, as is the need to land on the moon, which is the festive and popular part of leveraging the satellite as a scientific and technical test bench for the colonisation of space and the search for energy alternatives for Earth. Without forgetting the more intangible part of the thought of who we are as a species and the reason for our existence.
This movement also includes the Google Lunar X-Prize in which we participate as part of the Barcelona Moon Team.

J. Your study created controversy in 2007 with the catalogue of skyscrapers like the prefabricated houses of the United States. Is there a market for a proposal like this one in a world that is tending towards individualisation?
Yes, and particularly for that reason, for the need that people have to make their very own space. At the moment, we are developing what we call SmartLiving, a proposal for affordable and quality housing. The strategy consists of building a house with basic finishes that the user can decide to complete later. SmartLiving achieves an ultra-competitive price by eliminating middlemen because it is a company that integrates the design team, the builder and the funding all in a single company.

K. Why are EQUIP’s studios abroad installed in Hangzhou and China? One might think that countries like the latter are not particularly renowned for their creativity.
China is creative! It is true that they copy, but afterwards they learn and make proposals in a very short period of time. And they do not do so merely in the areas of design, they have a no-hang-ups attitude in all disciplines and this allows them to come up with surprising answers. We often do not like them, their dynamics tend to throw you, but they are creative! Do you remember when some ads showed Japanese people frenetically snapping away at a European product to copy it? Does anyone now think that the Japanese only copy?

L. I won’t ask you if EQUIP can work to different scales, because it is evident that it does, and very well at that. Have you ever thought about creating synergies not only with designers and architects, but also with other disciplines?
Galactic Suite has already had to source professionals from different disciplines. In fact, approaching a project without any prejudices usually calls for the participation of professionals from outside the sphere of architecture. And this is true for any sector. Architecture is a discipline of integration, increasingly more complex, that needs the person who knows what to do to do it. The professional who does everything, an attitude traditionally held by the architect, cannot provide the complex response needed now. There are some professionals who can integrate and lead a complex group, and that is definitely the architect we need.

M. As for industrial design, tell us one of the products that you are proud of.
The packaging for a jewellery company, DuchClaramunt. Rather than somewhere to keep the piece of jewellery, it is the preparation of the magic moment when a gift is made. It invites the user to draw out the moment the jewel is given to make it an experience that heightens expectation and makes the final moment an explosive one.

N. Who are your reference architects? Some people talk about synergy, name me someone from any area who has been a clear reference for you.
The truth is that there are a lot of people who do a great job. When I was younger I did have architects I looked up to, now I admire people who do things, who propose, regardless of discipline.

O. You got into the design world through jewellery. What influence has this had on your facet as an architect and product designer?
Material, inventiveness and immediacy: the speed with which a proposal becomes a constructed object is a source of pleasure. It is the pleasure of the craftsman who sees the product taking shape second by second, and at the end of the day he has something to feel proud of. It is both a basic and necessary pleasure.

P. You once said that products are instruments to answer people’s questions. Now that the concept of ”own universe” is being promoted, how do you know that you are answering the right questions?
Knowing how to ask the right question is what matters. In fact, there are many people capable of giving brilliant answers, but not all of them are capable of asking the question.

Q. Equip has a new way of conceiving ideas and work. Have you thought about creating your own school?
The best school is for anyone to copy you as they want, in ways they think will help them to progress and deliver the right answers. Creating your own school is like opening the gate to the cemetery. Transmission has to be based on offer, generosity, not on explanation. Self service!

R. You are a man of ideas. Give us a good tip to help creativity flow.
Get rid of your hang-ups and just do it!

S. Recommend a book, a restaurant, a film and a museum.
I do not read, I do not go to the cinema, I do not visit museums, but I do eat. My latest surprise was a winery where you can also dine, I like spaces that can be used for more than one activity and which let you make them your own. I think the place is called Monvinic.

Interview with Xavier Claramunt, founder of EQUIP


In 1990, Xavier Claramunt founded ADD+, a multidisciplinary company now called EQUIPxavierclaramunt. Its main lines of work are Architecture, Industrial Design, Jewellery and the more novel “Respostes” (“Answers” in Catalan). The latter seeks to answer questions from clients that wish to take on new challenges. During Renacer 07, Xavier Claramunt presented the project Galactic Suite, a hotel in space, underlining the need to reinvent the way we see things, approach people and act without any hang-ups and by offering proposals. This is all done from the LAB, the place where the unknown is prepared, a kind of “pre-season” where new ideas are planned. Any idea is valid, even mistakes are positive, as they accumulate experience.

How have the Sea Suite and Galactic Suite projects evolved? Have your goals been accomplished?
Both projects are up and running. Galactic SUITE is much more advanced. We have found part of the funding and are now building a pilot room. The Sea Suite is on stand by due to a legal problem. The inertia of Galactic Suite has spawned new projects such as galacticsuiteHIMALAYAS, the development of a hotel on the summit of the Himalaya mountain range, galacticsuiteNEARESPACE, which consists of the development of a reusable inflatable aircraft to initially house 6 passengers and one crew member at a height of 40 km, in the so-called “near-space” area, where passengers can observe deep space and a considerable curvature of the horizon, or galacticsuiteMOONrace whose mission is to land on the moon and travel 500 metres and send images and data of the Moon back to Earth.

Has the design of projects for the “luxury” sector been affected in this period of global crisis? Is the well-off client of today the same as yesterday?
Basically, things move more slowly. The luxury sector has changed very little.

Has the work done at LAB had to adapt to the crisis? How do they see the future at LAB?
The thing is that as there is less funding you can do fewer things. In our case everything slows down. But the LAB is still the cornerstone of research in our company, which is undoubtedly even more important in times of recession. They adapt proposals to the new situation and harder times, giving rise to new projects that reinvent our times and even lead us to rethink our profession.

What are your short- and medium-term goals? What decisions have been taken to tackle the crisis (cost reduction, expansion)?
We have gone for two very clear things. One is all-out internationalisation. Promoting our offices abroad, which is why we have opened branches in China, Dubai and Mexico. Our whole volume of work in architecture is in these countries. Internationalisation is a very good option for Spanish companies from our sector. There is enough talent in Spain, but the situation of wellbeing has led professionals to rule out opening new markets abroad. Secondly, diversification. Opening up new fronts in design with galacticsuiteDesign to offer conceptualisation and design services for the space industry, and in consultancy with Respostes to realise what you do best, draw quality from it and generate a product.

At this moment in time many clients will be asking questions. You have a section called “Respostes” (Answers). In general, what advice would you offer those who are concerned?
“EQUIP RESPOSTES” (Answers in Catalan) was conceived as an in-house tool, in the LAB, to realise what you do best, draw quality from it and generate a product. EQUIP RESPOSTES analyses the company, and together with it finds the question that has to be answered to find a solution. EQUIP RESPOSTES does not give answers, it encourages the actual company to generate them through in-house work with its own teams. EQUIP RESPOSTES gets the team members of the actual company to think about their dynamics, adding a critical distance that opens the eyes of the stakeholders and guides them towards a fresher and revamped vision. My advice boils down to two very simple things. One is to think about what we do best and make this question and its answer the driving force behind our company. And secondly, believe in yourself enough to nurture your self-esteem so that it will give you that energy, call it pride if you want, that will drive you on towards your goals.

Luxury providers


We at EQUIP Xavier Claramunt are a Multidisciplinary Architectural Practice which offers three main product lines: Architecture and Interior Design, Industrial Design and Jewellery. We have just recently added a new category to these areas: Responses, a new way of identifying the core characteristic of any company and power it.
The practice was founded in Barcelona under the name of ADD+ in 1990. Since 2001 it has been based in Fundació Palo Alto, the architecture, image and design company complex in Barcelona. Since 2006 we have operated under the name EQUIP.

Our products are based on three fundamental premises: The first premise is permanent reinvention in our approach to understanding concepts. We always make an unreserved re-evaluation of everything from the developed product through to our attitude towards work and process management.
The second premise is our desire to be closer to people. We propose products that will inspire cooperation between people and will be of use to them.
The third premise is to always follow a proposal approach. We redefine concepts using key words that explain new products to us. We redefine approaches to respond to situations as they arise.

We work by freeing ourselves of any pre-existing formal conventions, undertaking a constant re-evaluation of the way in which our teams and clients understand their surroundings. Each design proposal has its origins in an idea arising from the program. It is never a preconception or a preformed notion. Establishing a work process defines the end identity.

To promote both innovative and exclusive concepts the company is committed with a double strategy based on the work developed by the Agency and the LAB.

LAB is responsible for the research and revision of any area related with people’s life and the places for living. The main goal is to provide unique and innovative concepts to give successful answers to any future question place by clients. LAB is always a step ahead and ready to deal with any necessity of our clients.

The Agency is responsible of producing any item or concept needed to fulfil our client’s expectations. The work developed by the Agency starts from the unique concepts provided by the LAB.  The double strategy of LAB and Agency is able to constantly improve the answers given to our clients.

The LAB has the time to think, the Agency has the ability of adapting the innovative and unique concepts provided by the LAB to the given reality of our clients, without losing any of the core characteristics of these concepts.

The flagship result of this strategy is the first space hotel, Galactic Suite. The LAB succeeded in thinking about the first tourism facility to be place in space, presenting it as a whole and unique life experience.
The Agency is in charge of managing the implementation of the project, transforming the innovative idea of the most exclusive tourism experience of history: training on an island in a resort both touristic and technological, and the space travel that will bring the space tourist to the most exclusive hotel nowadays: Galactic Suite.

EQUIP Xavier Claramunt is the most suitable company to provide the most innovative and exclusive concept related to where people live and specially, where the people want to live.

Accumulating and manufacturing


Accumulating and manufacturing are two characteristic activities of current production and lifestyle trends. People tend to accumulate objects that will only be used sporadically, and more often than not may even become useless. A large percentage of the products that we use to build our houses are complex processes that require a great deal of energy to be made. This results in manufactures which are costly from many standpoints. The two practices observed are based on the dynamics of accumulation and wastage of resources, and should therefore not be maintained. They are not sustainable.

The proposal of a house for a young couple without children for Casa Barcelona takes these two observations into account, and proposes a strategy based, on the one hand, on using the minimum amount of material possible to make a house ready to be lived in (basic installations and adaptable textile distribution), and on the other hand on the use of industrialised products (curtains, canvases, moving panels) and the application of traditional systems related to sustainability criteria: the gallery and double wall.

The objective is to propose a house for a young couple (aged 30) without children in which most of the materials used come from simple industrial processes that only require a minimum adaptation to be applied to a house.

The proposal of a flexible distribution and location of the installations must allow this basic house to grow and be completed according to the specific needs of the couple that has to personalise it.

Industrial products
The aim is to leverage the technologies developed by other areas (mainly industrial), with a certain tradition of use and which, while they come from other areas, are tested and proven.

The three industrial products used for the basic configuration are curtains to make divisions directly related to the use of the house, canvases for building a backlit ceiling which will afford the different areas atmosphere, and a system of partition panels that will generate a gallery on the south façade and a storage area on the north façade.

Growth system
The house has a single closed perimeter to the north (opaque) and south (glass), with a basic kitchen and bathroom installation on the shorter facades where the common installations of the building are located and which also act as side walls. The kitchen contains the household appliances for cooking and storing food, the bathroom has the basic sanitary elements, storage is accomplished with simple boxes, the living area has a table and two chairs and the rest area has a bed.
In this first basic stage the backlit textile ceiling will also be installed, which already includes provision for an initial transversal (curtains) and longitudinal (dividing panels) division level.

Once the housing has been occupied, the essential needs of this young couple will gradually develop and will be covered by completing and extending the basic systems initially installed.

In this regard, a second stage will consist of the appearance of the transversal curtains. These curtains delimit four main areas: cooking, eating and living, resting and hygiene. Each one of the curtains adds a technological component to cover the needs of the areas they define perfectly. In the bathroom area, the curtains have components for odour treatment and watertightness; in the rest area, for sound insulation and warm atmosphere; in the living area, for information technology and lighting; in the cooking area these curtains provide insulation from odours, treatment against oil, etc.

A third stage is defined by the use of longitudinal partition panels which create a gallery area onto the south facade and a storage area onto the north facade. This configuration is also related to classic strategies for passively leveraging the external environment.
In this direction, the gallery that looks south becomes a garden-greenhouse or a vegetal façade.

The aim is that people do not have to adapt to a given housed, which normally requires changing and the obsolescence of products and space before they are used.

Quite the opposite, the proposal is that the house should grow as its inhabitants do initially using a minimum number of materials but with the possibility of easy-to-add partitions and accessories that adapt to the specific couple’s lifestyle.

Innovation means challenging preconceived ideas and assumptions


A company can aspire to excellence by taking the tried and tested route of tradition, but an alternative is to undertake projects which combine both excellence and innovation. Following a predefined route is no guarantee of success, so why not explore new paths? Xavier Claramunt was one of the keynote speakers at the opening ceremony of the Year of Creativity and Innovation in the Basque Country.

Companies which have decided to take the innovation option need to rid themselves of all preconceived ideas concerning what they should offer clients; finding the right response for every project, each with its own particularities, means avoiding assumptions and studying basic concepts again, no matter how familiar they may seem.
Creative thinking strategies depend on having no qualms about checking once again the ingredients of the soup or how the wheel works. In doing so, it is highly unlikely that the exact same soup will be invented, or that the wheel will be discovered. It is fundamental to start work with no assumptions, to begin a project without knowing the solution. Getting rid of preconceived ideas makes it much easier to attend to clients’ real needs, before these are even conscious needs, and to be attuned to innovations, which may be of a technical, organisational or product nature, or even in other, parallel areas.
It is necessary to have a system, a working strategy which acts as a guide at those moments when we feel lost; however, being in a position to really innovate means getting away from routine, avoiding the known answer, shaking off labels.
The most striking feature of the innovation we bring to projects is the total response we offer clients. These are generally surprised to discover that the response we offer is much broader in scope than what they had expected; we consider that comprehensive innovation means applying strategies used in other professional areas such as economics, gastronomy, and jewellery design, to give just a few examples. This is what makes us stand out: an open mind and a refusal to follow recipes and accept limitations.

Learning from accumulated wisdom
However, tradition is also fundamental for any company, no matter how innovative it may be. All that has been done, thought, enjoyed and suffered previously is a treasure chest which should be taken advantage of. At the start of any project, previous contributions should be studied and the classics analysed, from an excellent design to the basic definition of what a chair is, or the significance of an everyday gesture such as a handshake. Similarly, it is also useful to have in place a strategy for reincorporating senior professionals, those specialists or technicians who have been removed, for such an illogical reason as age, from positions which are still rightly theirs. Their knowledge and experience is priceless. This is how excellent teams are built.
In innovation terms, growing means being aware of the fact that the learning process never ends. If our aim is innovation, we have to be open to everything we still do not know, and which will have to be assimilated. The tradition that precedes us is a key factor in interpreting new developments as they arise; it should help us to identify and understand them, but not to label or restrict them in any way. Furthermore, although we may well be aware that knowledge takes up space – a lot! – it is worth defending the dynamic of the constant sum. The bottom line is that those who are unwilling to learn will never innovate.

Imagination, vision and action
The innovation process begins with imaginative thinking, but using one’s imagination is often risky. Being imaginative means not being afraid to offer unconventional solutions.
It is also true that, in order to innovate, one must have vision, and be able to intuit and see what nobody else can see – maybe because they are not looking in the right direction, or perhaps because they are simply not using their eyes in the right way. Sometimes, what we perceive is simply a dizzying optical illusion, but the effect it produces means that, once our vision clears, nothing will be the same again. When one looks in an unaccustomed direction, it is quite natural for the eyes to have to refocus. Until they do, what we see appears as a blur.
Finally, once an interesting idea has been conceived, innovation means implementing it, putting it into production: we are people of action.
Likewise, we should not be afraid to introduce an element of uncertainty, which must be counterbalanced by the highest possible degree of precision. We have to free ourselves of the complexes which prevent us from listening to certain voices or from using an outrageous idea. What matters is the generation of suggestive starting points which give us the strength to progress, in any direction. From that point onwards, individual motivation and the need for ideas to be realized will result in the innovation. We do not always achieve the same level of success in all our projects, but studying failures is also a useful part of the learning process.

Exposé on the day of the agitator: How flexible are you?


Entrepreneur? Agitator!
Making changes is difficult. Even though it’s for the better, any change is irritating. That’s why those of us who tend to propose changes – God knows why – initially cause irritation. Nobody likes being irritated. So, what we really need is to be flexible, so we can introduce change without making too many waves. If you are not flexible, a proposed change will falter and fail and another opportunity will be missed.

THINK AND ACT. An entrepreneur is someone who thinks and acts. Regardless of their company’s size, entrepreneurs always have the right attitude, even when they make their bed.
Entrepreneurs? There is an etymology for the word entrepreneur which may be true or not, but it is certainly evocative. The original French word entrepreneur is said to have appeared at the beginning of the 16th century in reference to the adventurers who travelled to the New World in search of opportunities without really knowing what they were getting into. In the early 18th century, the French extended the meaning to include those who built bridges and roads and, wait for it, architects! Its meaning in a business context was first defined by Richard Cantillon in 1755, in reference to those facing a process with a degree of uncertainty.

ENERGY. An entrepreneur is someone who has energy which is being used up as they go along but has strategies to recover such energy throughout any process.
We recommend plenty of practice using a certain ring-shaped toy made of wood or plastic, which induces little more than physical activity but may also serve as metaphor – the hula hoop. An agitator must be able to make a hula hoop dance. And what is that supposed to mean? It means they must be flexible. And what does being flexible mean? Well, a lot of things and everyone must find a way to be flexible. It’s not a question of opposing superior powers, but of using them, like the new generation of sailing boats whose rigging transmits opposing forces as they move instead of putting up resistance to them. It’s like having a weather vane which is constantly turning, but we have to know how to stay on course while making use of all the energy produced by the rotating vane. Did anyone understand the metaphor? Do the hula hoop.
Arc del Teatre/…

ATTITUDE. Attitude is a key word. Attitude is being prepared to do things with enthusiasm while completely rejecting the ridiculous. We should act much more like Americans and less like Europeans, with a touch of innocence, to be sure, something which is always associated with the capacity which enthusiasm has of seeing things where they are not. Give me an attitude and I will move the world.
Agitator! You should realise your work is associated with the act of agitation. You are an agitator who makes others lift their sedentary asses from the chair they are keeping warm.

CONVINCE. The capacity to convince, which is probably related to the capacity to make a negotiator participate in what you are proposing. It’s not so much the fact they are attracted by your project rather that you invite them to participate and suggest that they could play an important role.
Projects need to be shared. Nobody can undertake a project on their own, even less so in our field, in this small country of ours full of envious and lazy people. Something good can probably come out of this. Anyone who is in a position to help us must also see potential for themselves in our projects. As we may not know who can offer us help we may need in the future, we have to remain open-minded. An entrepreneur needs to be a great host who is building a large house where they can receive many people.
Chic&Basic Born/ Hospes Palma/ Hotusa Arc de Triomf/…

LAB and AGENCY. Owning a company where 50 % of your business does not make a profit, does not produce anything which risks being sold or generating any kind of economic earnings … at least in direct way.
In our field, architecture and industrial design, there are many people doing things and doing them well. It was very difficult to get ahead. The problem was and is that everyone works within very similar parameters. We needed to find a different approach. This, of course, involved looking in many different directions. We thus created the LAB, which is basically a place where a fair number of people are working in many different directions. A word secretly taken from a restaurant menu, for instance, could become a stimulus and lead to a particular line of work. Such a process may take a few days as it does not suggest anything. Or it may just grow and grow and end up becoming something which may be the beginnings of something else.
Galactic Suite/ Catalogue of high-rise buildings/…

SOMEBODY HAS TO BELIEVE IN YOU. It’s not possible to do anything alone. In our case, belief in you begins with a father, a mother, then continues with the Architect’s Cooperative Credit Institute and now is based in the company itself, 50 % of which does make a profit.
Risk? Change, uncertainty and often risk. These are terms traditionally associated with entrepreneurs, but everything is really much easier. Entrepreneurs aren’t actually the kind of people who like risk. Entrepreneurs are smart people who seek to make use of things they have around them. They reorganize and adjust the things they see in a way which brings a benefit, some value. It’s not necessarily a question of making money. The same thing goes for those who help us, after all there has to be a great deal of faith at the beginning as almost nobody is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Those who are actually born with a silver spoon in their mouth start to use it without knowing what it is really used for. It goes without saying that the only person who can have faith in you is your father or someone similar.
Mother’s bath/ Architect’s Cooperative Credit Institute competition/ Be your own client: ONE,… /…

PROFIT? DEBT! It’s not very clear who profits. Companies move forward, people get paid and there is often debt. Debt is detrimental to profit but it doesn’t seem to be harmful for companies. I would even go as far as saying it was favourable.
Some people say that an entrepreneur is a smartass who sees an opportunity and organises resources to set things in motion or capitalise on it.

If you’re broke, buy houses!/…

Gang bei ! – The human element


A meal, a dinner in a Chinese restaurant in China. We don’t even remember what we ate. What we haven’t forgotten is the number of times a toast is proposed during a Chinese meal to show appreciation. The key word is gang bei, which is none other than the equivalent to cheers, á votre santé or prost! To your health. As you can imagine, after partaking in such a sociable custom as gang bei quite a few times, you become far more talkative and the sense of perceived wit and relevance reaches new heights. This is when the talk about the project for two towers and adjoining buildings on the banks of the Qiantang in Hangzhou comes to its orchestral climax. Speakers utter a stream of frenzied sentences which never seem to reach a conclusion. These sentences are punctuated by an exact choreography of hands accompanied by a gesticulating of arms, appearing to wave to someone in the distance. But nothing could be further from the truth, because the focus of attention and comments is several drawings and models of the aforementioned towers scaled down from a height of 220 m. These fit quite easily on the table surrounded by clear evidence of a sumptuous meal. Beaming from ear to ear, one of the speakers is saying over and over again how much he likes the shape of the towers and their elusive way of relating to one another. His words are accompanied by an incessant twisting of hands, which reminds one of the diners of a very well-known dance. Suddenly, the word FLAMENCO escapes from his lips. That’s it. It’s just like flamenco. Everything else flows out naturally and thus the buildings become the FLAMENCO TOWERS.
Alongside the technical development and assessment of requirements, the human element or personal relationships turned out to be fundamental to christening the project in such a way that the name itself, FLAMENCO TOWERS, provided new drive and a fresh, energising point of reference for the project. From then on, there was a clear, powerful image which inspired both those who saw the project for the first time and those who were developing it.
The chosen site is the Yangtze River Delta, which is one of the largest urban areas in the world with a population of over 80 million. The region includes two provinces with two of the highest GNPs in the country, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, as well as the municipality of Shanghai, which is the main city in the region. Other important cities are Nanjing and Hangzhou, followed by the smaller Ningbo.
All together, the urban area is made up of 14 municipalities with a high degree of autonomy. Shanghai’s dominance is undisputed, but the other municipalities are continuously competing against each other to attract capital so they can expand. The FLAMENCO TOWERS are in Hangzhou.
Hangzhou lies 180 kilometres southwest of Shanghai and can be reached by road, motorway, or high-speed train. A planned magnetic levitated railway will reduce the journey time between the two cities to 28 minutes and connect Hangzhou to Pudong International Airport.
Being so close to each other has meant Shanghai and Hangzhou have a long tradition of complementing one another – the former as an ideal of urban management and the latter as an example of how to conserve the countryside, culture and history.
In this respect, Hangzhou has committed itself to a brand of urban growth which recognises the value of the countryside and history which have characterised it, particularly as regards its famed West Lake. In order to reduce congestion in the present city centre around the lake, new land has been sought out along the banks of the River Qiantang. The official slogan is Urban development to the east, tourist development to the west. Effort is thus being made to preserve the beauty which attracts over 12 million visitors every year by focussing development along the river in the districts of Binjiang and Xiaoshan. Growth in Binjiang, where the airport is located, is turning the district into a new urban centre, a bridge between Xiaoshan and the city which grew around the West Lake. This is the precise strategic position of FLAMENCO TOWERS.
FLAMENCO TOWERS are planned to be built along the riverside in Binjiang, with their 55 storeys reaching 220 m in height and the 4 storeys underground adding a further 12 m. The project will be carried out in two phases, which together will account for a built-up area of 125,000 m2. One of the initial towers is being developed into a hotel and spa covering 35,000 m2 and the other one will provide a mixture of residential apartments and offices covering 25,000 m2. The plaza which joins the two together will hold a shopping area of over 15,000 m2. The second phase will include four additional residential towers of varying heights covering an area over 48,000 m2, which will form a complex around the towers. The whole complex will be interconnected via the parking facilities and the shopping area.
The final project is not completely etched in stone yet, however. This is where balloons come into the story along with a return to the human element in the shape of the Mayor of Hangzhou. Anxious to preserve its realm, the city’s government is thinking of preventing high buildings from being observed from the lake.  To do so, they have come up with the idea of raising balloons to the same height as the planned towers in the area where they are to be built. If a balloon is seen while a city official is rowing quite peacefully on the lake, then the building has to be a few storeys lower. If nothing is seen, the building can go ahead as planned. We are thus hoping for the city’s characteristic fog to appear, which usually reduces visibility to less than 200 m, so that any of the city’s fathers who happens to be rowing on the lake won’t see the balloon which symbolises FLAMENCO TOWERS. Let’s hope it has the flamenco spirit.

Ready to build


In the world of fashion, the tailor gave way to prêt-à-porter some time ago. As regards cooking and food, we stopped harvesting our own vegetables even further in the past and progressed to shopping in the market, where the vendors cry out may I help you darling?. To top it all, shortly afterwards, cartoon characters arrived on the scene, who popped hoy poy capsules into their mouths to quench their thirst without needing to pause for breath.
The same approach could be applied to the field of architecture, of course. Let’s see if it will work. We are currently launching such a system to see what happens, to see how people react, to see how things pan out.
The Tower Catalogue is a set of ready-to-build buildings. Let us explain. A range of towers has been created from on-going research into high-rise buildings in our LAB workshop. These have a basic pre-design which can be developed further in accordance with a building’s specific location or requirements.
Layouts for the towers in the catalogue have already been completed to an initial stage involving formal definition and a structural survey. This enables construction to be started more quickly than if a project had to be started completely from scratch. As initial work has already been carried out, the only aspects still in need of definition are those related to the final use of the building and the structural requirements arising from its specific location with regard to climate, style and urban planning.
Flamenco Towers are the first buildings to be built based on our LAB workshop research. Their origins are to be found in a study which sought to investigate the types of relationship which could be established between different towers built together in group. The final shape and the way the buildings are accessed were finalised at the very moment a client appeared who required a building which matched the potential offered by designs featured in our study. The way we first personalised the project, the first thing we did after initial discussions with the client, was to christen them the FLAMENCO TOWERS …. From then on, work started on the project to satisfy requirements with regard to its functional purpose, the urban surroundings, the climate …. in short, it began to develop and grow.

Our mujer in Havana


ADD+ meets up in Cuba. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. How a story can be created, invented, dreamt up from a few little details, hints, or rumours. Dirty tricks while flirting, being coquettish. Taking the game seriously, sifting reality through a sieve even more biased towards the host than a Champions League referee may be.
ADD+ invents programmes for itself, invents projects and invents clients. From a few scraps of information which others would throw to the chickens, ADD+ cooks up plots which ridicule the Maginot line of castles in the air and whose next link will sketch the Great Wall across the sky in China.
From a conscientious, meticulous gaze, ADD+ rediscovers something which appears, if not by coincidence, then a little unobtrusively, and very often manages to re-find itself. Travelling through Cuba, ADD+ discovers itself in the way Cuban women concoct some kind of relationship based on a glance cast by squinty, frantic eyes underlined with a touch of lust and lechery which greedily try to embrace a burst of curves.
Feigning disinterest, although it took a great hard work to get you to where you are, you thus find yourself with a project of your life without you under discussion, demanding to be called into existence at every stroke of the pen and through discreet babbling over the phone. ADD+, our woman in Havana. You said we’d get to know each other first. I am an honest woman and let me be quite clear. I am a lady in my own house.
They even expect you to cook.

Ceramics in motion for ASCER


When they called us to propose working with ceramics, the first question which came to mind was – What can’t you do with ceramics? It’s most probably a strange question to ask, but that’s what we thought. Anyway, that’s how we started thinking about what a material represents , a material of any type. This led us to believe that materials are pretty real substances which are very reluctant to be absorbed by the latest trends. In other words, there are no old-fashioned, passé or avant-garde materials. However, there are avant-garde, old-fashioned or slipshod uses of materials. Just like people – bad people as such probably don’t exist, but there are horrifying deeds, actions, and attitudes. You may not experience them, but they do exist.
Let’s get to the point – ceramics don’t move. Music can’t be seen. Our dreams won’t come true. We pause to weep for a moment …. Stop now. The Quartet of electric motors in 3.5-1 m, opus 1, known as Ceramics in motion, is a proposed project which gives physical shape to an imaginary mental space in the form of a ceramic surface interpreted by four 1,000 W electric motors which move the surface at a pace of 1 m every 30 seconds. The two front motors move along a space of 3.5 m while the two rear motors move along a space of 1 m. Thus begins a gentle, cyclic choreography confined by the limitations of the material, where the motors play at waiting for one another, at getting ahead and re-finding one another in order to show that ceramics don’t have a fixed time in space either. Now the ceramics move, music becomes visible and a mental space materialises before our very eyes . E pur si muove!

WHERE: Casa Decor 2007. Antigua fábrica Fabra i Coats, Segre 30, 08030 Barcelona.
WHAT IT IS: The ASCER show pavilion.
WHAT IT IS LIKE: A surface of ceramic tesserae which rises and folds on itself with the help of four motors which guide its movement .
There are seven main parts of 92 x 10000 cm, each made up of sub-parts of 92×92 cm in a sequence of 4+2+4. Tesserae have been attached to each of these subparts on 9 30.5×30.5 cm sheets. The substructure of all these main parts and subparts is made up of a 5×5 cm mesh of 4 mm rods soldered together. A 8×40 mm rail has been soldered to this mesh to hold the seven main parts together in a line.
This mesh hangs from 4 pulleys which can hold 1,500 kg each, making a total of 6,000 kg . The pulleys are controlled by an automaton and cover a distance which varies between 3.5 and 1 m. They are situated 4.40 m above the ground on a steel trestle made of 4 HEB-300 pillars and 4 IPE-300 beams. Just to make really sure.
This whole framework forms a structure of 22,680 tesserae with 13,608 more tesserae attached directly to the ground, making a total of 36,288 tesserae . Each one of them is 50×50 mm in MC-19 white, is called Logos and is made by Equipe.

Manila shawl Plus



Where are you going in a Manila shawl?
Where are you going in a chiné dress?

To show myself off and see the verbena,
and later go off to my bed.

And why did you not come with me
after I pleaded with you so much?

Because I am going to pay at the chemist’s
for the things you made me suffer.

And who is that most handsome lad
you’re going out with afterwards?

A person of dignity and
honour who is just how he should be.

And what if it didn’t please me
for you to take his arm?

Then I’d go with him to the verbena
and to the bullfight at Carabanchel.

That so? We’ll see about that right now.

(He throw himself at Hilarión to beat him,
the girls hold him back and shout.)
Manila Shawl, to show off and see the verbena.

Where are you going in a manila shawl? Well … The history of the Manila Shawl is the story of a one-way journey which now returns as the thread of a song. Where are you going in a chiné dress? Because …. the Manila Shawl is the story of a journey and is also the story of how cultures very distant in time and space are able to communicate with another and exchange characteristics. Manila Shawl displays a surprising link between the most immemorial of Chinese traditions and one of the most authentic Spanish garments. In the 16th century Spanish merchants in Manila were fascinated by the silk shawls brought by Chinese merchants and shipped them to Spain along the Philippines-Seville sea route via Acapulco. From that moment on these garments, originally Chinese, became known throughout the world as Spanish shawls or Manila shawls. The world is all mixed up and turned inside out, a perfect hybrid where flower motifs grow in size and adapt to the native flora with roses, irises, carnations, sunflowers … and lotus, so as not to lose the hint of the orient which gave, gives and will continue to give it an exotic touch which its success is based on. Because, after all, that Manila Shawl does want to go to the Shanghai Expo in 2010 to show itself off and see the verbena and perhaps not go off to its bed later.

Silk Fabric, construction and post-Expo strategy
The long voyage started with ancient technology which extracted threads from the cocoons made by silkworm larvae without damaging them. Here it has now become a process where a modular, prefabricated fabric is produced. The structured surface is based on hendecagons which form a grid over spaces. A series of equal-sized pieces made of thin metal bars make up the structural space of the building, walls, framing and supports. The hendecagons are webbed over with aluminium and glass panels on the outside, thus showing the structural fabric on the inside of the building. The result is a surface which on the outside imitates the sensual movement of a Manila Shawl draped over the shoulders of a gracefully dressed Sevillana woman, now crystallising in a texture which suddenly vibrates due to its way of reflecting light.
The building uses a prefabricated system with individual pieces being assembled on site. This enables thorough checks to be carried out and work to be completed very quickly while also allowing the building to be taken down without damage to its parts once the event has finished. In order to recycle the raw material used, there is a scheme to reuse the hendecagons in structures throughout Spain once the exhibition is finished, something which is possible thanks to the system’s versatility.  They could end up part of a sculpture on a roundabout, a bus shelter, a tourist office, or a sports centre.

Shanghai Expo 2010. In operation.
The proposed building will be built on the Expo site and will provide a large amount of shade to protect the public area and the more public, more animated areas of the exhibition. Wide escalators will take the visitor up to the upper level, which houses a large, transverse atrium which overlooks the river. The atrium leads to three large areas. On one side are three exhibition halls –  a fourth hall is situated on the ground floor to enable visitors to tour all four by walking around from the inside to the outside or the other way round. On another side are the smaller rooms for facilities such as offices, storerooms, toilets and changing rooms. The remaining side houses another escalator to access the top level, a large balcony overlooking the atrium which sometimes acts as a foyer for the function, press and multipurpose rooms. The function room can be merged with the press room to create a large open room surrounded by vibrant roof pillars.

Memoria centro interpretación Palma


Mediterranean Sea
Latitude: 39.35 N
Longitude: 2.39 E
Palma de Mallorca
Balearic Archipelago

The new Centre of Interpretation in Palma’s old town and its link to the open public space of El Baluarte del Príncipe and the Porta d’es Camp Square rise up from the sea shore, just as they were conceived.
The Centre of Interpretation seeks to be part of the shore and thus takes reference from purity and innocence barely 120 metres away – from the delight of a few children crouching down, fascinated as they observe how the waves cross the sand around shells they have carefully placed in the wet ground after satisfying their eager desire to collect surprisingly similar, yet surprisingly different mysterious objects.

The stretch of land is furrowed by a hollow which crosses Gabriel Alomar Vilallonga Avenue diagonally to reach Baluarte del Príncipe. The hollow thus forms a very natural link between these two elements in such a way that the link becomes a new area of activity between the three centres being developed. It is accessed from the sea front via a gentle ramp, thus avoiding a strenuous climb of 2m. On the city side of the hollow, partially covered and on the exterior, are the Visitors’ Welcome Centre and the Centre of Interpretation. Here use is made of the difference in height between the sea front and Joan Maragall street to offer a large reception area and a direct link via escalators and lifts to Joan Maragall street, from where the centre can also be entered directly from the city itself. This side also houses the Palma Observatory Headquarters, an independent institution, but directly related to the two other centres.
On the sea side of the hollow is the Centre for Enterprises and Commercial Innovation, which includes its two more open spaces on the lower level and its more compartmentalised ones above street level along the sea front. However, the top only just reaches the height of Joan Maragall street, meaning it boasts sea views from the upper level of the premises.
The lower level offers a large parking area for cars and buses, which is directly linked by stairs and lifts to the foyers in the different centres.

The fascination of the children, some inhabitants of the old city, some visitors who stroll through the upper streets of the city, others travellers who fly over the city, or users who look to the sky through shells with the same fascination, all see how an amalgamation of mysterious pieces sketched by Haeckel, similar, yet all different, cover a dynamic, interconnected, harmonised space which lets the light from the Mediterranean filter through between its ribs.

Alísia, money is no problem


Relax! I relax. Breathe deeply! I breathe deeply I haul myself up and wham! I’m inside. Not such a big deal. I sit on a swivel stool and wait, passing the time browsing through a little advertising and drops in interest rates. I look at myself in the polished walls, so very shiny that they reflect back an image which looks a little enlarged to me. There’s a trick to this. I don’t think I’m that big. I swing round on the stool again and can’t stop myself from shouting out Three pints, 35,000 pounds and a packet of crisps, John. In the background I think I can hear the all-familiar “Coming up!” from further down the bar. Well, the truth is, after the beer and the packet of crisps, my three-figure order means I have to sit down on a levitating sofa, which carries me up to a cloud where I relax. Relaaax. One of John’s female colleagues talks to me seductively and I can only agree and ask four insignificant questions. Well, that’s what I believed, but what do you know? One of them made Alí$ia smile. That’s how I like to remember what she is called. She invited me to enter a large armchair – yes, enter – which encircled me, her and somebody else who was taking notes. All settled nicely down inside, we finished doing what needed to be done and everybody was satisfied. So, it was already quite clear to me that money, money in the strictest of sense of the word, is no problem.

El chotis del feo aka the ugly man’s Schottische


My turn to dance with ugliest girl at the ball again. Pluck up courage and put on a brave face. When things are left half done, they need to be completed, changed around and have a cherry placed on top, always a morello. More hotels. We can hear the till ringing. Unbelievable. Begrudgingly we watched how the ugliest guys managed to get all the prettiest girls, Agustin Lara and someone called Sinatra. Bankcards slide easily across the slot at the point of sale terminal. Me, on the other hand, the Gran, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, am left with my tongue hanging out. Put it back in, you pleb.
As always, little can be touched, little can be changed, but everything has to look different, neat and functional. Sheesh, what a load of rubbish. We ask ourselves, why they don’t knock on our door before coming in, instead of going around looking for something they’ll have to change later? I’ve seen fat guys and thin guys use my talent, like walking arm-in-arm with a monument. I’d love to be ugly, so I could parade down the street with a sweet baby on my arm.
Here we find ourselves in a solid building which is pure Madrid, very Castillian brick. Time decided to brick in with a pavilion tacked over several floors. A big surprise and a frown, what do you expect from a client who walks in carrying their own supplies? That’s enough! I like to get things in order. Something else. I don’t whether it’s a good or bad thing, but for dining they intend to have a lounge with no sunlight, no air, nothing. They call it El Atemporal due to its lack of seasons, of fallen leaves, blooming flowers, warbling birds, and bawling taxi drivers. A cave, shelter from a non-existent war, with no wailing sirens, or thundering planes. And the famous expression goes “From Madrid to the heavens”. More floors there are sure to be. Go upstairs? No, that’s enough for today. I’m going to find myself a cosmetic surgeon. One who will change my angelic features. With my new face I’ll certainly be able to show off the sweetest babies on my arm and women will say I’m an Adonis when I dance a perfect Schottische with them tightly around a brick.
Although science is advancing at an incredible rate, inspiration comes from strolling around. And there it is, the Gate of Alcalá. You can’t miss it. There’s no getting rid of it, just like a traffic policeman stranded and useless on his stand. He keeps waving his arms. Fitful, phlegmatic. Touristy, picturesque, we draw near and the electronic buzz of a cash register can be heard again. What progress! Anyway, the council provides us with subterranean passageways. The car is king. Let it drive on. Great to arrive at the Retiro, a park in the centre! Very Madrid, very Sunday strollers. Well, picturesque, recently very varied and cosmopolitan.  Artists with a stuck-on smile. Over-photographed, overheated costumes. A little dusty in summer, dry soil, fine sand. Unlike when it rains – be careful of the mud.

Uninhibited architecture


Reinventing, approaching people and making constant proposals. That’s how clear things are for the team of architects and industrial designers led by Xavier Claramunt. For them the development process is just as important as the end product. In a desire to offer constant innovation they have just launched a new approach to projects – “Responses”. This initiative joins the disciplines of architecture, interior design, industrial design and jewellery, areas where they have been active since 1990. Besides opening their own office in China in 2005, L’EQUIP Xavier Claramunt also works together with Ferran Adrià, Hospes Hoteles, BMW, Chic&Basic and Cosmic.

Set up in 1990, the company is headed by Xavier Claramunt (Igualada, Catalonia 1965) and operates in the field of architecture, interior design, industrial design and jewellery. It has recently decided to add a further category to these four ares – “Responses”. This is something they refer to as “scale-less” projects. “They are responses to questions which beset our clients when they are attempting to cope with new challenges. Our objective is to put forward an approach which is feasible”.. The initiative was born out of their propensity to come up with new ideas and a project they call “LAB”, as in laboratory. In “LAB” work is carried out on a product or project before a specific client even appears. “Such an approach enables us to improve on responses we have already given to clients’ questions or to prepare ourselves for those which have not yet been asked”. If we compare it to football, it’s like a permanent pre-season warm up which exists in parallel to their daily work”.

LAB has already produced its first creations – a proposed project for a hotel in space – Galactic Suite – and the initial study for a hotel in an underwater habitat – Sea Suite. “These are projects which we develop without having a specific client who has requested it from us. They are proposals we look into when we discover a need which has not yet been covered”. The new LAB strategy has become the way in which L’EQUIP provides opportunities to try out new strategies and to open up new approaches. It exists alongside the responsibilities and urgencies of daily work, because as Xavier Claramunt says, “We are also a company which supplies products with a clear objective – with a client and project in mind. Raw materials must be practicable, deadlines must be met. In the world of so-called reality there’s a reasonable established tendency to steer clear of risk”.

Amongst its many projects those which particularly stand out are the BMW showroom in Sabadell (finalist in the FAD awards), the hotel Chic&Basic Born in Barcelona, the Casa Mur in Igualada or the annexes for the Hotel Hospes Palacio de los Patos in Granada and Hospes Maricel on Mallorca. In industrial design they are working on the FACES collection for top chef Ferran Adrià, for whom they have just presented Frankie silverware. They have also developed bathroom fittings, sets of taps and bathroom accessories. Since 1990, when they began working for DuchClaramunt, they have been designing jewellery whose potential lies in the search for “the user’s implication in the formalisation of the jewellery. More than pieces of jewellery, they are tools for generating pieces”, according to this innovative architect.

Their approach to work
All projects carried out by L’EQUIP Xavier Claramunt are based on three premises which trigger them into action – reinvention, approaching people and constant proposals, all of them free from inhibition. As they explain, “The first premise is constant reinvention in the way of understanding things. We review everything unreservedly, from the developed product to attitudes to work and process management. The second is the desire to approach people with products which inspire them into action and are useful to them. The third is a proposal strategy for redefining concepts and strategies which offer us explanations and enable us to produce new products”. These premises are strictly adhered to in LAB. When a client appears, the process is enhanced without neglecting preceding ideas or the prejudice-free approach to work. “We start on all approaches together with the client, analysing the information provided to learn enough about needs and thus generate proposals which fit in with requirements.” According to Xavier Claramunt, “establishing an approach to work defines the final shape”.
Being able to work on different scales means they are completely flexible. Architecture and interior design enables them to understand the concept of space. Industrial design provides them with contact to industry and thus ensures project viability and development of innovative techniques. Jewellery helps them to learn about materials so they can handle them properly and use them in an appropriate way. These three approaches have been joined by “Responses”, which are referred to as scale-less projects.

For just over a year now the company has had a permanent technical office in China. They are open when talking about the difficulties such a new challenge presents, As they say, “What we have learnt is that in China everything moves at a very slow pace and it’s essential to lay the groundwork well in advance. It’s a difficult road due to the country’s bureaucracy, but once partners are found for projects everything is much easier”. They went as they are convinced that “for something to happen you have to actually be there”. At the present moment they have reached the planning stage for shopping malls and hotel complexes. In line with their concept of re-reading situations and making proposals, they are looking at projects ranging from the manufacture of a pre-fabricated facade in China which would then be put up in Barcelona to prefabricated modules for the hotels they are building throughout Spain.

When faced with the question of how they understand the concept of innovation, L’EQUIP Xavier Claramunt explains that for them “innovation is the area where an idea and the way to approach such an idea can be found. Thus, on one level, our idea of innovation resides in proposing products or spaces which are an invitation to do something, which urge people to interact with both the product and other people. The end objective is activity”. But as they are convinced that for an idea to be innovative it must be put into practice, they add “Our strategy – which to a certain extent is an innovation – is to become involved in projects as partners. In this respect, besides existing as architects or consultants, we also want to be present at all stages and have a say and able to vote on all the decisions”. For the architect this is the only way a project is enhanced instead of diminishing in value along the way from its conception to its actual realisation. “If we are getting a little sensitive, it’s no longer a case of being our children, rather we’re talking about it being a part of ourselves”.

Ideas for empowerment
– Always act while leaving inhibitions aside.
– Constant reinvention in the approach to understanding things – review everything unreservedly, from the developed product to attitudes to work and process management.
– Approach people – propose products which inspire them into action and are useful.
– Offer proposals – redefine concepts so they explain new products to us. Redefine strategies to adapt them to new situations as they appear.

my dearest Mr and Mrs TOWERS


the friend of a friend of a particular relative who knows somebody one should know, and who today speaks to the right person, who just happens to be in a good mood.  From Xavier Claramunt to Josep Maria Grau via Joaquim Vilar after a recommendation from Antonio Hospes Pérez.

We are architects, but we also work in the fields of industrial design and jewellery. We modestly seek to give meaning to objects for the people who will use them.

We want to build a TOWER, and the Colonial Group is capable of building not one, but many more Towers.  That’s all we want. We’re ready and waiting.

The experience of working in different areas provides us with technical knowledge and our own criteria in many more fields than most architecture studios.

We have been undergoing training in those fields we consider to be fundamental in influencing people’s well-being. These have all involved both technical and human approaches: architecture, industrial design and jewellery. We now consider the moment has arrived for us to bring all these disciplines together in the single design and structure of a TOWER.
A TOWER is an integrated design. A TOWER is like an opera. Skills and knowledge are required on a variety of scales – large things, small things, consciously – but it’s also essential to know how to coordinate. Sensitivity and technique.

In the past we were not afraid of developing our presence in such different disciplines. Now we are moving ahead, pestering everyone and anyone so they can help us to bring them all together. So far we have made two strategic moves:
First, opening a technical office in China which works on a personal level with the offices of Hou Teh Chien to put forward proposals for commercial buildings in Beijing and Hangzhou.
Secondly, in cooperation with Robert Brufau BOMA we have submitted proposals for TOWERS to a group of property developers in Doha (Qatar).

Now we’re knocking on the door of those who are capable of building a TOWER in Europe, which happens to be you.

Ornamenting the question


Lidl is a European discount supermarket chain of German origin, which has already become established in 17 countries. It specialises in foodstuffs, drinks, cleaning articles and other household items, but no pieces of jewellery as yet. They have limited offers – normally for two or three days – on more expensive items such as electrical appliances, computers or tools, but no pieces of jewellery as yet. Lidl also sells own label products, but it hasn’t dared to sell any pieces of jewellery as yet. According to well-informed sources, the supermarket does all this so as to be able to offer the lowest prices possible, its main objective. Independent studies by consumer organisations have not detected pieces of jewellery amongst Lidl ranges, an item which could very well be offered at a much lower price than other brands. Giving people what they want is not a strategy. To a certain extent, it is a mission and not necessarily one with economic productivity as its only objective.

What is a jewel?
It’s an authentic piece which transmits a sense of well-being to the person who is wearing it and, above all, it engages them in communication.

What do you believe will be the jewel of the future?
It will most probably be a piece which contains information technology, something related to the potential of internet which enables people to communicate with one another. The piece of the future is one which engages the user, activates them and urges them to communicate with others. It’s a PIN which opens doors.

How would you define the current situation with regard to jewellery in Catalonia? Why has it come to such a situation?
The second question already gives away the fact that a gloomy answer is expected to the first one. Well, regardless of this to some extent, and very much as a result of it, I’m glad I’ve been asked this question. In the present situation outdated models have become exhausted. Thinking of a piece of jewellery as a unique piece and as something based on precious materials and on originality due to craftsmanship has no future in society.The future lies in communicating, making things social, sharing.
We have come to such a situation due to a certain persistence in insisting on a traditional characteristic of ornamentation – its uniqueness. It’s a restrictive idea, obsolete, something which belongs in a museum.

Do you think the sector is modernising itself?
No. It revolves around outdated criteria and efforts to modernise – which are, in fact, many – are focussed on approaches to management and not on putting forward a much-needed, new idea of jewellery.

Which path must jewellery take into the future?
First of all, calling itself ornamentation rather than jewellery as doing so will open up the field and prevent it from being restricted to an exclusive circle of people. The future of jewellery lies in creating pieces which are more like tools for making contact with other people and not like a beacon which announces the presence of a self-complacent ego. It lies more in pieces which multiply and bring about communication. A piece you buy in one place will also be accessible in another place or for other people, and will incorporate a way to establish contact. It’s here where information technologies should be used. An iPod or a mobile are pieces containing identity and communication. Such trends should be taken up by the world of traditional jewellery-ornamentation. But it’s not a case of embedding a diamond into an MP3 player, rather the piece which serves as an ornamentation for an individual should be a means of communication. It is shared with others, maybe many others.

What is your contribution to the sector?
Up to now ornamentation was a way to display social status. Jewels indicated the class to which the person wearing the piece belonged. DuchClaramunt has been saying for years that ornamentation is more related to the feelings inside a person and that the user’s interaction with the piece should be an unavoidable option.  Ornamentation is a way in which people can feel good. We could say that the thing which is related to people’s well-being today is a mixture between technology and sharing. In short, ornamentation is communication. DuchClaramunt is preparing a piece of ornamentation which will be on sale at newsstands. It is designed to reach the largest number of people in the greatest number of places possible without restricting it to one country. It’s a bracelet which is activated once it has been purchased, thus opening up the possibility of communicating with its twin piece which will have been purchased by somebody else in another place, which may be faraway. The piece offers an identity, but it also signifies belonging to a group and the chance to communicate with other members in the group. The concept of a jewel being something unique should be turned on its head and ornamentation should convert such a concept into a sign of identity which brings people together, leading them to a place where many people feel good and feel good together in a community. The newsstand bracelet is a tool for sociability.

Interactivity and family


Marco Polo was an explorer, so was Ali Bey. They were pioneers who dared to go where very few people had ever been before and then went on to publicise their travels and talk about them. There were many who travelled in the past, but only a few of them actually managed to make a record so that we could learn from them. They wrote about their actual travels, not the mere act of travelling, as there were also many others who used to simply travel, just like we continue to do so today.
When starting to think about the hotels we have to build, we decided to look back not at historic hotel architecture, its large or small buildings, and its architectural styles, but rather look at the individuals who travelled in former times. It was then we realised there was a difference between what we could call a traveller and what we now call a tourist. An aspect which caught our attention most and which we decided to recapture by adapting it to our circumstances and times, is the active character of a person who journeys about the world, the traveller, as opposed the more passive tendency of following established routes and routines as a tourist. Our latest projects thus revolve around returning a type of protagonism to people which goes beyond the tendency to treat them as someone who has to be led by the hand and considers them as discerning individuals capable of enjoying an activity. This is where the concept of interactivity appears, an idea we want to transfer to our hotels. This is not only to provide stimuli which will lead to responses being produced, but, more importantly, also to supply tools such as spaces, possibilities and times so that people can interact both with inanimate objects which surround them and with other people they come across in a place such as a hotel.
To turn from the more ethereal to something more urban, let us start by making notes about the role of light and interactivity. We might accept that if something cannot be seen, then it has no reason to exist. Now you see it, now you don’t. On this basis, light is fundamental, not only to make a certain atmosphere real, but also to establish the type of sensation it has in relation to the colour objects reflect. Once such a situation is established, our aim is to give the traveller the chance not only to experience different lighting ambiences, but also to exercise control over them. It should be added that the starting point is always the person and not the room, so in a double room both guests should have the opportunity to exercise separate control over the ambience. If there are two controls, it is bound to produce some kind of dilemma, which irresistibly leads to some kind of communication. Neither impositions or suggestions are accepted, the basis of communication is an action. In this sense there is a certain preoccupation with sustaining the functioning of the hotel, which is based on making the guest the protagonist. Actions traditionally carried out by hotel staff may be left to the guest. For instance, room service actually becomes a self-service area, or an open buffet as it were, where contact is encouraged between guests from different rooms. We regard this as another level of interactivity. It’s not a question of making customers work, rather it is providing them greater control over their environment and providing them with the opportunity to act.
Giving such freedom to the guest means some ideas we have about spaces inside a hotel are brought into confusion as regards fixed elements and mobile ones. This is what we could call the concept of a single-doored hotel. This means the only true door is the one which divides the street from the hotel interior. From there on, more than finding closed spaces and more doors, you will have the possibility of attaining greater intimacy without losing contact with the whole. This leads us to the fact spaces are multifunctional to a certain extent, a third level of interactivity, meaning corridors accept their role as an anteroom for bedrooms and stairways allow for peaceful conversation.
Last of all, the urban character of the building shouldn’t be lost, the indisputable fact that it lies within the city. Just as people should have the tools to interact, the building should also try to establish some kind of communication with the urban context. Coming inside from the outside street, there will always be hotel cafes, or now the healthy trend to recover the tradition of hotel restaurants. This is a strategy which helps to sustain quality cuisine combined with a clientele of travellers staying alongside other travellers or residents in the city. It is a way to reduce the sense of isolation with respect to guests in a hotel. Going outside the hotel from the inside strategies may appear to communicate not the presence of the hotel, but rather the fact that activities are carried out inside. From less to more and going back to little, just like the different lighting ambiences in the room being changed according to the mood of the guests staying in them are transferred to the areas of circulation in order to participate in their changing light configuration, the same light can be noticed from the street, thus involving the passer-by a little in the traveller’s place.

How to make so-called rough or composite models


First of all, a series of premises are set out as a starting point, which should, theoretically, govern the research.
Regardless of what the governing part seeks to propose, the premises are interpreted by the performer, the servant, in the following way:
We have a mass or a certain something which is wrapped around the essence or core in question. The objective is to reach inside what is under the wrapping, and to find how to bring light to it, how to proliferate the light and diffuse it.  The next step is how to stop this light, how to deliver it.
The same strategy could be applied to light as to smell, sound and humidity.
Images will immediately come to mind long before modelling begins. The first rough attestation is created from the point of view of the governing part, where the performer will set out to search for such objectives independently from the process.  But curiosity is not subject to rational control and they say that’s the way cats get killed. Meow.
Four courses of action are considered.
The mass and its cracks. Poking about, sculpting and having Superman’s power of vision which allows you to see even through kryptonite. Second recrimination due to a whole series of actions without any apparent sense or adjectives, which denote an escapist attitude and lack of commitment.  Material: wax
The columned mouth or the toothless room, which more than a course of action is like a drawing where the mass is regarded as an accumulation of elements which become evident due to the absence of some or many of them from where you expected to find them. Material: card
The colander eclipse finds its origins in the notion that the moon has tubes, holes or something similar running through it, meaning it fails in its attempt to block the Sun’s rays as they make their way to earth, but, in turn, this attempt becomes a triumph with the success of Saturday Night Fever.  Material: alginate
The engine in a Cherokee, or how such an accumulation of contrasting elements make up content and a continent at the same time.  In other words, depending on how far you are involved, you don’t know whether the jumble is being hidden or the jumble is hiding something. The performer has always been surprised by the fact that, despite being an accumulation of elements standing apart from one another, not a single wave of light manages to get through. The engine from a Seat Marbella will not suffice. Material: Internet

1. the mass and its cracks.
The first step consists in going down to a shop run by Orientals at three o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and looking for wax. Two types of candles are chosen – one of them stands out due to its colour and size. The other is completely inconspicuous – acquired just because it is white and to see what happens. The shop assistant says it is very beautiful and very cheap as he points to a clearly useless metal holder at the candle base.
One. The large one is circular, green. In parts it looks translucent, but this cannot be proven. Perhaps it is just our imagination.  It also gives off an aroma.  It has three wicks, meaning three flames came be alight at the same time. The performer looks at it and smells it.  He takes a pair of tweezers and removes two of the wicks carefully, leaving a tunnel which passes all the way through the candle. The third wick won’t come out, so it is lit and the wax melts. If we are patient, it may just leave another hole through the candle.
Conclusion: With regard to light: mass may not be opaque, and if pressure is put on the performer, it could be said that the candle can give off light itself.  With regard to smell: the material itself gives off a smell which hasn’t been added to it, but is rather a constituent part of its characteristics and can be stimulated, that is to say, regulated to a certain extent.  With regard to access: the candle becomes perforated as some of its components, the wicks, are removed.
Two. The small candles. They are released from their cellophane wrapping and the sky blue bow. They are examined carefully and as the performer cannot think of any use for them, they are placed in the waste paper basket. Tweezers are used once more to remove the wicks – successfully in one case, a failure in the other. This time a complete tunnel is not achieved. The performer takes a Stanley knife and tries to cut through one of the candles – surprise – a wall on the outside and one on the inside. One is made of wax, which gives it shape and covers the outside surface. The other is made of a synthetic material which acts as a filler.  We take a tin soldering iron and start to melt the filler in order to reconstruct the skin again afterwards. Filled beforehand, now empty.
The wax which melts solidifies quickly. A receptacle is made where the wax falls. Several perforations are made in the receptacle so it will be more stable on the table, but – or surprisingly – the wax partially leaks through until it blocks up the holes itself, a victim of its own success.
Once the mass is hollowed out, we put it up against the light and can see little. We are going to perforate. We look for an instrument which will enable us to make small perforations and we find a brass rod.  We heat it and focus our efforts a while on piercing one of the candle walls.
We construct a template so as to make the process less haphazard. However, the template is actually designed with the slight intention of creating two highly perforated areas, the rest less so and more random to a certain extent.   We perforate the other side directly with the hot tip of the soldering iron.
Conclusion: Perforations reveal the thickness of things and they also make us think about what is behind and the existence of places on the other side. By knocking gently we may discover that there may be something on the other side – instead of sounding hollow, an aria may burst out.
2. the columned mouth or the toothless room
One. The volume is added to. The aim is for it to be a certain three dimensional shape – above, below, to the right and to the left. Two horizontal planes made of card are set up and are joined together using three pieces of two different widths.  Each plane will have a minimum of two sets of three pieces of different lengths which will join it to the two planes at different distances. Three planes are perforated with circular holes. The groups of vertical pieces define the different areas like a cage, where little pieces of silver foil are placed.  If the paper is blown upon, it moves and makes a noise.
Conclusion: adding elements and holes defines areas, but without confining them. The openings which are made into the space itself help to deceive perception. This is the way to win the game. The planes accompany the light, particularly when they are linked to a perforation. The perforations on different levels may not be facing one another, so light enters in a more indirect way, thus making perception of the space more complicated.
Two. Between the mass, the adding of volume and the preconception of the moon being a colander, several sheets are perforated.  Certain areas are designated to be perforated generously, but without trying to achieve perfect alignment of the holes between the different sheets. Two sheets are covered by smooth silver foil on one side, a third one with crumpled silver foil.  A base is constructed with grooves at different distances – some are parallel, others are not – in order to be able to fit the sheets and see the latticed effect of the misaligned holes.
Conclusion: Making additions adds volume, but multiple perforations add air, so it isn’t a volume which is stifling. The slatted effect doesn’t have to be permanent, it can be modified. The walls can be alive. Light and perception can be changed at will, or randomly, or controlled by a complex system (such as the day).
3. the colander eclipse
The moon is a colander. In 1 we had a mass on which we performed different actions. Now we are going to do the reverse (the performer would say “a slight reverse”, knowing full well that the governing part considers the expression as a sign of insecurity) and the incisions or perforations are going to be planned beforehand.  A user-friendly, quick-setting liquid material – alginate – is used as well as translucent materials which are also edible – sweets, jelly beans. In this way slight expectation is created. Several tests are carried out. A. Different coloured jelly beans are placed in contact with the formwork (a plastic cup). Their position is adjusted with needles. Some jelly beans are placed at different distances from the perimeter. B. « Bridges » are made by stringing jelly beans together side by side, adjusting their position with needles. We ensure the skewered jelly beans are different colours. The performer manages to prick himself several times. C. Several tubes are put in place using needles, which will go through the mass.  D. Different tubes.  Jelly beans are positioned in the inside part, some just touching the tubes, others have the tubes running through them.
It’s possible to see how light comes through the coloured pathway of jelly beans. As you look through some of the tubes, colour can be seen at the end. The jelly beans seem to be dissolving, possibly as a reaction to the alginate.
Conclusion: intuition of “walled” elements gives a feeling of thickness in matter.  Light can be delivered, but at the same time it’s as if we become its baggage which it takes inside.  It’s also possible to think of a formwork which has disappeared instead of a missing formwork. This is somewhat like a technique for a constructor of pyramids, or like using ice as a dead weight in the Sahara Desert.
4. the engine in a Cherokee
We search for electric and combustion engines on the internet. We also open up the hood on a Cherokee Unlimited and a Grand Cherokee. This time we only look. The different elements such as tubes, metal boxes and bars go in and out, they duck into the jumble of metals and plastics only to come out again a few centimetres further along. Or then again, not. Their rounded edges prevent it from being perceived as a solid mass. They all seem to be elements millimetrically apart from one another.
While undertaking research we come up against a brain with all its protuberances, its grey matter, its shadows and its areas of activity.  They are different in each person, different according to the sun which shines upon it. 
Conclusion: Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between content and continent, between what is hidden and what it is hiding. There is team work here.
Roughness gives a vast feeling of heaviness, of seriousness, particularly if curved shapes predominate.
The outcome is:
Composite: composite: made up of disparate or separate parts or elements; compound. A picture, photograph, or the like, that combines several separate pictures. 

Pocket words


The starting points for our projects are not pre-established schemes which predetermine the final shape, rather they consist of ideas, concepts. These generate processes and systems which, once a particular need is covered, go on to find the next solution of their own accord. We thus understand how a tub, a peg, a tactile quality, an empty space, a face-to-face encounter, or bobbin lace can generate any kind of object. All that remains is to study what the object signifies as such, what its qualities are and redefine it. A new conception of the object emerges from this re-reading, thus giving it a new form.

The system is rooted in a constant revision of the way of understanding things, reinterpreting their qualities. The key factor here is that this represents a work tool which allows us to tackle a design on any scale, from a piece of jewellery to an urban planning project. It is thus understood that the same system can be used to find solutions for such apparently diverse designs – the qualities of a theatre curtain and its folds emerge as the Peça-Teló (“Theatre-Curtain-Piece”); the Termo-Pack gives the user the option of delivering a present hot or cold; the Pica-Container reflects the idea of something we can use to hold hygiene products without getting sprayed or dirty; The Arxiu-Mirador (“Windowed Archive”) in Vilafranca de Penedès came about after studying the concept of an archive and then removing it from the idea of a horizontal container so as to transform it into a windowed-vertical-store; the Cases-Mur i Espiral (the Wall and Spiral Houses) respond to topographical factors through their shape, whereas the Casa-Tub (the Tub House) responds to the geographical direction it faces. 

The system could be explained through POCKET-WORDS, ideas which study and re-understand qualities so they can be transposed into projects. In this respect, we can indeed talk of a pocket where a hand searches around, finds something, is surprised and makes a discovery. Starting from a simple idea, a product of a careful study of conditions, the complete design of the product emerges of its own accord, down to the tiniest of details.

Such a formula reflects a great honesty and greater care towards the object and its user. Leaving completely aside any personal influences on the design, the latter is a product, above all, of careful attention to the needs which the consumer demands, needs which are resolved in POCKET-WORDS.