` 150 AUG 2011 VOL 24 (12)
Focus: Extreme Architecture
understanding new tectonics
IA&B - AUG 2011
Truth, Light and Poetry Alberto Campo Baeza, master architect and architectural thinker talks about the essential nature of his designs in conversation with IA&B. Photograph: courtesy Estudio Alberto Campo Baeza
Spanish architect Alberto Campo Baeza graduated from E.T.S. Arquitectura de Madrid in 1971. Alberto’s architecture celebrates the fundamental forces of design and is driven by logic and functional austerity. Alberto was the Chairman and Professor of Design in Madrid and has taught extensively in schools of the likes of University of Pennsylvania, BAUHAUS, Colombia and Harvard. His highly acclaimed work has been chronicled in journals, exhibitions and monographs. Alberto’s office in Madrid has designed buildings in some of the most significant places in Spain, Europe, North America and Africa. IA&B: How do we define the architecture of Alberto Campo Baeza? ACB: Poetry. I am trying to build very essential architecture, using not more than the precise number of necessary elements to do so, as in poetry. I like to call my architecture poetical. IA&B: You have been a close witness of multiple architectural and political eras. Is your architecture free from its contextual readings? ACB: Truth. We must be the architects of our time. We must open new ways of doing things with our technologies but this does not mean running behind fashion. I try deeply to understand our millennium; to produce work capable to resist time, capable to remain in the memory of humanity and capable to remain in history. I am “looking for the truth to find beauty”, as Plato said. IA&B: Talking about masters and mentors, who or what were the defining influences in your architecture? ACB: Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier primarily. I am inspired by Alejandro de la Sota of Spain and Alvaro Siza. I admire Tadao Ando, Richard Meier, Norman Foster, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Davis Chipperfield and Steven Holl. IA&B: You have talked about the relation between ideas and forms in your architecture. What, according to you, is the connection between the two? ACB: I continuously repeat “Architectura sine idea, vana architectura est”, which means: Architecture without ideas is vain and empty. Ideas remain, forms disappear. IA&B: Can we call your architecture minimal? ACB: Call it ‘essential’. I reject and refuse the ‘minimal’ label. Being minimal in architecture means expressing nothing and less than nothing. I guess they
are trying to say ‘essential’. Or even better; ‘poetical’. Poetry is not a literary minimalism, poetry is only poetry. IA&B: If we are to look at your designs and find a common thread that runs through all your architectural endeavours, what would that thread be? Is the colour white a part of it? ACB: Light. The white colour is not a key element. White is important because it is capable to reflect the light in a pure way. Nothing more than that. The central element of my architecture is light. I believe that light is the principal material used by architects to build architecture. I repeat “Architectura sine luce nulla Architectura est” meaning, architecture without light is nothing. Light is the most luxurious material used by architects. IA&B: “Architecture is a synthesis of rational construction and irrational emotion”. Please elaborate on the thought. ACB: Think beauty. If we can’t move people with our work, it is not worth it. We accomplish the first two Vitruvian Principles, ‘Utilitas’ (utility) and Firmitas (firmness) to get the third, Venustas (beauty). “To get to the Truth, to get to the Beauty” are my goals. To achieve this, it is sometimes necessary to use your head and to block your heart. IA&B: What are your thoughts on the significance of ‘abstraction’? ACB: Architecture is a matter of logic. The mind is the first instrument for an architect, the reason being its first premise. Without an idea capable to be built, architecture cannot happen. Good architecture requires a lot of time. IA&B: Have you been to India? ACB: It has been long since I am in love with India. Yours is a great country. I must come to India. Every day I receive a lot of letters from students from India, applying to come to work at my office.
To read more on Alberto Campo Baeza’s Work, go to the feature titled ‘Light & Logic’.