Your office is located in Tenerife and much of your design seems related to the rocky, volcanic landscape of the island. But city of Torun is a very different story. What brought the inspiration in that case?
I have a method. I try to discover the essence, the genius loci of a place. So I came to Torun and tried to understand and feel the city, the history, the landscape, the air. Then I tried to continue this history, full of respect, and create a new way, a new step in the evolution of the Torun. Volcanic landscape is interesting in a volcanic place but here in Poland, in Torun, brick and clay are much more important.
A cave or a hut? Which grand narrative of architectural origins is more dear or interesting to you and why?
I believe the CKK in Torun is a cave, but in the sense of a cave which hosts, something like a maternal womb.
Some of your projects (like Jordanki, Redeemer Church) resemble caves. Magma Art&Congress Center looks like a prehistoric monument. Is this just a formal reference to the primitive or does it have more layers?
Some people tell me that they look like prehistoric or –perhaps -classic monuments. Some other, on the other hand, classify it as contemporary. I don’t know, I would like to believe that they are timeless buildings, ones that will last forever. That's my challenge, but at the same time I would like to provide something from the XXIst century, make all the tools that technology has given us today useful and achieve a timeless place.
How is this search for the primitive motivated? Is it a search for the origins, for the essentials? Do you want to reconcile the antinomy of nature/culture? Are you going to the basis in order to reinvent architecture, find new, better justification for it?
Exactly, I seek the essence of the place, the genius loci as I said before. Perhaps we can say that culture came through the nature of a place, through what surrounds us in a concrete and specific space. And then I add the culture, the history of the place.
Holy Redeemer Church on Tenerife is made of huge concrete slabs and light. It shows multiple textures. What kind of experience did you want to give to the believers? Was your thinking about this project influenced anyhow by Redemptorists’ mission?
If you want the light you need the shadow. This is the summary of all the Project of the Church.
We made a great theological research with our customer, the Bishopric of Tenerife, before making any decisions. We wanted to be sure what we were representing, and we wanted the experience of the place to be poignant. The building stands in austerely, devoid of unnecessary elements that pose distractions that are far from their spiritual essence. The emptiness has been sculpted to the same extent as the matter, achieving balance in proportions. I believe that also here we managed to create another place of timeless emotion.
In 1994 you built Proa – a residential building of moulding bare concrete. Then came Visocan (social housing), Bouza Apartment Block, Laurel Building, Cion Community. Did your approach to this type of architecture change over years?
Yes of course, I have been changing all these years. Perhaps it is better to say I have been evolving and now I am a better architect than I was in 1994. It’s normal, because I always try to learn. The learning and training of an architect never stops because if not you have the risk of blocking up.
While making models you work with plasticine. What are the advantages of this material and does it influence the form of future, real buildings?
Plastiline is much more real than the models made by computer. It allows us to see the buildings, to know if they will remain straight and standing, to look at it in a 3D mode and imagine its light and shadow. It is a material that I love because it immediately gives me an idea whether I'm imagining in my head is or not possible in real life.
You are also involved in the academic field being a professor of the European University in Canarias and University of Hong Kong – is architecture being taught differently in these two very distant places?
It is different, of course, but not the essence of architecture, only regarding the influence of the place, as well as the economy and culture of the place. When I go to Hong Kong the culture makes students work a lot (much more than in any other place in Europe), and the importance of teachers is also much bigger, with much more respect towards them. Also, the HKU has many financial capacities; the rooms where students make models are immense, as well as the materials. There is no economic crisis. In other schools, like the EUC in Tenerife, it is different. However, the essence is the same - the passion for architecture. Here I face the problem of lack of materials and resources that my students and me try to overcome with imagination.
Did you have a chance to see any contemporary Polish architecture? If yes, what is your opinion about it? How does it look like in comparison to the Spanish architecture or world architecture in general?
In Poland you are in an incredibly good time regarding architecture. There have been many architectural idea competitions and great and wonderful contemporary buildings are flourishing. For example, there are two that I love and I have been able to visit: the POLIN, the Jewish Museum in Warsaw, and the Szczecin Philharmonic. They are wonderful. I have also been to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, where I was surprised not only by the container but by the artistic content. Really inspiring. Poland reminds me of the prosperous Spain back in the 90s, hopefully it won’t lose this boost as a country. I love Poland, I've been back and forth to this country for 7 and a half years and I have fallen in love with something you do not quite know how to define but is in the air.