ASK AN AR­CHI­TECT FRIDA ES­COBEDO

We talk to the award-win­ning Mex­i­can on what in­spires her and the de­sign idea be­hind this sum­mer’s Ser­pen­tine Pav­il­ion

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Architecture -

What in­spired you to be­come an ar­chi­tect? I knew I wanted to do some­thing re­lated to the arts, but found the idea of go­ing to Fine Arts school a bit in­tim­i­dat­ing. One week be­fore the ap­pli­ca­tions closed, I just de­cided to go for ar­chi­tec­ture. I be­came hooked, so I guess it was a good hunch. How can ar­chi­tects bring value to

hous­ing de­sign? One of the most re­cur­rent dis­cus­sions we have at the stu­dio is the dif­fer­ence be­tween ex­change value and use value – some de­sign cares too much about the for­mer. With the sup­port of the Sis­tema Na­cional de Creadores (a Mex­i­can art as­so­ci­a­tion that cham­pi­ons creativ­ity), we are ex­plor­ing how build­ings that re­sult from this lead to empty spa­ces in the city. De­scribe your work­ing process. We are a team of eight, and we usu­ally dis­cuss the ini­tial ideas to­gether. We start by dis­cussing what the ‘prob­lem’ of the project is – which is ba­si­cally what it can ex­press and ex­plain to us. We then work with a lot of ref­er­ences, which are not nec­es­sar­ily ar­chi­tec­tural. Then I try to edit as much as I can, to make it about one sin­gle, but pow­er­ful ges­ture. La Tallera ( 4), the art space I de­signed for the Cha­pul­te­pec park in Mex­ico City, and the tilt­ing Civic Stage ( 2), spe­cially cre­ated for the Lis­bon Tri­en­nale in 2013, are both de­signed for peo­ple to en­joy. What are you work­ing on now? Two pri­vate houses, in­clud­ing a mid-in­come project that pro­vides the feel of liv­ing in a town­house with a court­yard, but with­out the cost. Also two ho­tels – one in Pue­bla and one in Ba­calar, in the Yu­catán Penin­sula – and a re­tail project in New York. Is there a build­ing in the world that you wish you had de­signed? Many, but some of them would have been im­pos­si­ble to be de­signed by a sin­gle per­son, such as the Mosque of Cór­doba ( 3). It is a mag­nif­i­cent

piece of ar­chi­tec­ture be­cause it has so many lay­ers of time con­tained in one space. You are the youngest ar­chi­tect to be com­mis­sioned for the world-fa­mous Sum­mer Ser­pen­tine Pav­il­ion ( 1). What do you hope peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence

when en­ter­ing the space? I wanted to cre­ate a de­sign that’s more con­tained than pre­vi­ous pavil­ions. Hyde Park is in­side the city, and, by cre­at­ing an in­te­rior court­yard in­side the park, we would be play­ing with the idea of in­te­ri­or­ity and ex­te­ri­or­ity, like a Rus­sian doll. I like work­ing with sim­ple and ubiq­ui­tous ma­te­ri­als that are of­ten over­looked, try­ing to el­e­vate them into some­thing more pro­found by as­sem­bling them in ways that peo­ple don’t ex­pect. In this case, we used roof tiles to cre­ate a celosia (a type of breeze-block wall). This gives the pav­il­ion dif­fer­ent de­grees of trans­parency, de­pend­ing on how the light hits it. How was de­sign­ing the 2015 Lon­don De­sign Fes­ti­val in­stal­la­tion in the iconic V&A court­yard? It was very in­ter­est­ing. We were com­mis­sioned to de­sign a pav­il­ion for the dual year be­tween Mex­ico and the UK. It be­came a project of over­lap­ping land­scapes – both phys­i­cal and cul­tural – sim­i­lar to the idea of a mask in Greek the­atre. The ac­tor be­comes the char­ac­ter when he puts it on, but he doesn’t stop be­ing him­self. This du­al­ity was re­in­forced by the use of mir­rored sur­faces, some­thing that would be present and also dis­ap­pear by re­flect­ing its sur­round­ings. If you weren’t an ar­chi­tect, what would you be? Def­i­nitely some­thing to do with the vis­ual arts. fridaescobedo.net

‘I like work­ing with sim­ple, ubiq­ui­tous ma­te­ri­als that are of­ten over­looked, 3 try­ing to el­e­vate them into some­thing more pro­found’

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