Naivety_An Architectural Tool
Who influences you graphically?
We have many graphical references. In the beginning we were very open minded and at some point we became a melting pot of unrelated approaches, most of the time due to isolated visceral attractions. We are now maturating our own pool of sources (and this is also happening with our architecture) and maybe starting to have something that we can call “ours”.
From the lightness of Japanese drawings (either the Sanaa-like material-less drawings, the Shinohara’s second style military axonometric or the bow wow detail/behavioural perspective axonomteric) to the rigorous Swiss drawings (either the politely correct detailing or the non referential Olgiati plans) and through what we could call a “normal portuguese prerogative” we have tried a lot of everything. Our drawings tend to be a little of all of these parts, and many more, with scattered moments of simple post-modernism. We think our architecture follows the same logic, to some extent.
The images we produce come, as a start, from OMA, early HdM, Made in, KGDVS, Baukuh, Point Supreme, Caruso St John, ADVVT, Bow wow… and they belong to a non-official movement that has been reacting to the general apathy arch daily (and other media platforms) brought to the discipline. These offices brought Hopper, Hockney, Sottsass and many others to the table and these images are now slowly changing not only the visual expression of the architectural proposals but also the architectures themselves. Names like Luigi Ghirri, Bas Princen Gabriele Basilico and Paulo Catrica offer us a visual standpoint for how we hope to present our buildings once built.
You talk about yourself as a naive architectural practice, what does this mean for you and how might your means of representation ironically reflect this?
We are young architects. So, to some extent, being naive is a condition, not an option.
Nevertheless, we emphasize it because we tend to let the naivety become a tool. We produce a naive architecture because we believe clients care (and they don’t). Because we lose competitions all the time, and we lose on purpose. There is always a stage in a competition when you look at the project and you know that you have two choices. You can turn in one direction and make a project that the jury wants, and you might stand a chance of getting a prize or even winning. Or you turn the opposite way and you do what you feel is right. We often choose the second option, we get some compliments, but the fact is that we don’t win.
The naivety is also simply in the way we approach each project. We always think that trying something is more important than doing things “correctly.” Even the simple fact that we decided so early to open an office is a very naive gesture. We often have the feeling that if we don’t take “naive” risks, it won’t get that interesting for us. So we try to let our innocent first ideas become something important. It can actually make for a very complex trajectory of the project, because the project still has to be coherent and make sense in the end.
Maybe we are not going to be naïve in the future after everything is settled but now it’s a good time for us to experiment, to grow, and to try different ideas without being afraid of the results.
Our means of representation reflect this condition, that is clear.
You construct images through fragments of paintings, textures, colours etc How does this stitching of narratives help in establishing your own proposal?
Yes. They are not post-project-production. We are very rhetoric about our proposals and we tend to design “empty frames” in most of our projects. We liberate the space and design it using very abstract principles. By adding these layers of information, as tests during the design stage, and by imagining how the spaces would be occupied, we prove ourselves right or wrong. These images are working tools, not pseudo-realistic photographs where everything is already decided.
We leave a big space for interpretation and we operate in the limbo we create. We don’t want to close the project in an early stage, since it needs time, and this is a way to do so. The fragments are small findings from images that achieve something we want to achieve in the projects where we use them.
How does this method liberate each fragment and allow both architect and viewer their own reading of an image?
As we referred before: the limbo in which the viewer is placed allows for many interpretations. It is more speculative. It is more about the spaces and their relations and hierarchies and less about their details. Even the materials are shown as ideas and not as final proposals.
Most of the times even we are not yet sure about an idea, so how could we convince anyone else about it? Ideas are not produced instantaneously, and by allowing for this margin of error, we focus on the ideas themselves when we look at the images. We are not discussing the final architectural proposal, but the idea behind it. We like to discuss and propose architecture this way.
You inhabit three dimensional spaces with objects which are represented as very flat through the absence of shadows, what is the effect and purpose of this?
The main effect is making the images flat by removing the depth and composing them as pictures, after using them as tools for the design process. The final product is a static image, reflecting a stabilized idea.
Most of the projects we are working on right now are residential. most of the rooms medium/small in scale. they will be composed of small fragments themselves…
To what extent does the character of the silhouette depicted help in establishing function and atmosphere of spaces?
The two steps spatial axonometrics allow us to understand both the hierarchy and relation of the main space in comparison to the secondary spaces (and since most our projects are residential, there is often a very clear separation between what as the main and the secondary spaces) and also the idea behind the main space itself, as a singular object. since we often work in small houses and apartments, bedrooms tend to be very stable rooms and the living areas exceptional.
Finally, these axos allow for a comparison of scale, ambition and ideas between the different projects. We do these drawings all at the same scale and we can see them side by side and make our own conclusions about the overall production.
The office tower we don’t need wants to impress; it seems both arrogant and naïve. the office tower we don’t need is not very clear on its intentions; it is not a cultural or political symbol. the office tower we don’t need is an heroic carved block of marquina marble; the roof is finished in brushed brass and the interior walls are white. the office tower we don’t need has a circular plan; it does not relate to any specific surrounding and could be anywhere we would like it to be. the office tower we don’t need has many circular and square windows; each opening creates a unique relation to the outside. the office tower we don’t need has four levels; the floors are connected by an endless spiral stair. the office tower we don’t need has a balcony; smokers love it. the office tower we don’t need is almost 20m high, which means it is not really a tower.
Fala is a naïve architecture practice based in porto, led by Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Aoares and Ahmed Belkhodja. Established in 2013, the atelier works with methodic optimism on a wide range of projects, from territories to birdhouses.
Filipe Magalhães (porto, 1987) graduated in architecture at faculdade de arquitectura do porto and fakulteta za arhitekturo in ljubljana; wrote the thesis ‘Between the Abstract and the Figurative’. Filipe has worked with Harry Gugger in Basel and Sanaa in Tokyo. He is visiting professor at Bratislava’s faculty of architecture.
Ana Luisa Soares (porto, 1988) graduated in architecture at faculdade de arquitectura do porto and tokyo university; wrote the thesis ‘The Matter of Ideas’. Ana worked with Harry Gugger in Basel and Toyo Ito in Tokyo. She is visiting professor at Bratislava’s faculty of architecture.
Ahmed belkhodja (lausanne, 1990) graduated in architecture at ETH Zurich after having also studied in Lausanne, Gothenburg and Singapore. Ahmed has worked with Harry Gugger in Basel, Obra Architects in New York, and Atelier Bow-Aow in tokyo.