We define the space through architectural decisions

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Miguel Crespo, Javier Guzmán and Sixto Martín are the members of Zooco Studio, a young architecture firm based in Madrid and Cantabria, which began its career in full crisis. We present in this post an interesting selection of the work done so far and we chatted with two of its members about the ideas and strategies surrounding the concept that generates it.

Interview: Arantza Álvarez, courtesy Project Contract magazine.
Photos: Zooco file

You have an office in Madrid but also in Camargo, Cantabria …

Initially, the three of us worked in a single studio in Madrid. After a while, Javier settled in Santander and we set up a second studio. The result of establishing itself in two places has been positive: it greatly diversifies the work and the clients.

You founded the study in the midst of a crisis, what is your assessment of these years?

We set up the studio in 2009, when there was no longer any doubt that we were in crisis. The first three years we practically only do public contests, and we win two, which is a pretty good result. It was as a result of that general break in building when we embarked on other disciplines such as rehabilitation or contract. The contests were not built as soon as they won, they are starting to build now, so we started to get into other issues, such as rehabilitation, interior design … at first we took everything they offered, no matter how small it was to survive, but now it seems that every time things are going better.

Restaurante La Maruca, Madrid, Zooco project. Photo by Orlando Gutiérrez

In your short career you have designed very varied buildings, from the interior design of premises or homes to large institutional projects. On what scale or typology do you feel more comfortable?

By formation and by vocation we feel more comfortable in the architectural, urban scale. However, when developing smaller projects you discover that the creative process is the same: to arrive at an adequate concept and be faithful when developing it. We do not care if it is a cultural center or a restaurant, because the mechanisms in the end are very similar. Each time we feel more comfortable on the small scale. In the end, all projects are reduced to how to create and treat spaces, elevations and volumes according to needs and surroundings. The scale of the performance is a crucial feature, but from our point of view does not change the creative process.

What materials do you like to work with? in interior design?

We like to work with noble materials, pure, with very specific characteristics … We are not interested in the decoration process. We try to define space through architectural decisions (vertical, horizontal planes, light, structure). The furniture and various decorative elements have a secondary character, always meaning in a second plane in front of the container that generates the space. We believe that decisions when designing should not be based on "good taste" but should respond to a previous idea that is what dictates the general line of intervention. We look for a concept that works and that is timeless, we are not interested in trends or fashions. We choose the materials according to the sensations that we want to transmit. We are interested that the space works independently of the furniture that is placed at the end.
New image Hisbalit Headquarters, Cantabria, from Zooco Estudio. Photo by Orlando Gutiérrez

You have participated in many competitions, in many you are selected and some are being built. For you, the competitions are a source of work. What strategy do you follow to choose them?

We are interested in competitions that are more free in terms of design and design , in which the idea is valued more than the execution or the budget. We have always moved in competitions without economic offer, in contests of ideas. The world of public competitions has always occupied us most of the time, although at present, due to the circumstances, we have the most stopped.

You are currently building the Center of the Performing Arts in Verín, Galicia. It is a work already on a considerable scale, how is the study facing it?

This is an important moment for the study. After many efforts, and at a time when the construction of a new plant and especially the one promoted by the administration is practically gone, we are very proud of having achieved it. What is very interesting for the study is that, parallel to the construction of this Performing Arts Center, we are developing several projects of smaller scale. We can observe and experience how you work in each of the scales as well as the different pressures to which you are subjected.

In your curriculum you say that you decided to work together to share your vision of architecture What is that vision?

It is difficult to define that vision. We work very well together, and we know what we like to do. We look for clear, strong, simple concepts. The concept is the project. We are not interested only in aesthetics or beauty, we like to find a clear idea and show it.

Performing Arts Center of Verín

That's something that expresses very well the graphic of your projects …

It's a little by the professional deformation acquired when developing and presenting the films of the competitions; in these processes you usually compete against a huge number of studies, and you are aware that the jury in the first round will dedicate you only a few seconds. If you are not concise and clear in the expression of your idea you have no possibility. If in addition to that clarity the idea is very good, you can have some possibility.

You also say that in your works you try to combine design, functionality and tradition …

By tradition we do not understand the architecture or the design that imitates what already exists, but rather the appropriation of the techniques, solutions and resources contrasted over time. We give much value to projects and designers before our generation and learn from them as much as possible.

Do you pay special attention to sustainability in your projects? [19659003]
The term of sustainability seems to us that it has been used too much and that it is a bit contradictory. The architecture itself – which is the result of an intervention on the territory – has nothing sustainable. We must try to reduce the damage that is done, but that the end of the project is sustainability does not interest us. It must be a means and not an end. There are many systems that work on paper, but in reality produce an extra cost that ultimately makes it unsustainable. We think that the most important thing is to act sensibly.

Integral reform of the common spaces
of the Hotel Azul in Suance
How do you see the general situation of architecture? Are we coming out of the crisis?

In the public sphere we do not see much difference yet. In the private one it is true that people are losing a little fear of investing, of transforming their homes and businesses.

How do you deal out the work? ? What do the three of you have in common and how do you differ when it comes to working?

We all do the same, there are no roles in the study . Having started the three together in the School, we have a very similar training and we like the same things. This has the advantage that we understand each other well, but the disadvantage that the deficiencies in certain fields are also mutual. The good thing about a studio integrated by more than one architect or a designer is the fact of sharing different visions. In the design process, if you pass through three filters, the result is always better than if you only pass through one.

Recoletos 9, 1ºB, 28001 Madrid.
T. 917 355 490.
Pl. María Blanchart 2, 5ºB, 39609 Camargo.
T. 942 077 468.