Two Minutes With // Selgas Cano

Hello! Today’s interview is with Selgas Cano, of Madrid, Spain. Selgas Cano shares insight to their conceptual design approach, and what they perceive as the most important things to consider when designing a space or building. Take a look at their interesting website to view more inspiring projects. Until next time!

Images courtesy of Selgas Cano.

VT: Your use of light, color, and translucent materials creates an energy in your spaces that is unmistakable. Is it the material that inspires that energy or is it the function of the space that provokes it?

SC: First of all, thank you for using the term “unmistakable energy” to define that feeling in our buildings; no one has described our spaces that way before, but we like that very much. We think of light being “energy”; color as an effect on it, and translucency as a way for the light to pass through. Light is an inescapable and important part of the building, maybe the only important thing. Lightness is an associated effect of controlling and provoking light; there are thousands of ways to work with it. We do not agree with the words of Le Corbusier, “Our eyes are made in forms of light”. Our eyes are connected with our brain and with all of our senses, creating a complex world of many feelings. Our eyes are made to experience and increase sensations, “in”, “between”, “into”, or “throughout” light. With that we can say, “Our eyes are made to experience light”. Color is another mechanism to emphasize or reduce these experiences. We should never forget color and its power to modify spaces.

Another dual concept that we consistently work with is artificial versus natural. We consider this duality when we think about light. There are many hours of daylight, but there are also many hours that require the need for artificial light. Although this is an obvious observation, many architects forget that artificial lighting is a necessity. Artificial light must be another important part, and it is one of the factors that forms a space. We make models not only to study natural light, but also to study artificial light effects.

VT: The program of your space(s) seems to interrelate into the project’s architecture. What motivates the architectural shape that is materialized?

SC: We are not worried about shapes and forms, at least not in the beginning. In the first phases of the design process we are worried about the program, site, territory, history of the site, village or territory, climate, economy, and, some of our favorite subjects — technology, structure, and construction. Then at the very end when we have a project and have its form, we progress our work without changing the most important subjects. There is always a range within which you can change the form, the general shape, and the individual shapes of all of the elements involved. The form is a part of your perception and includes the consideration of materials and color. The remaining aspects of the form that one needs to consider are the sensations perceived by people, what they see, and how they perceive it. In this aspect, we do not pay any regard to architectural clichés, but design for the enjoyment of the human being. We always keep Fellini’s phrase in mind, “I like to be born every day”. This way you see everything as new, and you have no fear to use any expression or language; you see everything with clarity, and through new eyes.

VT: Linear movement appears to be a common thread in many of your projects. What drives this type of motion to be continually chosen to inform the interior and exterior spaces?

SC: For us the exterior of the building is the most important; we understand the architecture only as a continuation of its exterior surroundings. If the exterior is beautiful we have to integrate the building into it, if the exterior has lot ofhistory we have to integrate the building into it, and if the exterior is a landscape we have to preserve it. The architecture is not making buildings, but making sensible decisions with the surroundings. On the other hand, if the exterior is horrible because of the human hand, we have to work in a different way to try to create a new exterior; here, we can still make architecture when we remove something. We believe that you can change exteriors with very few things, even when considering paint or plants; we also believe that we should use the least amount of material possible. The interior is always a continuation and a dialogue with the exterior; not only in the sense of shape and form, but in the sense of history, climate, and perceptions.

All of these things culminate into the word “humility”; for us, an architect/designer is an ordinary human being. We must have respect for many things; an example is the environment, which is more important than out personal interests.