Can you elaborate on your motto: ‘architecture goes beyond physicality’?
ANNA PUIGJANER: The idea is that the relations that establish space are more important than the physical structures within or around these spaces. This isn’t to say that materiality and aesthetics have no merit, but what I am interested in, and what we try to do in the studio, is to offer a set of rules that enable things to happen. What’s important is not so much what structures look like, but rather what they produce and what they can do for society at large.
You recently proposed a plan for housing blocks with communal domestic amenities, such as kitchens. What are the benefits of collective typologies?
My interest in collective habitations was sparked by Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York, in which he describes an ‘extraordinary’ building containing a hotel that offers services to residents on the upper floors. I did some research and found that his example was not extraordinary at all – it’s how people really used to live. The benefits are huge, both economically and socially. Waste is also reduced when a building becomes collective.
Could your modular exhibition design for Species of Spaces be applied to larger venues, such as the Tate or MoMA?
Species of Spaces was designed for a specific Barcelona museum, but it could certainly be used in larger settings; the scale would change, but that’s the only limitation. The scale of Species of Spaces was domestic. We wanted to turn the gallery into a house. The design, like all our systems, was open. We established a set of rules that allowed the curator to create and to do the additional obligatory work.
What makes a system successful?
In addition to a good design, a successful system requires clear communication. People need to know how to use it. The will of the user is also important. There has to be a real need, or the system won’t be relevant.
Digital platforms are replacing the physical gallery. What can curators do to attract visitors to their exhibitions?
This is an important topic. I don’t believe that this kills that. The e-book is not replacing paper; one world does not destroy the other. Instead, we need to find ways to make them work together so that the digital supports the physical, and vice versa. Digital and physical galleries should be understood as independent entities and should be designed as such.