THE NOTEBOOK OF Carlos Lamela

Carlos Lamela - Estudio Lamela Arquitectos - Madrid, Varsovia, México y Doha

Aeropuerto de Varsovia, Center Banco Santander en Queretaro, Expo Zaragoza, Sede de Caja Badajoz, la sede de Estudio Lamela-Madrid, la T4 Barajas…

1 – Who is Carlos Lamela?

I consider myself a polyhedral architect; this adjective may seem excessively complex, but it symbolizes the many facets of the profession. Nowadays in order to be able to run an Architectural Firm – which is my work – it is necessary to be a sort of conductor that leads the various musicians, these being both internal team members from the firm, and external ones from the various disciplines that are needed in order to carry out a project.

2 – When did you discover that you wanted to be an architect?

Architecture, like many professions such as medicine or law, is an inherited career. As a child you see what your father does on a day to day basis, because in this profession you take a lot of work home. You can also see the buildings and identify them with your father’s work. We can say that I practically acquired my vocation without almost noticing. Except for the first hesitations that one has at the age of eight, about whether you want to become an astronaut or a fireman, I knew I wanted to be an architect practically for as long as I can remember.

3 – A reference in architecture…

There are many, but if I focus on the more recent ones… I always cite Le Corbusier as an example, if we speak of this century. If we refer to the past, we would have to talk about Paxton’s Crystal Palace, 1850, which was a complete revolution for modern architecture because it begins the use of glass and steel according to a totally new concept. The Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, who created the skyscrapers, made the facade independent from the structure, which led to an enormous change in architecture. Returning to Le Corbusier, he marked a before and an after in residential architecture, and contributed with his rationalist theory, also very important. The European architect Adolf Loos, took a step towards a more restrained look in architecture. Other notable work is Richard Neutra’s, in the United States, which revolutionized architecture with its concept of pure lines, with a great influence that spread throughout the world. The Sydney Opera House has been a great revolution in 20th century architecture, primarily due to its media importance. There is also some of Foster’s work from the end of last century… And a whole bunch of them that I have left out.

4 – If you had not been architect, you would have been…

I have always said that I would have needed three lives to die in peace (for the third time)… The first life, of which I have already used part, I leave as an architect since I am lucky to be part of this group.
The second and third I would devote to be a diplomat, which is career that has always attracted me very much due to its travel and exploration component, alternating with human relations.
The third one I would have dedicated to being a pilot, because aviation and its history is one of my great passions.
The truth is that all three lives are quite complementary and fun.

5 – One defect and one virtue.

As a virtue, I would perhaps highlight my optimism and intuition.
As a defect, I am sometimes a bit stubborn to begin with, although with time I correct it. I have also sometimes left for tomorrow things that I could have resolved today, and then I have regretted it.

6 – What is your house like?

I have been living in my present house for seven years, and it is the result of an architectural design of mine of a simple and rational architecture, with my wife’s interior design, also along the same lines.
It is a spacious and bright house with a classic design concept in what can be understood as “Bauhaus” type “functionalist or international architecture”, highly developed from the 30s to the 60s in the last century.

7 – Sunday is a day for…

Sunday for me is just one more day of the week. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have offices in countries on four continents, including Qatar, so Sunday is a working day. I travel to Doha one out of every two weeks, and there the non-working day is on Friday.
I try to have, more than days off in a week, free time, and organize myself in order to combine my professional life with my family life. So far I have been doing this quite well.

8 – A place to look for inspiration.

Inspiration is something that I only relatively believe in as it is part of a mythical theory. Nowadays team work has replaced inspiration.
On the other hand, life is a continuing observation and learning. In this fast-moving world, any conversation, trip, or domestic discovery, is a source of observation.
Besides, as Picasso said: I want inspiration to find me working!

9 – What is the last book that you have read?

I normally always have several books open at the same time. Many of them are about travel, which are the ones that have been interesting me more in general for a longer time.
I hardly read novels anymore, and I have lately taken to reading biographies. The last one I read is the Alexander the Great one.

10 – 15 Years from now…

We have to be optimistic – which means in favor of the optimal-, roll our sleeves up, work harder, and more efficiently. This crisis that we cannot see the end of, has to serve us in order to be better, stronger, more efficient, to reduce sumptuous and unnecessary expenditure, in order to export more and generate more “of the good” wealth, and above all to learn from the mistakes made and not repeat them in the future.

11 – When you think of architecture you think of…

When I think of Architecture I think in the most beautiful and complete career there is, as it is a good compendium of everything that we like and that surrounds us. Unfortunately it is a discipline that does not always adapt to us as a real source of income, but it is a wonderful art and science.

12 – Pencil or computer?

Both pencil and computer are very useful tools, but neither of them is essential. One of my best professors told us one day that the best architect could make a project without drawing a single line, simply by describing their thoughts. It’s like the great chess players, who do not need a board and pieces to play but rather tell each other their moves and have the entire system in their head.
Nowadays the drawings need to obviously be made with a computer. A different thing is that everything can begin with a pencil stroke.

13 – How would you describe your work?

My work, as already explained above, is a very multifaceted and comprehensive work, of a conductor, where I touch on many subjects: business, management, design. When besides being an architect you are running a company, it needs to be so. The problem is usually in balancing the different tasks so that one facet does not overshadow the others.

14 – One project you would like to do.

The building that I still have pending is a large tall tower. I have always been interested in skyscrapers…
My father had the opportunity of designing and building the Colón Towers, one of the most interesting buildings which have been built not only in Spain but worldwide, due to its particularity of being the suspended building with the greatest number of concrete structure floors in the world.
We are now refurbishing a large building in Brussels with over thirty floors that will be one of the European capital’s new images, and we hope that we can soon begin, together with Foster + Partners, the refurbishment of the renowned Edificio España, which is also a very interesting project of a multi-story building.

15 – Your opinion of Spanish architecture.

Spanish architecture is in very good health in regards to the quality of its professionals, training, and professional practice.
Unfortunately we cannot say the same of the socio-economic frame in which it moves currently, due to the crisis we all know about.
Most Spanish architects either don’t have work or are “underemployed”. This is a situation due to the amount of graduated architects in recent years in our country, result of an economic boom on one hand and of the fact that it is a prestigious and extremely interesting profession.
However we need to find solutions so these problems do not become endemic.
We architects have to reinvent ourselves, redirecting our profession as other groups that are akin (e.g. civil engineers) did decades ago.
As for the product, i.e. the building, it is quite improvable at all levels, both at the urban level and at the constructive quality and design levels.
A minimum amount of what is built complies with good quality standards in the two fundamental aspects referred to above. I think that bylaws and regulations in general, and the era of excessive real estate development, have caused a great harm to the average quality of what has been built. It is time to rethink many things.

16 – How do you keep your own style while meeting your clients’ needs?

One’s own style needs to be quality work. More than a specific look, the things that should distinguish an architectural firm are discipline, things well done, professionalism, excellence, etc.
This is the best style in order to satisfy the client and therefore the user and society in general.

17 – In architecture, what are you better at and what do you have more trouble with?

It is a very difficult question to answer as it is a changing aspect.
But in general what we are best at is working well when there is a good client, and a good client is the one that is professional, who knows what they want, who trusts their technical team, and gives them the adequate means both in terms of information and of adequate deadlines and logical fees.
What we have more trouble with is working with bad clients, but luckily for us we have had few.

18 – Your recipe for success.

Generally speaking, professional success in architecture is like success in agriculture: having a good plot with good soil, having rain when it needs to rain, having a planted product that is healthy and of good quality, and treating the crop well and working on it sufficiently.
Afterwards, nobody can save us from an unexpected hail or frost, but this is something unexpected that is beyond our control.
When you work with humility, honesty, and determination, the chances of success are much higher.

19 – What is the role of natural products in your projects?

Natural products in general are neither worse nor better. There are good and bad natural products, and good and bad artificial products. The advantage of the natural ones is that when they are good they are usually unbeatable in their entirety, with a quality that also connects more with the human being.

20 – Your flagship L’Antic Colonial product is…

If I had to choose a product, I think it would be the outdoor decking. I like to use natural wood outdoors. It is a sustainable material that provides warmth and naturalness to spaces, and there are now finishes that perfectly bear any type of inclement weather.

1 Comment

  1. Muy buena entrevista y magnífico arquitecto Carlos Lamela. Uno de los más sólidos estudios españoles, no sólo por su trayectoria, como por su presencia internacional. Enhorabuena Sr. Lamela.

    Reply

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