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The search for efficiency in beauty - a conversation with Fran Silvestre

06 of September '21

Interview from issue 7/8 2021 of A&B


Spanish architect Fran Silvestre, who has led the Valencia-based Fran Silvestre Arquitectos studio since 2005, gave a lecture as part of the 4 Design Days conference in Katowice as part of the "SARP Masters of Architecture" series.


Casa del acantilado (House on the cliff), 2012

Photo credit: Diego Opazo


The Spanish studio is characterized by minimalism and incredible precision in the implementation of the building. The architect designs in all scales, but he is best known for his modern residential architecture, which is distinguished by a special atmosphere of elegance and luxury. Fran Silvestre believes that the essence of design is a dialogue to discover the glories and shadows of people's daily lives. This dialogue is what sets architecture apart from other arts. It makes each of the Spanish architect's projects individual and original, despite their uncompromising minimalism. Silvestre's projects absorb myriad issues of program, place and context, structure and building technology, incorporating them into a play of space and form that can be understood as the true subject of his architecture.


Justyna Boduch: "Scenery for Life" - This is how you titled your book on architecture. Is it possible to create a background and a scenario for human life with the help of architecture? What is most important to you when starting a project?

Fran Silvestre:I believe that through architecture one can create both scenery and scenarios for the life of another person. The work of architects is to just get into the context and the place, to create a space for a person's life in which they will feel most comfortable. The starting point for the project is cognition and a technique we call "do and express your thoughts," which involves preparing three preliminary conceptual designs for the client. We have been using this procedure for a long time, and by doing so, we enter into a dialogue with the future owners of the property in question, getting to know their expectations and preferences. In addition, when we work on a project, the whole team meets and shares their visions, this makes a set of the best ideas emerge.


Casa del acantilado (House on the cliff), 2012

sketch: © Fran Silvestre Arquitectos


Wojciech Fudala:The theme of the 4DD conference was the new European Bauhaus, so we want to ask what is the mission of an architect today? Is a contemporary architect able, willing and able to change the environment and people's lives?

Fran: We are living in a very interesting moment for architecture - it is a moment of change. Architects have been educated in the spirit of craftsmanship, if we talk about the way we think about "design." In fact, we must remember that our brain is responsible for creativity, so that surprising and unforeseen situations in life, can stimulate creativity and give birth to interesting new designs. Let's remember that the decisions that are made in the field of architecture and construction affect people around the world, so they play an incredibly important role on Earth. The world of architecture is undergoing a slow revolutionary process, the perception of space and its scale is changing.


Justyna: You talk about current changes in architecture - what impact has the pandemic had on your office? Did it change anything in the way you design?

Fran:To tell you the truth, the pandemic has had a huge impact on changes in the office. From the point of view of a team of thirty people, we couldn't meet then and had to work remotely. There have been attempts to work remotely and at a distance in the past, but never to such an extent and for such a long time. From a professional point of view, we are an international office with investments all over the world. Travel restrictions have caused business life to move to the online zone. On the one hand, this is a kind of restriction, on the other hand, people can find each other in any situation, we have a very effective tool, the Internet, which allows work to globalize without hindrance. From a personal point of view, I was able to spend more time with my family. I have a little daughter whose presence I was able to enjoy more, precisely because I worked from home.


Casa Balint, 2014

Photo credit: Diego Opazo


Wojciech: The buildings you've shown are embedded in the landscape in an almost amazing way, but they also present a big structural challenge. Could you tell us how the creative process of such a building goes, and do you create it equally with the designer?

Fran:I take part in the design from the very beginning. However, the project is in stages, and it happens that in some stage a percentage of the work is done by a particular team. The work is done on the basis of my design, but the team is made up of thirty talented designers, and sometimes it happens that the final vision changes and it is the idea of another architect. We work together from the concept stage, we design, using mock-ups, and at the same time we are very fortunate to work with incredibly capable technicians in terms of structures and structures. We sometimes have "off the ground" visions of a building, but we are surrounded by a team of people who are excellent in computational matters, and they help us answer the question of whether a vision is feasible.


Casa Balint, 2014

photo credit: Diego Opazo

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