Guest of the appointment is Fernando Rodriguez, a young architect, co-founder in 2008 with Pablo Oriol of FRPO Architects, Madrid-based studio. After some years of experience at other firms and with a group of friends, they were led to establish their own practice by winning the important competition of the City of Justice, in Madrid. From that moment, they achieved brilliant results and recognitions, such as awarded Europe 40 UNDER 40, selected participants of the Golden Lion Venice Biennale Spanish Pavilion (2016), participants at the Spanish (2007, 2013, 2021) and the Ibero-American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (2006, 2014), finalists of FAD Awards International, of Architectural Record Design Vanguard (2012) and Architectural Review Emerging Architecture Awards (2019), nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Awards (2015) and this last Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (2022). Their works in Spain, Mexico and the US, often winners of national and international competitions, embrace masterplans, private residences and public housing, cultural, mixed-use and industrial buildings.
Their architectural gestures, characterized by formal simplicity and essentiality, include most of the times rich and complex programmatic compositions, organized with great versatility and flexibility. Attractive volumes and powerful plain geometries, conceived with technical rigour as innovative, creative ensembles of light structures and light materials, according to an idea of adaptability and obsolescence, address important issues as minimal impact, material savings and energy efficiency.
Fernando Rodríguez has studied architecture at the Madrid Polytechnic, ETSAM, and at the Technische Universität of Berlin. He teaches at the Architectural Design Department of UPM ETSAM. He has also taught and has been guest critic at other international institutions, such as FAU PUCP Lima, Technische Universität Berlin, IE School of Architecture and Design and Universitat Internacional de Catalunya.
The conversation starts from their recent winning proposal for the international competition ‘Magnifica Fabbrica’, an ambitious project envisaging the regeneration of an extensive peripheral area of Milan, famous for its industrial past, and the creation of a multi-use complex to host laboratories and exhibition spaces of Teatro alla Scala. We deepen the aspirations animating their regenerative vision and process inspired by a balance between technology, culture and landscape in the perspective of a reconnection with the urban living fabric. The establishment of a new industrial paradigm will open the production of Teatro alla Scala to the public, avoiding the idea of a close museum, and an extremely interesting sustainable program, based on a circular concept of water cycle, inspired by traditional Milan's agricultural fields, will link the Fabbrica with the landscape through a series of lagoons, water gardens, that will allow people to share a natural process of phytopurification.
We then focus on the small pavilion created as flexible structure, providing all the conditions for aging without altering its character that was selected to be part of the Spanish Pavilion, in the occasion of the 15th International Architecture Venice Biennale. Fernando explains the importance of this small statement that, above dealing with scarcity of resources, represents an emblematic conceptual abstraction, able to express a complexity of issues with maximum simplicity.
Estacion San Jose, a permeable, flexible, multiple mixed-use, public infrastructure, in the city center of Toluca, offers an occasion of relevant considerations with its clear and gentle contemporary formal radicality, able to merge in the complex urban fabric without loudly screaming.
Lightness is an integral part of the firm’s vocabulary, expressed by the use of light materials, like polycarbonate, thin perforated metal screens as the completion of light structures with the aim to consistently address above aesthetic purpose, more ‘ethical’ aspirations.
A series of wooden houses in different woodland locations, MO House, on the outskirts of the city of Madrid, and M1 and M2 Houses, in a mountainous location of Oregon, represents at 10 years of distance, a deep experience about the exploration of new material for construction.
A powerful, wild natural context is the frame of an equally powerful gesture, one of their first projects. OS House, a black box, wrapped by zinc shutters, on a high, rocky cliff of the Bay of Biscay, dominating the view of the sea, surprises for the harmonious consonance that develops between its bold idiom and the rugged plot of land.
For the conclusion of our conversation, we dwell on the proposal conceived in collaboration with the renowned studio Selgascano for the Spanish Pavilion, Expo 2022 in Dubai. An innovative, ultra-light, ultra-removable, ultra-transportable and ultra-sustainable virtuous pavilion, an extremely light steel structure suspended from nine air-inflated cylinders of recycled ETFE, exploring the largest possible volume with the least amount of material. An authentic, paradigm of minimal impact, material savings and energy efficiency, a significant choice evoking a captivating and revolutionary chapter of history, featured by the inflatables.
Along with the satisfaction of the on-going ‘Magnifica Fabbrica’, a series of more than 30 eco-energy power plants around Spain and a network of interventions, ultra-sustainable small residential housing in a degraded area of Madrid, are deservedly enriching the portfolio of the young studio.