Architects Alejandro Bahamón and Ana María Álvarez recently published their exciting new book. Exploring how our senses play an integral role in the success of modern design, "Light Color Sound: Sensory Effects in Contemporary Architecture" is sure to be a hit, but the real stars are the vibrant co-authors themselves. These dedicated professionals teamed up once again to give Contract magazine an exclusive interview, in which Bahamón and Álvarez share their inspirations and challenges to their work, as well as give a sneak peek of their impressive book.
What inspired you to write Light Color Sound?
We really believe that our mission as editors or architects is to communicate, not only to professionals and students but all people interested in the topic. Architecture depends on many other disciplines, which are very important and all together interact as a whole in the search of a successful project. We could say this is our leitmotif in all the projects we do. In the specific case of “Light Color Sound,” we wanted to look into the latest technologies implied in contemporary architecture that are closely related to our senses.
What are some reasons for the current trend for sensory effects in modern architecture? What impact will these sensory elements have on future design?
Basically, new technologies are becoming an important part in the process of designing a building, more than just a functional element or the final makeup. In each project, the designer expresses the spirit he wants to transmit, and the choice of techniques and materials distinguishes a project and seeks to alter the way it is perceived. These technologies are presented in their current state, meaning that a building is ephemeral and capable of adaptation and transformation. In other words: Architecture is made to last as long as it is appropriate and necessary. This ephemeral quality reflects the cultural moment of its creation and triggers the need for new readings and, above all, the avoidance of an immediate impact that could make a building instantly obsolete.
Which is your favorite building of all the structures you wrote about in the book?
Actually what we like the most is the collection of projects. Every structure is a mechanism built to communicate and to make all senses react to the light, the color, or the sound. We like the play between opposite colors in the Didden Village in Rotterdam; the participation of children in the facades of the Fire Station in Houten; the monumentality that the color red gives to the Explora park in Medellin; the austerity in the Kofhmel in Solothurn; the use of sound in the design of the Taipei Performing Arts Center; the subtle use of color lighting in the Star Place in Kaohsiung; the management of surfaces and media in the GreenPix in Beijing; the mystery generated inside and outside Kubik in Barcelona... All these are very valuable strategies that enhance the experience of architecture.
What sparked your initial interest in design?
Our interest comes from our profession, as we both studied architecture and continued our studies and work in different ways but always related to design.
What is your favorite project you've worked on?
Again, we are very pleased to understand architecture and design from different perspectives, so it would be impossible for us to say that we prefer one of them. Nevertheless we are specially attached to some topics that interest us very much, like the deep wisdom laying in vernacular architecture and how it could be interpreted by contemporary architects (“From Vernacular to Contemporary Architecture”) or how a low budget could be a great opportunity to increase creativity (“Contemporary Housing: Low Budget”) or the use of waste as prime material in architecture (“ReMaterial”), just to name some of them...
Do you have any other plans in the works right now?
Apart of our involvement in some publishing houses and online projects, like arkinet.com, where we are regular contributors, we are right now working on an online project as a way to extend our research in architecture and urbanism. We are very interested in what is going on in Barcelona and we want to expose what currently is happening in this city. In addition, we are very concerned with the almost absence of critics in Spanish: We want to put our two cents in.
What were some challenges you faced in writing the book, or in past projects you've worked on?
We like to underline the involvement of different fields in architecture. We try to build a bridge between contemporary architecture and other disciplines to develop new perspectives about the subject we are working on. This, sometimes, is a challenge as we have to really understand what the main concepts on the basis of every project are. Also it was very important for us to give a global view of the topic, so we had to “travel” around the world looking for different approaches.