Joaquin Torres and Rafael Llamazares constitute the Madrid-based architecture team known as A-cero. Lovers of strong architectural geometries, the two architects have achieved a very distinct, very personal style of architecture, characterized by their perfectionism and their affinity for crossing the lines of imagination with ambitious projects.
A-cero’s work ethic lies in developing each project from the more general concept until completing the definition of the smallest detail that materializes, wheteher it is residential, office, award-winning tower buildings, landscaping, product design or even shoes!
With two books to their name ( A-CERO WORKS 1996-2006, VIVIR EN LA ARQUITECTURA A-CERO) and Joaquin Torres’s architecturally derived autobiography (DETRÁS DE LA PUERTA), studio A-cero is currently experiencing a significant internationalization process with offices in Dubai, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Moscow and India and projects in Europe, UAE, Lebanon, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.
Joaquin Torres, your buildings often consist of curving enveloping skins joined into clean geometrical forms with a touch of the futuristic; how would you describe your architecture style?
We draw directly on the formal universe of large contemporary sculpture. A-cero architectural geometries recreate a long evolution over a relatively short period of time, from purism to clearly curvilinear objectification… We like extreme curves and angles but we also believe that in architecture, function is as important as the form. In the end, our architecture simply tries to answer to our aesthetic criterion… it is a very functional architecture with sculptural forms that, to us, they “thrill” us.
There is also a tension, a monumental quality in your architecture that, regardless of scale, gives the viewer a sense of awe. Is that intentional?
You know, our first major studio project, the house of my father was a huge building with classic art works and it added something to our radical contemporary forms; so we kept that monumentality as our personal touch, the freedom in posing, distributing heterodox structures of domestic spaces. It is thus intentional without any doubt… this emotion that is produced in us, we try so that the rest can also perceive.
You are very active in product design, with your extensive line of furniture, home accessories, even shoes! How involved are you in the interior design after the completion of a building?
Architecture is something we live in, design does not stop in any one point; the continuation is simple… interior design, it is not something that happens later… Εverything is projected as where undoubtedly it should be, so the interior design is quite a part of this whole.
Regarding your collaboration with each other, do you usually both agree on a design route or is the tension evident in your buildings the result of a creative argument?
We have been working together more than 20 years, day by day, and if there ever was any conflict at the creative level, today there isn´t anymore… We are almost one… we have been adapting each other and today I can say that he (Rafael Llamazares) and I work together to the perfection… We have the same criterion and our respect and admiration for each other shows on the creative level, on which I would say we are very consistent.
You state that your practice is experiencing an internationalization process. Does this affect your personal style and how?
It is clear that this is something that concerns us… there are the geographical and the cultural differences determining those changes that will be determinant for us… Evidently it is more complex to design a project for another different culture from yours and for a new environment … but in the end, all that undoubtedly enriches the Project.
Should location morphologically affect a design, or do you prefer to adjust the site according to the building use?
Undoubtedly a design is affected by the environment, the climate, the topography, the orientation… there are elements that necessarily affect the form and the functionality of the projected building.
You have spoken about ideas that form an architectural culture – would you describe your industrialisation process, A-cero tech, as such an idea?
The industrialization you are referring to (A-cero tech) is another simply way of constructing with a better adjustment to the parameters of the current company… Our modular product architecture gets the benefits of an assembly line production: improved finishes, quality, delivery, price, etc… It is the specialization of each phase of the construction process, eliminating downtime – with 15 weeks of period construction for each house – and all the problems arising from it… after all, time is something very determinant.
Examining your quote ‘design architecture not relegated to a cultural and economic elite’, one may perceive you as a romantic. How would you respond to such a characterisation?
We all tend to use cliches… It is true that we are in the habit of working with big budgets but with more of 80 projects opened in the study, I can guarantee that we also design buildings where the limited budget is the determining insurmountable one.