“Stop listening to your professors … Go and live all kind of spaces all over the world. That is the best you can do. Until then, you are going to enjoy architecture”, he cautions our photographer, a young aspiring architect, while he prepares to be portrayed.
Seconds later, he shamelessly gives to the camera the last warning: “This column is very annoying. It would be better not to have it”, referring to the interior of the Do&Co Hotel in Vienna —originally named Haas House— designed by a key figure of the Postmodern architecture, the Austrian Hans Hollein (1934-2014).
He is Benjamín Romano, a Mexican architect and urbanist without filters in his statements, who graduated from the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, and, as well, coursed Precast elements studies in Israel.
1978 was the year when, in parallel of concluding his bachelor degree, he accomplished his first professional project, an industrial complex in 42,000 Sq m under the direction of the well-respected engineer Heberto Castillo (1928-1997).
A contemporary vision which goes hand in hand with high technology, an interpretation of the geology through the use of solid materials, and free spaces devoid of pillars are the hallmarks of this international lecturer.
Thus, with a broad scope of proposals that include educational, health, residential, office, industrial, and commercial programs, the founder of LBR&A studio farewelled himself demonstrating his naivety once again: “I am a very engineer-architect, or vice versa, a very architect-engineer. From time to time, I do not even understand what I am more.”
Is Architecture, an undoubtedly Fine Art?
It is wrongly believed that we are sculptors who create splendid buildings. This belief is not correct; we are here to make functional spaces.
Now, what is an adequate habitat and what is not? The answer is complicated. I mean, how can you explain a space?
What is the key point of a successful project?
The best space in a building is that one which is not included in the program. For this reason, it is essential to understand and add value to the flow of facilities. Otherwise, you can be in trouble, since the budget and operation may be affected.
I am sure that many architects forget this, making the engineers accountable for these decisions, which I consider is a huge error. I remind you I am a very engineer-architect, or vice versa, a very architect-engineer. From time to time, I do not even understand what I am more.
Does architecture shape a city or the other way around?
As they configure a binomial, being isolated from one another is impossible. It is like if you ask me what is more important: whether my body or the cells. Without cells, my body would not exist.
Hence, when architecture does not make a city, it is amiss, in the same way when the city does not allow the structures to generate themselves.
Is there a boundary between architects and urban planners?
In fact, we are not completely at odds. The best proof of this is how I got a degree in both Architecture and Urbanism.
If there were a difference, it would be rather with some real estate developers who, in my opinion, have let themselves by an economic ambition, since there are projects that have even been abandoned by the buyers. This situation is dramatic because it brings to light how these people failed to make a city, nor did they think they had to turn living space into something better.
Therefore, which is the core of both disciplines?
When you conceive an inaccurate architecture, you condemn the user to live poorly, which is unfair. The same happens with urbanism.
Because the cost is too high to demolish and build again, it seems to me that architects and urban planners must be very wise and use common sense when it comes to making our designs.
Is it feasible to innovate without submitting to new technologies?
In spite of being dependent, we do not necessarily have to be anchored to them.
An architect is hardly an architect, having to also turn into —in a hypothetical scenario— a developer of technologies that allow, for example, buildings illuminated by themselves.
Therefore, we have to meet with professionals from different areas of expertise, so that each of them contributes experiences that lead to innovation from a human perspective.
Will the future perfect the mistakes of the past?
The property developments invariably will be transformed considering architecture has something fascinating: it recomposes everything that is useless.
It’s like nature; if you analyze all living beings, or they evolve, or they disappear.
How do you envisage your profession in the upcoming decades?
I believe a lot in the future. I am convinced that architects will evolve the spaces to make them more flexible and thus be able to adapt them to the needs of tomorrow.
We all wish that the architecture would become lighter and even float. However, we have not yet been able to beat gravity but in the future, who knows.
What happens in the case of Mexico City?
As verticality is an infrastructure issue, we have to focus on building upwards. For me there is no other alternative; Mexico City has to rise.
How about exporting Mexican talent to other parts of the world?
It is one hundred percent viable since there is a lot of ingenuity. Let us do not forget that one of the first architects to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize was a Mexican (Luis Barragán). Many people would aspire to possess his quality of light and space.
In turn, Ricardo Legorreta, a renowned creator who built all over the world, exhorted me when he was still alive: “We have to invest in going out to promote ourselves so that they know us more.”
Written by Pablo Hurtado @pabloihurtado
Interview Photos by Hadi Vasfi. A Persian photographer based in Vienna, Austria, who has found inspiration in each city he has lived, and who always thinks about matching architecture with music.