fernando romero interview

architect fernando romero with a rapid prototype of his soumaya museum design
portrait © designboom

designboom met architect fernando romero at his studio in mexico city, mexico on march 16, 2011.

what is the best moment of the day?

just after I've finished exercising, around mid-day,
I take a blank piece of paper and plan what I want to focus my attention on that day.

what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
usually I don't like music that has vocals because I cannot work well with that.
I prefer electronic music, it helps me connect with what I am doing.

do you listen to the radio?
I haven't for a long time, especially now that you can discover new things without having to listen to ads.

'mexico' pavilion for shanghai expo 2010, 2009
image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'la diferencia', housing concept, mexico city, 2011
image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

where do you get your news from?
when I'm in mexico I skim through one of the national newspapers quickly in the morning.
during the day I usually see what's happening via the computer or my phone.

what books do you have on your bedside table?
I just started reading a book by bernie ecclestone.
his story intrigues me a lot, I think he's a visionary.

do you read design / architecture / fashion magazines?
not really. for good and for bad.
I was very obsessed with the content of these type of magazines in the nineties
when I was living in europe and when I came back to mexico I realized that I needed
a fundamental disconnection from them in order to perform in this new environment.
so, it's a conscious decision not to follow trends and not to think too much about what others
are doing in this moment.

'bridging teahouse', jinhua architecture park, china,
2004 (completed 2007)
photo by iwan baan courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'bridging teahouse', jinhua architecture park, china,
2004 (completed 2007)
photo by iwan baan courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'bridging teahouse', jinhua architecture park, china, 2004 (completed 2007)
photo by iwan baan courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

I assume you notice how women dress, do you have any preferences?
her clothes should either be invisible or a masterpiece.
when they are invisible, you notice the woman and she is the masterpiece.
then if she wears a masterpiece you potentially have two masterpieces.

what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?
I have never been comfortable wearing casual or informal clothes.
I know they are physically comfortable,
but when I wear them it's not psychologically pleasant for me.
I'm forced to wear formal clothes, I feel better in them.

do you have any pets?
I do, but they are really my children's.

'toluca house', toluca, mexico, 2010
photo by adam wiseman courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'toluca house', toluca, mexico, 2010
photo by adam wiseman courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'toluca house', toluca, mexico, 2010
photo by adam wiseman courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

as a child, did you want to become an architect?
no, I wanted to be an inventor at first.
then I wanted to be a writer and I started to be very interested in literature.
I applied to study literature at university, but I was not accepted and from there I fell into architecture.
when I was in school, I was not really convinced if it was for me.
but later, while living in holland I became realized that it was what I wanted to do.

where do you work on your projects?
it can be anywhere…
the most important thing for me is having something to react to, something to spark my imagination.
I like to put suggestive material in front of me and respond to it.
I particularly enjoy working with my team because depending on who you are with,
you can react in different ways.

which project has given you the most satisfaction?
the next one.

'children's room', mexico city, mexico, 2005
photo courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'children's room', mexico city, mexico, 2005
photo courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

describe your style like a good friend of yours would.
we are not interested in building a continuous language,
we don't want to have our own stylistic approach but rather
to try and be honest to the environment of each project.

architecture is a translation process.
if you are doing a museum in panama, there's certain things of the location that you need
to translate into that specific structure; a part of the museum program, the culture,
the context and the way of using the available technology in that particular environment.

do you ever discuss your work with designers and architects outside your studio?
yes, but my friends are not architects.
some work in art and others in different types of businesses from me so I am very
interested to learn as much as I can from their experiences.
one of the closest critics of the soumaya museum was a friend who is an artist.
his vision was fundamental in shaping our final solutions.
I've enjoyed a very truthful conversation with him for the last 10 years.

'soumaya museum', mexico city, mexico,
2008 (completed in 2011)
photo courtesy of FREE / fernando romero
see our designboom article on the soumaya museum here

'soumaya museum', mexico city, mexico, 2008 (completed in 2011)

what is your dream project?
on one hand it would be to do a big project for the olympics or a world cup stadium.
on the other it would be something more challenging; to provide more innovative housing solutions
to those who are at the lower end of the economical ladder.
not only to improve housing but also education facilities, healthcare and other important services.
particularly in latin america there's a lot that can be improved.

are there any designers, architects, from the past,
you appreciate a lot?

only the same names most people would say.

...and those working today?
the people I admire the most are those currently shaping society and right now it's mainly individuals
working in the technology sector - providing new opportunities for people to interact and change our reality.

I certainly recognize those from the worlds of art, design and architecture for what they are doing now,
but it's hard to say what impact they will have had when we look back.

'museum bridge' el paso, texas, USA and ciudad juarez, chihuahua, mexico, 2001-2006

image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'villa s' mexico city, mexico, 2005
image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

can you describe an evolution in your work?
computers, software and new technologies have had an increasing influence on the way we think
about environments. there's still a lot to be learned about how best to apply these new tools.
we have to use them responsibly and not loose touch with the environments where structures
will eventually be built.

do you have any advice for the young?
the intensity to which you desire something will determine if it materializes or not.
never forget that.
trust your intuition and believe in yourself.
everybody has their own path and there's no short cut - even if it seems there is for some people, there isn't.
take time to train yourself to always have ideas so that you can react in the best way when you need to.

what are you afraid of regarding the future?
it's hard to say something that might happen
I don't like to think about the future!
I think every person has their own ongoing doubts and insecurities that they are learning how to deal with,
for me it's that I'm dyslexic.

'ixtapa', ixtapa, mexico
, 2005
photo courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'ixtapa', ixtapa, mexico, 2005
photo courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'bicentennial moebius ring', mexico city, mexico, 2009
image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

'mercedes headquarters', armenia, 2010
image courtesy of FREE / fernando romero

fernando romero

fernando romero was born mexico city, 1971. he studied architecture
at the universidad iberoamericana (mexico city), graduating in 1995.

romero worked with rem koolhaas at OMA in rotterdam from 1997-2000,
notably as head project leader on the winning proposal for the
concert casa da musica, porto, portugal (1999).

upon returning to mexico he started the LAR (laboratory of architecture)
in 2000, which was renamed FREE (Fernando Romero EnterprisE) in 2011.

the work of FREE has been recognized by numerous organizations and
award schemes world-wide some of which include: 
the bauhaus award for 'villa s' (2005)
the sara prize (society of american registered architects) for 'ixtapa house' (2005)
the red dot award: 'best of the best' for 'bridging teahouse' (2006)
young architects award granted by the mexican society of architects (2009)

fernando romero has been an invited professor at columbia university, new york,
is a member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), and is also a member
of the Mexican Chamber of Architects (CAMSAM). he has published several books
that reflect his vision of architecture: 'translation' and 'hyperborder' and 'simplexity'.

FREE projects are currently spread between its offices in mexico city and new york,
where romero aims to foster collaborations and partnerships among individuals
and organizations, and materialize ideas into projects that will enhance
people’s living conditions and environment.

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