Laura Rodriguez Celín & Leonardo Pablo Galtieri
What has sparked your interest in participating in the ATELIER student competition?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: As soon as I read the competition rules, I found it a very tempting challenge. I think the issue of energy transition in cities is extremely relevant. I am excited about activities that involve these issues and allow us to reflect on the kind of city we are creating. I am confident in the contribution that design disciplines can make from design thinking, which is a way of thinking that fuses critical and creative thinking in a dynamic interaction. This allows us to imagine new scenarios and propose alternative realities, thus favouring the creation of a better future.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: In contemporary society there is a growing concern to put on the public agenda the debate about how human production and consumption are negatively impacting the sustainability of the planet. However, I believe that in the age of communication, by dint of repetition, the debate tends to become trivialised and diluted. Participating in the ATELIER student competition allowed me to express my opinion on how a building, in the sense of a material response to a specific problem, can contribute to the debate on climate change.
Why did you decide to submit a group application instead of participating individually?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: I believe that teamwork is often superior to individual work. The exchange of experiences, knowledge and opinions produces a synergy that favours better results than those that could be achieved by each person individually. Moreover, having already worked with the other member of the team (Leonardo) on other occasions, we both felt comfortable and were eager to share this experience together.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: I strongly believe that the only way we can achieve positive change in global issues, such as climate change, is through global, consensual action. In that sense, we must involve as many citizens as possible. By the same logic, I believe that working in a team allows us to broaden our view of different opinions and experiences, which will undoubtedly result in better responses than those generated individually.
For your concept, you could choose between Bratislava or Copenhagen as demonstration site. Based on which criteria did you make your choice?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: Although I am from Argentina, I am currently living in Copenhagen. We have been living here for less than a year but during this time we have already been able to observe and reflect on different aspects of the city. Therefore, having the possibility to work in the place where we are living was a very nice challenge for us. Moreover, even though we did not know the project site (Nordhavn), we had the possibility to walk through it, experience it and live it. This was very positive to understand it better and grasp its atmosphere, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: I find both cases very interesting and relevant. As an architect, I believe that the most appropriate way to get to know a place and operate in it is through experimentation and the possibility to perceive it. Since I have been living in Copenhagen since mid 2022, the proximity to the site defined the selection criteria.
Where did you take inspiration for your idea?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: A project is the product of the sum of experiences and lessons learned. However, as human beings, we only capitalise on those experiences that we decode and from which we act. In that sense, it may be difficult to trace all the sources of inspiration that are involved in the concept created. If I am forced to think of specific inspirations, I think that a trip we made in January to Portugal together with Leonardo gave us some inspiration. On the one hand, we visited the Central Tejo, the old thermoelectric power station in Lisbon that today functions as a museum. The fascinating thing about this building is that the original machinery has been preserved and the visitor is allowed to walk through all the installations. This very close and corporeal experience allowed us to understand first-hand the magnitude and complexity of the production process.
After this trip and having already registered for the competition, we visited Copenhill. It seems to us a fantastic reference where the power of architecture to generate added value is very clear: it is not only a heat and power waste-to-energy plant but also a year-round ski slope. However, when we visited it, we felt that something was missing and it was exactly what the Tejo Power Plant offers: the possibility for the visitor to learn about the production process in order to generate greater awareness and a more responsible use of energy. In Copenhagen in a few seconds in a glass lift you get a glimpse of the inside of the building, but we believe that this experience is not enough to raise awareness. Therefore, we wanted our concept to allow users to have a stronger link to energy production.
On the other hand, on the same trip to Portugal, we visited the Lisbon Oceanarium, a marine biology aquarium. Something that caught our attention was that they organise events where groups of children can spend the night sleeping in front of a large central tank where everything from small fish to sharks live together. This experience must surely leave an impression on these children. We wanted our project to give citizens the opportunity to see the seabed so that by learning about it, they will be more involved and want to protect it. Therefore, we incorporated a marine life observatory together with an underwater sauna.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: The process of generating ideas in architecture is often intricate and complex. I grew up in Buenos Aires, a city that is often said to “turn its back towards the Rio de La Plata”. This dissociation between city and river involves the issue of borders as opposed to permeability or complementary alliances. The competition explicitly seeks to address the theme of encounter: between people, between nature and city, between energy production and spaces that favour social encounters. Our proposal always aimed at virtuous complementarity rather than antagonism.
What was the biggest challenge in coming up with an innovative concept?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: When designing, I don’t expect the result to be innovative beforehand, so that wasn’t the biggest challenge. On the contrary, in each project, I aim for the result to be a response and not an imposition. In that sense, I think the biggest challenge was to understand what was the question we were asking ourselves. Also, the fact that such relevant issues as energy transition and social sustainability were involved implied a great responsibility.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: Broadly speaking, the biggest challenge in all projects is to determine: What is the question we are asking, and what is it that we want to answer? In other words, synthesising the relevant from the irrelevant is often the most difficult. In this case, as a team, we concluded that the most relevant aspect of our proposal is based on the concept of opening the “black box” of energy production in order to spread and generate knowledge and, in this way, involve citizens.
Were there any challenges in combining individual ideas/concepts/images of each Team member to create a joint concept?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: Teamwork demands dialogue and debate. It requires explaining, listening, giving and receiving feedback, arguing, and counter-arguing. While this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity to have deeper reflections and come up with more solid arguments. I think the challenge was not so much how to combine individual ideas/concepts/images but to approach through reflection and dialogue the multiple layers that converge in such a complex assignment. The deeper the discussion within the group the easier it is to combine ideas.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: The process of project work requires the participation of different actors and often from different disciplines. In this sense, an interesting and relevant concept can only be developed through teamwork in which egos are put aside and we are open to listen to the opinions and ideas of others. In this way, we can distance ourselves from ideas and be able to recognise that the best proposals emerge from debate and argumentation.
How can you see yourself benefitting from this task/experience for future projects/concepts?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: Although the future is uncertain, I can say how I already feel I have benefited today. Participating in the competition involved researching, reflecting, making an effort, facing a challenge and overcoming it. In that sense, the experience has already transformed me, I am not the same person I was before, I have grown and learned in the process.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: The mere possibility of being part of the competition and generating a proposal required numerous hours of research, reflection and production. It is through this active process that one learns and has the potential to approach the topics discussed in the future from a more informed and clearer perspective. I believe that this learning process will be greatly enhanced by the possibility of attending the UIA World Congress of Architects Copenhagen 2023 and there share experiences and interests with the other participating teams.
Are there any lessons learned in regard to creating a concept for multi-functional technical buildings?
Laura Rodríguez Celín: I believe in an architecture that responds to the characteristics of the site. By this I mean not only physical issues such as dimensions, proportions, climate, flora, fauna, orientation, etc. but also its culture, traditions, available materials, etc. In that sense, each project is a unique response to a given set of conditions. I do not believe that a building designed for one place can be replicated in another. Nor do I believe that a prototype building can be mass-produced for replication in other cities. However, I think that the fact that we had to develop a concept that would serve as inspiration for other cities forced us to clarify our research and synthesise our ideas.
Thus, we came up with a concept that seeks to expose the energy generation system and make it interact with the additional function regardless of what that function is. The building could vary in size, shape or materiality depending on the requirements of each site, as long as it complies with the logic of informing citizens to create awareness and involve them in the energy transition.
Leonardo Pablo Galtieri: What I consider most relevant from the experience of having participated in the competition is to have become more conscious of the need to work on the complementarity of uses within the urban context. And, in this sense, in the imperative necessity to involve as many citizens as possible, since we can only aspire to change the course of events if as a society we believe in the need for change. Conversely, no positive change will occur if it is imposed on us.