From the territory to the inhabitant

From the territory to the inhabitant

For architect Rozana Montiel, the future of architecture lies in visualizing the construction of an economic and social ecosystem through space. Her projects interconnect all scales, always considering the landscape and territory as much as the spatial atmosphere, this being one of the key messages she means to deliver.

MARÍA ANTÓN: Your own concept for architecture…

ROZANA MONTIEL: The ability to imagine times and spaces. You read volumes, movement, narratives from a blueprint. By organizing a space and determining its materiality, architecture creates rhythms, sequences, interpretations; atmospheres between the interior and exterior; thresholds of light and gloom. I am particularly interested in deeply exploring the times of space, designing these tours from emotions. I am interested in the fact that the spatial text, just like a book, can open up to new worlds and experiences in each of its pages. 

MA: Which are the compromises architects should have with society? And how about society with architecture?

RM: Architects have a great social responsibility. The spaces they design become social buildings, whether public or private projects. A family can find harmony in their new home if it has wellness spaces, or a company may be much more efficient if its employees enjoy their working space.

Our constructions create social and urban opportunities. Creating a city requires the joint effort of political actors, design professionals, and the community. It is civic work, which interweaves different layers and commitment scales.

MA: Why do you opt for public/urban spaces?

RM: It began with an important social project in Chimalhuacán, in 2007. Arturo Ortiz and I received the Holcim Award to Sustainable Development for doing research on public space in an urban periphery with extreme poverty. The project was the trigger to investigate and map different aspects of Mexico City..

We visited Rozana in her studio in the Roma neighborhood (Mexico City) and among many other things, she sent a message to future architects: “you must focus in creating knowledge rather than recognition, do research and deepen the contents of design, take the time to project a process in order to project a space that results in a good design”.

MA: Is there a future if the past is not respected?

RM: Yes, there is. But there are many possible futures; the one we’ll experience will depend on our decisions. Ecological changes demand that we make an assessment of our past concepts in order to have a more inclusive future. Architecture is a way of strategic thinking, which allows for creative solutions to more complex issues. The question is, what is absolutely vital to design in a world of limited time and resources?

MA: Rozana, how do you learn to build?

RM: There are many ways of constructing. It something goes beyond piling bricks: we build socially, we build times, realities. We build by making mistakes and being self-critical. We shall commit to work closely with the project in order to supervise processes and results in detail, to learn from people with the trade and master in construction. We shall take risks and experiment with textures, expressions, and materials, to learn how to rescue vernacular techniques. We shall invest time and resources in doing research, prototypes, and tests to have quality control in each step of the designing process. We shall learn how to read and resignify materials, in order to take design to its greatest expression and refinement.

MA: How to be a woman architect these days?

RM: As an architect, I believe women provide a different vision to the space. We embroider subtleness through great details, we weave different scales and pay attention to the complexity of the small things. I would say that architecture is being made from awareness and congruence. Rethinking barriers. With so much energy and enthusiasm, without giving up along the way.

MA: Do you believe that a great amount of architecture is conceived only from the door out?

RM: Yes, but this is an inertia of the economical mechanisms within the profession. There are more and more designers in Mexico who think about content; architects, both men and women, who make a commitment to communicate their clients other ways of doing architecture.

MA: How is a project designed with a reasonable balance between architectural value, utility, and cost?

RM: My main contribution to architecture is to “make place”. The creation of places is the result of searching for formal content within the context: removing barriers, transforming the perception of space, addressing the landscape as the program, resignifying materials and working with temporality. In summary, the architectural value, utility, and optimal cost meet when there is a preexisting idea, which is more inclusive to design: beauty is a basic right. More than an aesthetic decision, design is an ethical posture, which affects the life of all people.

MA: You said that to redraw is a way of transforming reality… does redrawing also create community?

RM: It is a strategy for analysis; a designing tool that allows to rethink processes. We create community from paying attention to such processes, because we communicate better with the clients and users of certain space.

MA: Which building would you choose to live in?

RM: I would live in several, but the one that comes to mind immediately is the Lucio Costa building, across from Eduardo Guinle Park in Rio de Janeiro. It gathers several aspects of architecture that interest me: a free ground floor connected to the city, a measured scale that provides harmonic living with the exterior, transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces, terraces and lattices which produce vegetation and light thresholds.

MA: Lately, what makes you angry?

RM: Inequality. The disconnection between urban management processes and society itself. Watching abandoned spaces, which with a small budget could be activated. The impotence of not knowing how to manage a large-scale solution.

MA: Which were your architectural dreams growing up?

RM: As a girl, I was obsessed with tunnels that took you from one place to another; I liked entering these spaces between spaces, which created magical transitions, by communicating dimensions. I saw transforming interstices in them, which made my imagination become real.

MA: Did you always want to be an architect?

RM: I always wanted to study something related to art, because my parents were collectors. I like designing spaces. If I hadn’t become an architect, I would be a writer. To me, architecture is a text that creates patterns, rhythms, and narrative in its different expressions, just like fonts and margins in a book.